Small Cadillac crossover SUV gets plug-in fuel cell powertrain, 300-mile range
8 January 2008

The Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show will today allow General Motors to grab the limelight ahead of this weekend’s Detroit motor show. At the Nevada gadget fest, GM is showing a concept car called the Provoq - a car that takes its American luxury brand Cadillac in two interesting directions - and Autocar can bring you the pictures and details just before the covers come off.The Provoq crossover SUV serves two purposes for Cadillac. Outwardly, it’s a preview for one the firm’s most important new models of 2009, the BRX. This will be GM’s answer to the Audi Q5, Mercedes GLK and Land Rover Freelander, a slightly cheaper and more conventional sub-£30k small 4x4 that will be positioned below the SRX.Aside from this, however, the Provoq is a significant car for GM because it’s powered by the General’s ground-breaking E-Flex powertrain architecture. Underneath this compact 4x4 is a plug-in hydrogen fuel cell powertrain that allows it to cover 20 miles on battery power alone, and a further 280 miles on emissions-free compressed hydrogen gas. This is the first time GM has applied its pioneering plug-in powertrain to one of its premium brand cars, and as such it’s proof of the breadth of GM’s vision for range-extended battery cars. Although we've yet to confirm as much from Cadillac, the Provoq also looks to the be the first E-Flex concept to be based on a different platform than GM's 'Delta' family of mechanicals. Underneath Provoq is the 'Theta' platform, the General's basis for small 4x4s, which proves that the E-Flex system is more adaptable than many first thought.More than anything else though, the Provoq is a bold assertion of confidence from its maker. Within a few years, it seems, not only will GM be making zero-emissions E-Flex cars, but E-Flex cars that are sufficiently capable, well-packaged, stylish and refined to represent its most upmarket brand.

Advanced aerodynamics, hydrogen power

At just over 4.5-metres long, the Provoq is ideally proportioned for the burgeoning small SUV segment and, according to Cadillac, it’s got “uncompromising passenger and cargo space to match its performance and cruising range.”Underneath it is a development of the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain that appeared in the Chevrolet Volt at the 2007 Shanghai motor show. With a 94bhp electric motor powering the front wheels, and two 54bhp hub motors powering each rear wheel, the Provoq is a proper four-wheel-driver capable of 0-60mph in 8.5sec and a 100mph top speed. However, true to GM’s E-Flex philosophy, the car also charges from the mains electricity supply, covers 20 miles on battery power alone, and travels a further 280 miles on the compressed hydrogen gas stored in two 10,000psi storage tanks under the boot floor, all the while emitting nothing but water.The Provoq’s exterior design features a shield grille, vertically oriented headlamps, crisply cut body lines – all Cadillac hallmarks. However, it’s also got some aerodynamic flourishes designed to make the most of its fuel cell powertrain: the car’s active front grille closes when fuel cell cooling isn’t required, its flat underbody cover smoothes the passage of air under the car, its roof rack has been designed for minimum drag, and its 21in wheels have clear-covered gaps between the spokes for the same reason.

Caddy BRX: an all-American BMW X3

The road car the Provoq will father, the Cadillac BRX, will emerge in 2009. Based on GM’s Theta platform, it’ll share certain mechanicals with the 2008 Saturn Vue, as well as the current Vauxhall Antara and Chevrolet Captiva. However, it won’t be hydrogen-powered: at least, it won’t be to begin with.Engines for the BRX will include four cylinder petrol and diesel options, as well as GM’s 255bhp, 3.6-litre petrol V6 as a range-topper. Four-wheel drive should be standard on more expensive models, and a hybrid-electric model is even a possibility, taking its lead from the Saturn Vue Green Line.Given the increasing popularity of small SUVs in Europe, it’s highly likely that the BRX will be added the Cadillac’s UK product portfolio in late 2009 or early 2010. More information on the car is expected at the Detroit show.

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