Based on the Converj concept first shown in 2009, the Cadillac ELR is set to become the very first Extended Range Electric Vehicle launched by a full-line luxury automaker when it hits Cadillac dealers in early 2014.

Like the Chevrolet Volt, the Cadillac ELR will be primarily powered by a 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack feeding an electric motor that generates 295 pound-feet of torque (22 pound-feet more than the Volt). When the batteries are depleted, after an estimated 35 miles of range, a gasoline-powered generator takes over to boost range to roughly 300 miles.

That gives the ELR the best of both worlds; assuming you have a daily commute less than 35 miles (like most Americans), the ELR will only fire up its gasoline engine to keep the fuel in the system from going stale. If you need to travel cross-country, however, range anxiety is a non-issue, since the ELR can keep driving as long as there’s gas in the tank.

Unlike the Volt, however, the ELR is designed to emphasize luxury both inside and out. Cadillac says the ELR’s exterior styling “establishes a new, progressive proportion for the brand,” while retaining certain design themes (like the vertical headlamp and taillamp elements) that date back as far as 1948.

The ELR’s futuristic shape is both stylistic and practical, as it delivers a 0.305 coefficient of drag, further helping to boost range. The genius here is in the details, and the ELR’s designers incorporated features like tapered fascia corners, active grille shutters, sharp rear edges and a carefully designed rear spoiler to optimize airflow.

A dramatic, sweeping body line is an integral part of the car’s design, as are 20-inch wheels pushed as far to the corners as possible. The design elements work together to give the car a stance and presence not normally associated with vehicles built for optimal fuel economy.

Inside, the design theme is meant to emphasize modern elegance, with a nod towards technology. Perhaps the most prominent feature of the ELR’s cabin is the Cadillac CUE with Navigation system, which boasts an eight-inch, full-color, capacitive touch screen display.

While CUE can deliver the expected navigation and infotainment options, it can also deliver feedback on driving efficiency, energy usage and charging optimization. The CUE system also features gesture recognition and proximity sensing to deliver relevant information only when the driver requests it.

As you’d expect from Cadillac, the cabin is an elegant mix of modern and traditional materials, including microfiber, chrome and wood. The 2+2 seats can be wrapped in Opus semi-aniline leather, and carbon fiber trim can be ordered to replace wood trim is the buyer requests it.

On the road, the ELR promises to deliver a composed and capable ride, courtesy of its HiPer strut front suspension and compound-crank with Watts link rear setup. Continuous Damping Control adjusts shock settings every two milliseconds for optimized handling and ride comfort across a wide variety of conditions.

Four driving modes (Sport, Tour, Mountain and Hold) allow the driver to select the best choice for his mood and conditions. While Sport and Tour modes are self explanatory, Mountain mode can be selected  to provide additional power in steep terrain, where performance may otherwise be compromised.

Like the 2013 Chevrolet Volt, the 2014 Cadillac ELR comes with a driver-selectable Hold mode, a feature pioneered on the European Opel Ampera. Unlike the original Volt, which automatically defaulted to generator mode when the batteries were depleted, vehicles equipped with Hold mode allow the driver to manually select generator mode to preserve batteries.

This can prove helpful for trips that blend highway and city driving. Highway driving is better suited to generator mode, while city driving is the domain of the ELR’s battery mode. When you reach your destination, the ELR can be recharged overnight with a 120V outlet, or in approximately 4.5 hours using 240V.

Exclusivity is part of the ELR’s appeal as well. Unlike the mass-market Chevy Volt, Cadillac is calling the ELR a “specialized offering produced in limited numbers.” Precisely what those numbers will be, or even what the ELR will sell for, has yet to be determined.

For more breaking news from the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, bookmark our dedicated Detroit Auto Show page.


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