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Can Cadillac ELR make hybrids sexy?

Detroit - This is the car that GM is hoping will make green sexy in the US - the Cadillac ELR extended-range electric car, making its world debut at this week's Detroit Motor Show.

GM claims that the ELR, based on the Converj concept, is the first luxury extended-range electric car, and shows the way forward for the Cadillac brand, with sleek, modern exterior proportions, while the interior introduces a new design theme that will define future Cadillac models.

The 2014 Cadillac ELR luxury coupe cuts a dramatic, forward-leaning profile that remains faithful to the Converj show car that inspired it.

Motorvation is provided by a potent electric motor - GM quote 154kW and 400Nm, although they carefully avoid mentioning performance figures - and a huge, T-shaped, 1.6-metre long, 16.5 kWh, 198kg lithium-ion battery.

That's good for about 56km of gentle driving, says GM, depending on speed, load and ambient temperature; after that the ELR's 1.4-litre petrol engine chimes in, not to drive the wheels but to power a generator that'll keep the electric motor amped up for another 400km.

Save the battery power for when you really need to sneak around in silent mode.

A system called Regen on Demand allows the driver to go direct to extended-range more using gearbox-style paddles on the steering column, while external charging the ELR's battery can be done with either 120V mains power or a dedicated 240V charging station. A complete charge takes about 4.5 hours at 240V, depending on the outside temperature.

Once the car's plugged in, drivers can schedule either immediate or delayed charges, co-ordinating charging according to when electricity rates are lower, monitoring battery condition remotely, either online or with a smartphone, using an OnStar app called Remotelink.

The ELR's battery is covered by an eight-year or 160 000km warranty.

RUNNING GEAR

The ELR rolls on 20” rims shod with specially engineered low-rolling-resistance tyres; the strut front suspension has forged aluminum components to reduce unsprung weight, while the semi-independent rear compound-crank suspension has a Watts linkage to absorb lateral forces, and continuous damping control adjusts the damping every two milliseconds.

By fitting the grille flush with the tapered front fascia - and using active shutters behind the grille opening - together with sharp-edged rear profiles, a carefully designed spoiler and an aggressive rake on the windshield and back glass, the ELR's drag coefficient has been reduced to an impressive 0.305.

Light-emitting diode headlights, daytime running lights and tail lights are vertically mounted, a signature Cadillac styling cue snce 1948.

INTERIOR LUXURY

The ELR's leather-trimmed 2+2 layout is driver focused, with chrome and wood accents (carbon fibre is an extra-cost option), a sueded microfibre headliner and a steering wheel covered in leather and sueded microfibre.

Standard kit includes a 200mm configurable instrument and driver information display, with four options ranging from elegantly simple to technologically enhanced information, a power-operated cup holder (siri-aas!) in the centre console, folding rear seat-backs and satnav, displayed on a 200mm touchscreen that also has displays showing driving efficiency, energy usage, charging options and more, in addition to a broad range of infotainment options.

The motorised screen pivots up to reveal a hidden storage compartment with a USB port for phones and other personal items.

ELR production will begin at General Motors' Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant States late in 2013 with sales starting early in 2014 in North America and expanding to global markets including China and Europe.

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