It wasn’t that long ago that luxury used to be all about conspicuous consumption, particularly in the automotive realm. It was a never-ending race of who could construct the biggest body, the brawniest engine, and the most dead-tree-and-bovine-skin-filled interior. And in many regards, that’s still the case.
But more and more, peddlers of high end products and services (as well as the well heeled clientele to which they cater) are glomming onto the idea of being responsible, upstanding corporate citizens. Part of this is due to them seeing the intrinsic PR value of such cultural shifts, but the cynic in is guesses most of it is due to new government regulations here and abroad that are already on the books or soon will be. Whatever the motivation, manufacturers are releasing cars like the Aston Martin Cygnet and Lexus CT200h that adhere to the notion of less is more. And now Cadillac plans to join that club.
Hop in Mr. Peabody’s WABAC Machine and set the dial to the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. You’ll see that one of the stars of the show (if not the brightest star) is Cadillac’s Converj concept, a swoopy plug-in hybrid coupe that shares more than a few pieces with the Chevrolet Volt. But even after a great deal of clamoring from the public and the press, GM said a production version was not in the cards. Boo, hiss, repeat…
However, the General seems to have had a change of heart, as the Converj is headed for showrooms after all. Except it won’t be called Converj; in order to help it mesh with the Cadillac brand’s alphabet-soup-for-everything-but-the-Escalade naming convention (In the interest of full editorial disclosure, we hate that lazy, androgynous nomenclature scheme with the burning intensity of 10,000 suns. That goes for you too, Lincoln and Acura!), the production model will wear the ELR nameplate. We’re guessing the name is primarily an indicator of the mostly-electric drivetrain, though it’s also more than a bit of a nod to a storied name from Cadillac’s past: Eldorado.
But aside from having two-doors and being front-wheel-drive, the ELR will have little in common with Caddy’s classic personal luxury car. The ELR is expected to use a T-shaped lithium-ion battery array similar – if not identical – to the one found in the Volt, which will in turn supply power to an electric motor. Also like the Volt, there will be a small gas engine to act as a generator and keep the car mobile when the batteries run out of juice, though there is speculation the engine will pack more punch than the normally aspirated 1.4L four-pot found in Chevy’s PHEV.
So when can you expect to see this glitzy green machine on your local Cadillac dealer’s lot? Well, since some of the hardware already exists, we’re guessing not very long from now. Maybe the middle of the 2013 model year, but don’t send us a sternly-worded email if the intro date is after that. Politely-worded emails? Fine. Sternly-worded? Do not want.