Cliff Tucker slid behind the wheel of the 2014 Cadillac ELR and pushed the start button, all the while describing the two-door's virtues.
A few minutes later, he had an answer for visitors who didn't hear an engine noise. "It's so quiet, it's running right now," he said.
Almost soundless hybrid and electric vehicle engines aren't new. But they're a novel feature for Cadillac. The ELR is the luxury automaker's first EV.
"It's only been out a couple of months," said Tucker, sales and leasing professional with Baker Cadillac. The coupe costs from $75,000 for a base model to $86,000 with all the extras.
"I just sold a red one maxxed out in Mount Pleasant," he said.
In unleashing the hybrid plug-in, Cadillac didn't cut corners on high-end features. Leather seats, 20-inch wheels, the brand's praised CUE system employing a touch screen navigation-communications grid and voice activated commands, even a slidable cover for front seat cup holders, are just a taste of the model's swanky equipment.
Cadillac designed the ELR to make efficient use of the plug in application, developed by General Motors and partner Bosch and based on GM's Chevrolet Volt.
A driver can travel 37 miles on electric power alone. The car can be fully juiced with a 120 volt plug in 12 hours or so; a 240 volt line slices the charge-up time frame to five or so hours.
"Probably in the next month or so, we will have our own charging station on the (dealership) property," Tucker said. Cadillac offers an eight year, 100,000 mile warranty on the ELR's lithium ion batteries.
At the same time, the sporty model includes a 1.4-liter gasoline engine with fuel supplied from a nine-and-a-half gallon tank. The powerplant automatically switches to gas to supplement the electric charge. Combined, they rack up solid horsepower numbers and an even more startling 295 pounds-feet of torque.
An innovative "armor shield" front grille closes when in electric mode, then opens under gas power to improve efficiency, Tucker says.
Fuel gauges are aligned in the driver information center, fitted into the dashboard behind the steering wheel. The available electric charge tracks in green and the gas supply shows up in blue.
Beyond the engine configuration, Cadillac rolled out scores of luxury extras in the new ELR. The carmaker provides a key fob that permits the driver to remotely start the car from outside and turn on the lights. The door unlocks by push button or the driver standing next to the side panel with the fob.
The windshields move slightly when the doors open, then reposition themselves when the doors close to make a solid seal. Rather than a handle, passengers push a button at waist level to open doors once inside.
The ELR offers two driving modes based on performance, fuel economy and ride - enhancedand classic. It's roomy, with a 186 inch overall length. Fitted in the center console, the audio- navigation system provides AM-FM and satellite radio, Bluetooth handsfree phone, mapping systems and lists of destinations and estimated mileage.
An innovative use of space is a close to six inch storage compartment in the center console that houses a USB port.
Cadillac installed a bunch of safety features on the new coupe. There's collision alert for the open highway, in which the vehicle can sense a car ahead slowing down suddenly and will automatically brake. A rear view camera assists the driver when backing up and a front bumper sensor helps moving forward. The ELR also provides the driver with "feedback:" The steering wheel and driver's seat will vibrate when traffic's crossing behind the car.
Another upgrade on the electric vehicle are LED headlights and taillamps, Tucker said. And with the interior lighting system, "everything pops on and gradually lights up," he said.
"There's a lot of good features here," Tucker said.
Based on about an hour's drive one recent afternoon, the ELR demonstrated how fluid hybrid plug-ins can be these days. The few indicators that the stylish vehicle runs on electric power are the extra quiet engine, electric usage gauges, the plug-in tank on the driver's side and the EV battery case under the trunk cover.
The $75,000 edition from Baker Cadillac provides solid pickup on the interstate and driving around town. Brakes require a bit more push but are responsive. The Cadillac permits a light touch from the steering wheel while holding the road well.
Meanwhile, the front interior offers luxurious accommodations, from soothing leather bucket seats to ample legroom. Built-in convenience features including drink holders molded into the doors are practical perks.
At the same time, Cadillac could tweak a few areas on the new coupe. Back seats are a tight squeeze. Rear pillars limit visibility for the driver when looking askance in reverse or to change lanes. The battery pack takes up space from the trunk. And on a normal drive, the electric motor seems to drain rather quickly.
Yet these are blips compared with the ELR's overriding strength: Motorists can go to a dealer to purchase a comfortable, easy-to-navigate electric vehicle that delivers on both the luxury and fuel-saving sides.
To learn more about the new ELR, visit your local Cadillac dealer.
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The steering wheel on the new Cadillac ELR includes buttons to change the audio or map routes on the navigation system. Behind the steering wheel is the battery and gas gauges. Leroy Burnell/Staff 2/27/2014×
The electric power level is in green on the left and the gas tank level is in blue on the right side of the ELR’s driver information panel. Leroy Burnell/Staff 2/27/2014×