The wait is almost over for the 2014 Cadillac ELR luxury electric coupe.

Yesterday, General Motors' Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant began shipping the first of these extended-range electric cars to dealers, ahead of the car's official January on-sale date.

That means a few cars may arrive at dealers before the year closes out, perhaps allowing Cadillac to get a head start on deliveries and log a few sales for 2013.

Whenever buyers take delivery, they will be confronted with a base price of $75,995, including destination. That's more than twice the price of the only other car sharing the ELR's powertrain--the 2014 Chevrolet Volt. The Volt now starts at $34,995, thanks to a $5,000 price cut for 2014.

The ELR will be eligible for a $7,500 Federal tax credit, and a variety of state and local incentives, which might soften the blow a little.

Underneath the ELR's upscale luxury coupe bodywork is a modified version of the Volt's extended-range electric powertrain.

That powertrain consists of a 1.4-liter range-extending gasoline engine, an electric motor, and a T-shaped 16.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.

Total powertrain output is 207 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, making the ELR more powerful than the 149-hp Volt.

That extra power will contribute to a 0-to-60-mph time of 7.8 seconds, according to Cadillac. However, the car is faster on gasoline than electricity: the sprint to 60 mph takes 8.8 seconds in EV mode.

The Cadillac also features "Regen on Demand" variable brake regeneration, controlled by paddle shifters, and four driving modes: Tour, Sport, Mountain, and Hold--which allows drivers to prioritize gasoline or electric power.

Cadillac says the ELR's electric-only range will be around 37 miles, with total range in excess of 300 miles.

A full recharge from a 240-Volt Level 2 source will take about 4.5 hours, Cadillac estimates.

Cadillac hopes the more upscale styling and a higher equipment level will justify the ELR's significant price premium over the Volt, claiming buyers will cross-shop the plug-in car with high-end coupes like the BMW 6 Series.

Consumer Reports isn't so sure. In an early assessment, the magazine's testers wrote that the ELR had been "priced out of its league."

As for the photos, issued by GM's publicity department, we suspect a bit of staging. Normally each ELR's front end would be covered with protective plastic wrap before the car was loaded onto the car carrier.

We also suspect Santa Claus doesn't show up for every production car that rolls out of the factory--but, hey, it's a special occasion. Now on to the dealerships.


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