What it Is
Cadillac Provoq Concept Preview – 2008 Detroit Auto Show: We’ve heard a lot about GM’s E-Flex platform, the series hybrid that underpins the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Flextreme concept cars shown last year in Detroit and Frankfurt. Today at the Detroit Auto Show, GM unveiled another version of the platform, and quite possibly the best one yet: The Cadillac Provoq.Why it Matters
The Provoq is one of the most production-ready concepts we've seen, and with all the rumors of a BRX small crossover, we're guessing that this is a close preview of that vehicle. Whether it winds up with an E-Flex drivetrain right off the bat is debatable, and unlikely, but we'd be surprised if a production version of this car doesn't show up sometime relatively soon. The other note of significance is how closely GM is tying its luxury brand to social responsibility. With even the Escalade coming in a hybrid version, Cadillac is making a strong play against its Japanese (i.e., Lexus) competitors.
What's Under the Hood
The third variant of the E-Flex platform fulfills the promise GM vice president Bob Lutz made at the Volt’s unveiling, that it could work with gasoline, diesel or hydrogen. In this case, the Provoq’s power comes from a hydrogen fuel cell under the hood, which powers the vehicle after the 20-mile battery-only range is depleted. With the 280 mile range provided by the fuel cell, that means the Provoq has a 300 mile range without recharging. However, like the Volt and Flextreme, the Provoq is designed to be plugged in when not driven, charging the onboard battery pack and allowing it to drive completely emissions free until the charge wears out.
What it Looks Like
If you’re a fan of E-Flex technology, this is old hat. The really interesting thing is the Cadillac body work. Hydrogen or no, Caddy should put this body in production pronto. Unlike the compact Volt and, um, unusual Flextreme, the Provoq has conventional crossover styling that would look right at home on the showroom floor today. There are few unbuildably futuristic details outside – the pop-out door handles are about it.
The same is true for the comfortable looking five-passenger interior. In fact, the interior may be the Provoq’s greatest strength. The fuel cell stack is under the hood, and the hydrogen tanks are mounted under the cargo floor. Cadillac says this means the Provoq’s interior isn’t compromised by the drivetrain, and the car certainly looks like it has a conventional layout, albeit with Cadillac’s newfound sense of style. If this were the first E-Flex to go into production, we’d be perfectly happy.
What Cadillac Says
“Cadillac is a natural fit for GM’s next step in developing the E-Flex platform,” says Jim Taylor, Cadillac general manager. “Cadillac, at its very essence, is about premium luxury, design and technology, so it’s fitting that Cadillac would be propelled by the most elegant solution. This signals Cadillac’s intent to lead the industry with alternative-fuel technology.”
What We Think
We've been saying for some time now that GM is on the right track with product and positioning, and it's concepts like the Provoq that make us so bullish on the company's fortunes. While the hydrogen fuel cell gets us excited for the future – after all, hydrogen-powered anything is still a little more fiction than science at this point – the production-ready bodywork gets us excited for now.
By Keith Buglewicz
MyRide Road Test Editor
Photo Credit: Cadillac