2023 Cadillac Lyriq Review

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Our first drive of Cadillac’s electrified Lyric SUV reveals it’s an intriguing alternative to established rivals.

The Cadillac Lyriq is not only significant as the first bespoke electric car from the historic American brand, but it’s also intended to signal a new design era that will help to revive and reinvent the marque for a new generation.

The Audi E-tron and BMW iX rival is due to arrive in US dealerships early next year and is built on the versatile bespoke electric Ultium platform that has been developed by parent firm General Motors. The architecture of this large luxury SUV is shared with machines as diverse as the wild GMC Hummer EV, forthcoming Chevrolet Blazer electric SUV, Chevrolet Silverado EV pick-up and even the Brightdrop 600 delivery van.

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In Australia, General Motors currently offers a very limited Chevrolet range via GMSV and is yet to introduce Cadillac, although performance offerings such as the CT5-V Blackwing would be well received.

While a Cadillac EV is completely off the table for now, GM is currently gearing up for a major return to the European market with an all-EV offering, and while nothing is confirmed, it is widely expected that the Lyriq will be the flagship offering for that return and might make right-hand drive production.

We were able to sample a Lyriq for the first time on the closed private roads of GM’s Milford Proving Ground in Michigan. While our running was limited, it was representative enough to get a good flavour of the machine.

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The Cadillac brand has struggled to really find traction in the US in recent years, with a range that mixes premium sedans that can’t match European rivals and large, austere SUVs such as the Cadillac Escalade.

Brand bosses see the switch to EVs – and the blank canvas of the versatile Ultium platform – as a real opportunity to reinvent the marque for the electric era. That new design direction will be set by two vehicles that were developed alongside each other: the Lyriq and the forthcoming Celestiq, a shooting brake that was recently revealed in concept form. The Celestiq will go into production in 2024 as an exclusive hand-built flagship range-topper, priced at around $430,000, with a bold brief to take on the likes of Bentley and Rolls-Royce.

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The Lyriq is a more mainstream offering but shares numerous design cues with the Celestiq. Both take some historic Cadillac design traits from the brand’s 1950s glory days and reinvent them for the modern era. The car’s grille retains a distinctive trapezoidal shape that has been a feature of recent Cadillac models but replaces the engine cooling with a bold digital front end that features some extravagant LED lighting patterns when you turn the car on.

There are also L-shaped lights in the rear pillar, which hark back to 1960s Cadillacs and add a distinct sense of stature. The body is recognisably a big electric SUV but retains a comparatively long bonnet and sculpted but clean sides.

Parked next to an Escalade, the Lyriq looks positively compact, but there’s no disguising that this is on the large size. It’s 4996mm long, which is 95mm longer than an Audi E-tron. The wheelbase stretches to 3093mm, 65mm longer than the Audi.

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The interior uses the flat Ultium chassis to offer a good sense of space and it has a real sense of classy refinement. Notably, there’s no evidence of platform engineering in here: every single interior fitting is bespoke to Cadillac. The firm even received permission to design a new coat hook to achieve that feat.

The 33-inch curved digital screen – Cadillac notes it’s an actual curved unit, rather than angled separate units – dominates the dashboard and is well placed, serving as both a digital instrument display and the infotainment. The operating system is generally slick and includes built-in Google services.

There’s a 19-speaker AKG audio system and a pleasing amount of physical switchgear, such as the heating controls below the screen and the drive controller built into the ‘floating’ centre console, and everything looks and feels premium. Laser-cut wood trim and backlit lighting create a cool, sophisticated aura. It’s all very modern, clean and stylish.

The plush, thin seats are comfortable and the driving position is good. There’s also plenty of space in the back and a substantial, 793-litre boot.

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The Lyriq will be offered with a range of powertrains. Entry-level models, such as the version we drove, will feature a single-motor rear-drive powertrain with 250kW and 440Nm. There will also be a twin-motor all-wheel-drive version, which retains the same torque but offers 368kW. The Lyriq’s powertrain was smooth and responsive even with the car’s substantial kerb weight of 2585kg. That said, it’s clear the intent here is to offer a smooth, premium feel rather than performance. That was reflected in a notably quiet ride – even by EV standards – aided by active noise-cancelling technology.

There’s a paddle that offers brake regeneration, too, although we didn’t get long enough to really sample how much of a difference it made. That said, the default regenerative setting enabled near one-pedal driving, which suits the relaxed nature of the car well.

Power is drawn from a substantial 106kWh (102kWh usable) underfloor battery, which gives an official US range of 502km for the RWD version. Cadillac engineers expect that could be slightly improved under the European WLTP range test. It can be charged at speeds of up to 190kW.

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The car rode well, handling even the artificially rough bumps and seams of GM’s proving ground test tracks – designed to emulate a range of real-world road conditions – with a real sense of composure. The suspension soaked up undulations well and without robbing the car of much feel. It’s certainly a competitive proposition that matches up well to other large premium electric SUVs.

The Lyriq doesn’t offer much in the way of driving thrills, and the steering response was a little numb in the way American market cars are often engineered to be. Any buyers expecting an electric SUV version of a CT4 Blackwing would be disappointed (and a little misguided in the first place).

Although we didn’t get a chance to sample it on our short drive, the Lyriq is also offered with GM’s Super Cruise ‘hands-free’ driver assistance system. Available on certain connected highways in the US, it works with the adaptive cruise control to steer the vehicle. A light built into the top part of the steering wheel rim shows that it’s engaged and flashes red if driver intervention is required. We did sample the system in a Chevrolet Bolt on greater Detroit highways and it behaved impressively.

At $62,990 (AUD$90,000), it’s certainly competitively priced in the US market. It’s clear that the Lyriq is one of the most convincing Cadillac models to arrive in some time, and a compelling proposition that would represent an intriguing alternative to the leading premium brands.

James Attwood

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