General Motors said Cadillac, its luxury brand, will lead the automaker into the electric future. It will be the first GM brand to go all-electric, and its first electric vehicle model is the Cadillac Lyriq, a crossover SUV that’s one of the best Cadillacs I’ve driven in a long time.
Two days of driving the Lyriq on the mountain roads of Utah revealed a promising start to what will be major changes for the brand. An industry-wide shift to electric propulsion and Cadillac’s commitment to being among the first to do everything possible could provide an opening, if done right, for the American luxury brand to go from the front.
The electric turnaround begins with the Lyriq, an electric crossover SUV with a starting price of around $60,000. It’s the best crossover SUV Cadillac has ever made, but that’s not really saying much, to be honest. Crossover SUVs, for some reason, have simply never been Cadillac’s best thing despite being the hottest item in the industry for almost 20 years. Cadillac’s crossovers have, aside from their sharp exterior designs, looked largely ordinary compared to luxury rivals. Cadillac has been much better at making compelling cars and, of course, the enormous Escalade, a luxuriously appointed truck-like SUV. Even so, Cadillac has come up against well-established German luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes and has, in general, been competitive at best when it needs to give shoppers reason to try a Detroit brand. , perhaps for the very first time.
From the outside, the Lyriq looks like a fairly typical crossover SUV but with sharp edges and a low roofline. (The headroom inside is fine, though.) It’s when the sun goes down that the design really shines, literally. The ‘grille’ is a solid piece through which light shines at night to create patterns that move as the SUV turns on and off. Inside, the intricate designs on the inside of the doors are crafted from metal so thin that colored light – just about any color you choose – can shine through the night.
Beyond that, the interior is stylishly designed with lots of patterned metal and a large curved display that both houses the gauges in front of the driver and extends into a touchscreen that the two front occupants can reach. Fabric and wood surfaces have a generally pleasant look and feel. Unlike many other electric luxury vehicles, there are plenty of buttons and switches so the driver doesn’t have to wade through touchscreen menus for basic things like adjusting the climate control. Even the graphics are nicely detailed, like the scrolling temperature numbers and the arrows that vibrate slightly when moved.
The only disappointments are in the feeling of certain parts. The door release handles let you feel the ratchet gears underneath, and the vent knobs look metallic but feel distinctly plastic when in use. The door handles are also clever. Instead of a simple handle that you can pull, to open the front doors, I had to press a handle-shaped chrome button, then move my hand to pull a fin-shaped handle above it. Rear doors require a pull on the inside edge of the door where there is, at least, some soft plastic.
With its flat floors and large storage bins, the Lyriq also makes great use of the extra space that electric vehicles allow with their small motors and no transmission. There’s no front trunk, since GM designers said they wanted to pack electrical and mechanical equipment under the hood to make more room elsewhere.
The shift to electric vehicles could give Cadillac the opportunity it needs to stand out. The Lyriq truly looks and drives like a luxury crossover. On the road, it’s smooth, controlled and quiet. Hit the accelerator pedal and the power is more than enough. He jostles without feeling rushed.
The GM Lyriqs supplied for road testing were among the first built. GM executives rushed the model’s introduction, exceeding its original deadline by nearly a year, but some features won’t go into production until later. All-wheel drive, for example, won’t be available for a few months as the additional front motor that will provide this functionality is still being tested and refined. So the Lyriq I tested was rear-wheel drive. Likewise, GM’s Super Cruise hands-free highway driving system is still being tested for this model. It will be available later either on new Lyriqs as they are built on the assembly line, or as a software download for vehicles already in customer driveways.
Even without all the features and power the extra motor will bring – the rear-drive Lyriq gets 340 horsepower from its single motor versus 500 from the twin-motor version – the Lyriq is plenty fun to drive. As with most luxury vehicles these days, the driver can select different “modes” which alter throttle pedal response and steering quickness, as well as, of course, the artificial sound of the engine. The firmness of the suspension, however, cannot be changed. GM engineers say it responds automatically, using sophisticated fluid relays, to the needs of the moment, firming up when more body control is needed for cornering, but softening at other times. to absorb bumps.
The Lyriq feels at its best in Touring mode with everything tuned to be the most relaxed and languid. I used Sport mode mostly for my professional duties – I had to test it out – but didn’t really enjoy it. The Lyriq feels quicker in Sport mode and the steering responds quicker but, when speeding through a curve, the suspension feels like it’s being asked too much. The body rolls a bit to the side and it generally feels like the SUV is turning faster than the rest of the vehicle is ready. Yes, the Lyriq can go fast on a narrow mountain road, but there are probably better EVs for that. And, knowing the history of Cadillac, there will surely be future versions of the Lyriq for those interested in tight cornering.
In Touring mode, the Lyriq feels at peace with itself. The steering is quite nice, the ride is smooth, and those winding roads and tight turns, taken at a reasonable pace, make for a great afternoon of driving. The electric motors are quiet and the noise cancellation technology, nothing new but very well done here, absorbs things like tire noise.
If you think the Lyriq looks good, GM designers say, wait until you see the Cadillac Celestiq that will be unveiled next month. This completely hand-built electric car should put Cadillac back in the running with Rolls-Royce and Bentley, a market Cadillac hasn’t responded to in a long time. This could mark a far more impressive turnaround than simply switching from gas tanks to batteries.