Cadillac ELR pictures and hands-on

Fancy an electric sports car, but haven’t got enough money for a Tesla? Then right now, this is your best hope. The Cadillac ELR was launched at the Detroit auto show this week and we managed to go hands-on and grab a chat with a few of the people who made it reality.

If you’re into electric propulsion, you’ll no doubt be aware of the Chevrolet Volt. With mother company GM owning both brands, it was only a matter of time before the Volt technology (it also sits under its twin, the Vauxhall Ampera) made it into another car.

What you get is a large, lithium-ion battery pack built in a T-shape down the middle of the car, which is good for about 40 miles of pure electric driving. Then under the bonnet, there’s a 1.4 petrol motor, which kicks in when the batteries are out of juice, to charge them back up, power the electric motor and ultimately turn the wheels.

It’s similar to the Volt’s system but has been tweaked so it can give a bit more power and therefore endow the ELR with better performance. Is it a Hybrid? Electric? The debate rages, but GM says it’s the best of both worlds giving 90 per cent of people pure electric driving for 90 per cent of the their needs, but not the inconvenience of then being stranded and needing a 3-8 hour recharge once that’s spent. It calls the technology E-REV.

But the ELR’s really exciting for a number of reasons. First off, it squeezes this clever powertrain into a coupe body shape that features Cadillac’s signature "art and science" design language (think lots of sharp edges and body creases). With a stubby tail, sporty stance and a very distinctive look, if you want your electric car sporty and still need room in the back for a couple of kids and cases for a week away this is likely to be the only choice you have for some time.

Based on our experience of driving the Volt, it will actually be pretty good to drive too (think novel, fun, refined). It’s interior is completely bespoke, too. It’s an interesting place to sit. Because the batteries sit down the centre spine of the car, the centre tunnel’s really high, forming a real divide between driver and passenger. Elsewhere it’s very much a standard Cadillac affair, which means really quite good, with high-quality materials, lots of angles and an overall premium feel.

The ELR will differ from the Volt in offering Cadillac’s new CUE interface. This features a fully TFT gauge cluster which will display the instruments in various different forms, and capacitive touch switches on the centre console which only become "live" as you touch them. They’re topped by an 8-inch touchscreen which features haptic feedback and when the car goes on sale, the availability to download things like a Pandora radio app, in the US at least.

Cadillac has repeatedly made attempts at breaking into the European market and apparently plans to relaunch again in the UK for the fourth time before too long. It’s not had much success - you see very few on the roads - but with this and the new 3-Series rivaling ATS, it has products that it’s easy to see working on our roads.

The problem is that, first, it says there won’t be enough demand to produce a right-hand drive version. The second is that if the ELR comes to the UK, it’s likely to cost nigh on £60,000. There are two ways of looking at that. The first is that you’re getting one of the most technically advanced powertrains in the world, in a sports coupe body for about £20,000 more than the family car-like Volt and that’s a small price to pay for being an early adopter and having something few will have.

But the other view is that, for £60,000 you could buy the most optioned up, exquisitely designed, fast and likely to be incredible to drive new Porsche Cayman S. We’re big fans of electric cars here at Pocket-Lint, but we’d struggle to walk past the Porsche dealership in favour of one of these, should we ever have that kind of money lying around.