Just how big is the market for high-end, electric-powered luxury cars? We’re about to find out.
I spent the past week driving Cadillac’s new extended-range electric car, the ELR, and was surprised at how far upmarket General Motors has positioned this vehicle. With a starting price of $75,000, it costs more than the base version of the Tesla Model S and more than twice as much as the Chevy Volt, the car on which most of its engineering is based.
But for that price, you get a cutting-edge car with more drama and sex appeal than a Hollywood starlet.
Yes, it’s priced twice as high as the Volt, but it looks 10 times as good. It’s nine inches longer than the Volt and has two long, sharply angled doors that are key to its visionary style.
If you’ve ever longed to own a spaceship-looking “car of the future,” this is your chance.
The ELR’s stunning style matches its equally stunning engineering that fixes a potential problem on ordinary electric cars: running out of power before you reach your destination.
Where other electric contraptions could leave you stranded without access to a charging station, the ELR can keep running on gasoline power even after its batteries run out of juice.
Cadillac estimates the battery range of the ELR at 37 miles, a figure I found very realistic in my real-world driving that mixed city and highway jaunts. And once the batteries run down, a gasoline engine kicks in to keep you going as long as you want — just like a regular ol’ car.
Albeit a rather fancy regular car.
The ELR drives with the silence, poise, response and refinement of an upscale luxury vehicle, which is a mind-blowing achievement when you compare it to most other electric “cars” for sale today. Too many of them drive more like golf carts, sadly.
Lots of little touches add to the wow factor and create a strong sense of theater around this car, including:
— Doors that open with electric buttons instead of old-school handles.
— A motorized lid that covers the cup holders.
— A customizable digital display behind the steering wheel.
— Start-up and shut-down noises that add some sci-fi fun to the driving experience.
— Electrostatic buttons and a touch-sensitive screen that can sense when your hand gets close, even before you’ve touched it.
The thing that most impresses me about the ELR, though, isn’t the long list of crazy-cool gadgets or even the innovative drivetrain. It’s how spectacularly sumptuous this car feels on the inside.
Nearly every surface on my test car was covered in a material that feels like suede: the door panels, dash, side trim and entire headliner. Real leather and wood cover nearly everything else, giving you a sense of old-world craftsmanship that contrasts deliciously with this car’s overall Star Trek vibe.
Now, I can’t imagine that the market for $75,000 electric-powered luxury cars is all that large. To the extent that the ELR points toward the future of Cadillac and the auto industry in general, though, it’s a big deal. It’s proof that tomorrow’s cars can be eco-conscious, gorgeous, exciting and pampering, all at the same time.
And for those people who can afford it, there’s no need to wait on that future to get here.