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2014 Cadillac ELR: Volt-Based Coupe To Get New Engine?

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Over the past decade, Cadillac has been trying to build--or rebuild--its reputation as a world-class luxury brand.

Style, luxury, and performance all play into the mix of its new products, but it may take another decade for the world to think of Cadillac in the same category as German luxury brands--if ever.

That means the 2014 Cadillac ELR, its first plug-in electric car, has to deliver not only more style, but a higher level of features and notably better performance than the Chevrolet Volt whose Voltec powertrain it uses.

The range-extended electric sport coupe, first shown in January 2009 as the Cadillac Converj concept car and approved last summer for production, has sleek and well-received coupe lines.

And it will almost surely have the requisite luxury features, leather interior, and sound deadening of the more soothing side of the Cadillac portfolio.

Voltec doesn't scale?

But all of that adds weight, and as Car and Driver points out, the Voltec powertrain--T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack, electric motor driving the front wheels, and gasoline-driven range-extending engine--doesn't scale all that well.

2011 Chevrolet Volt with hood open, showing range extender engine and Voltec drive

2011 Chevrolet Volt with hood open, showing range extender engine and Voltec drive

Enlarge Photo

The magazine nonetheless suggests that the 2014 ELR electric car will have a more powerful range extender, derived from a newer Ecotec four from GM's Opel unit, so it can deliver higher continuous power to the drive wheels.

The Cadillac ELR may also have a larger battery pack, giving it more stored energy so that what may be a heavier car can have an electric range at least as good as the Volt's. For 2013, the Volt's ratings were raised to 38 miles and 98 MPGe as the car also received a few other feature upgrades.

To keep the weight gain as low as possible, the ELR will use more lightweight materials--some aluminum body panels, for instance.

2013 Chevrolet Volt

2013 Chevrolet Volt

Enlarge Photo

Volt engine swap too?

At least one site has suggested the 2014 Volt will get a different range-extending engine too, replacing the current 1.4-liter four. The current unit is a non-turbo version of the engine used in the popular Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan.

We're not so sure we believe that. The Cadillac ELR needs better performance than the Volt to justify a higher price, which the magazine says could be around $55,000.

But we suspect the Volt may carry on with a refined version of the current powertrain until a new generation is launched around 2016.

ELR bragging rights

And if it does get a new engine for 2014--which would slightly simplify production on the shared Detroit-Hamtramck assembly line--the Volt may use a lower-power version of the one for the ELR, to ensure bragging rights for the luxury coupe.

We've heard through the grapevine, by the way, that General Motors thought long and hard before approving a new generation of the Volt. We'll leave that rumor to dedicated Volt fans to parse.

We're curious to know what you think about the Cadillac ELR. Will it succeed in small numbers? Is the current design attractive?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Comments (8)
  1. The design is definitely attractive to the point it should give both Fisker and Tesla a run for their money. Lucky for them once the corporate bean counters are done with these early designs they usually don't look that attractive any more.

    Karma teaches us: sleek design + cumbersome EREV drivetrain = no interior space to speak of.

    So, putting a souped up Voltec drivetrain in a small car like the ELR probably means it ends up offering all the practicality of a Miata without any of it's fine ride qualities (it will be very heavy...) and competing against the entry level Model S. Sure it would have the longer range but what would you need that for in a car that will only hold two people and their golf bags?
     
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  2. Limited space and expensive tag with average sports car performance never stopped anyone from buying the low end version of Audi TT, BMW Z4, Porsche Boxter, Mercedez SLK...
     
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  3. Of course their makers don't offer EREV versions of these cars on the curious assumption that people who are into impractical driving machines have fuel economy so high on their list that they would pay extra for it while sacrificing interior space and handling.
     
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  4. I don't think ELR is going after the Prius crowd...

    I think ELR is going after the Fisker/Telsa crowd.
     
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  5. I like the exterior styling on the ELR, and given an indulgent interior, it could be in the mix for replacing our 2011 Volt. BUT, I would demand more performance in terms of both 0-60 level acceleration AND a longer EV range of at least 50 miles. It is not clear to me at all why a larger ICE would be needed to provide the (re) charging for the battery pack, as at highway speed, where one would be for the majority of "range extended demands" one only needs around 20 hp or less to maintain that speed on the level.

    It would seem that what the "Voltec" power system needs is a smaller, steady state efficient ICE, like a 1.0 liter diesel for that power function of driving a generator, but of course, I don't understand engineering.
     
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  6. I think diesel would be better... But that is just more cost on top of it.

    Also diesel is still dirtier than hi tec gas engines due to particulates and soots (unless you use biodiesel only)
     
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  7. I just started a 36 month lease on a 2012 Volt. The ELR will be its replacement once the lease is completed. As long as it looks as sharp as the current CTS Coupe, I'm in.
    I get comments on the Volt every single day with references such as "Sharp lines!" etc. My brother mentions that he has NEVER had anyone mention that about his Prius. ;)

    I specifically leased my Volt not only due to the great program they're currently running, but because I have a feeling that something great like the Converj will be available and IMHO, the desirability of today's Volt won't look so good with something like a Converj to choose from.
     
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  8. As a current Volt owner, what I'd really like to see is a small crossover with the Voltec system. It seems to me Chevy is really missing the boat on this one; small crossovers are very popular (RAV 4, CRV, etc.) and among the fastest-growing category of car. As I recall, they did a concept like this a few years back, called the Amp, but it seems to have completely disappeared. What a shame.
     
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