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Rear drive could be the game changer for Cadillac ELR

GM first showed the Cadillac plug-in the Converj as a concept at the 2009 Detroit auto show. The production car will be called the Cadillac ELR. Photo credit: GM
Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

We know quite a bit about the upcoming Cadillac ELR.

But one piece of vital information is missing.

In August, Cadillac announced that the brand will produce an extended-range vehicle called ELR. The sleek 2+2 coupe is based on the Cadillac Converj concept unveiled at the 2009 Detroit auto show.

The powertrain will be composed of a T-shaped lithium ion battery pack, a gasoline-powered electric generator, an electric-drive unit and a four-cylinder engine.

Sound familiar? The powertrain is similar to that of the Chevrolet Volt. The ELR is expected to debut in 2013.

But General Motors isn't talking about one important ELR characteristic: Will the ELR be front-wheel drive like the Volt or rear-wheel drive?

My view is that if GM expects to command a Cadillac price with technology shared with Chevy, there must be a significant difference between the two cars. Relying on separate sheet metal, a more luxurious interior and a state-of-the-art infotainment system won't cut it for a Cadillac.

GM has a new rwd platform that will be shared by the Cadillac ATS, a compact sedan that goes on sale next year. That could be the game changer for the ELR.

But there's a potential packaging issue with a rwd platform: Can the battery pack be modified so the driveshaft can be positioned below it? I don't know. The Volt's T-shaped battery pack is below the rear seats and center console.

Certainly the battery pack could be raised, eating up some space in the passenger compartment. The trade-off would be rear seat comfort, especially headroom, aggravated by the slope of the roof as it approaches the rear of the vehicle.

I find it interesting that the ELR is being touted as a 2+2 instead of a true four-passenger sedan. A 2+2 generally limits rear-seat space to kiddies and grocery bags. There's no room for adults.

Maybe that's a signal that the battery pack will be eating up some of the rear-passenger space so the ELR can be offered as a rear-drive coupe.

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