PARK CITY, UTAH – They say—accurately, in my opinion—that nothing sharpens the mind like a deadline. I’m not sure what the amplification factor is when that deadline is suddenly shortened by nine months, as was the case for Cadillac’s new Lyriq, but the result is an extremely competent new battery-electric SUV.
As we’ve discussed in the past, General Motors is at the beginning of an electrification plan that it hopes will eliminate tailpipe emissions from the group’s vehicles by 2035. Key to that is a family of batteries and electric motors (called Ultium) for use in everything from large bodied trucks to small crossovers. We’ve already sampled a few early Ultium-based BEVs: the bombastic Hummer EV truck and BrightDrop Zevo 600 van. Both are rather niche applications, but the Lyriq is much more mainstream given America’s love of the SUV.
At launch, the Lyriq will be available in a single engine, rear-wheel drive configuration, with a dual engine, all-wheel drive version coming in early 2023. The RWD Lyriq uses a 340 hp (255 kW), 325 lb-ft (440 Nm) version of the Ultium Drive motor, which is powered by a 102 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
GM designed Ultium batteries to be highly modular, with each module having its own battery management system (which communicates wirelessly with the car). In the case of the Lyriq, it uses 12 modules (and a total of 288 cells) compared to the huge 24-module pack of the Hummer EV. But the Lyriq is lighter, less powerful and more aerodynamic than that big truck, so it can hit an EPA range of 310 miles. (For more on the Lyriq’s powertrain, enjoy our interview with GM’s head of EV powertrains from a few years ago.)
Not that the Lyriq is exactly small – at 196.7 inches (4,996mm) long and 86.9 inches (2,207mm) wide (with its mirrors), it’s just the right size for US roads. However, Cadillac’s designers and engineers did a pretty good job packing the batteries without making the SUV look unnaturally large, at 63.9 inches (1,623 mm). The 121.8-inch (3,094 mm) wheelbase translates into plenty of interior volume for front and rear occupants. But it’s certainly not a featherweight, weighing in at 2,545kg.
I try not to waste too much time discussing what a car looks like, given how subjective that often is. But I think Cadillac’s designers have done a great job here, with some interesting touches like the light panels in Lyric’s nose and the treatment around the tailgate, which a colleague noted recalling the hustle and bustle of the Cadillac Seville. We don’t yet have a drag coefficient for the Lyriq, but it’s clear that aerodynamics was a design priority, with front airfoils and low-drag treatments on the SUV’s alloy wheels.
The interior is similarly impressive, especially for those of us who remember how boring GM interiors used to be. The flashiest feature is the 33-inch display that curves around the driver. Unlike other large infotainment screens we’ve seen recently, this is a single screen, not multiple panels glued under glass, Cadillac told us.
It’s similar to the three-screen system in the Cadillac Escalade, with three zones: a small touch-sensitive multifunction area to the driver’s left, the main driver cluster (which can be configured to display a gauge, a map, or even very minimal information (speed, battery status) if you don’t want to be distracted. The right side of the screen is touch sensitive but can also be operated with the rotary knob on the center console.
The infotainment runs on the Android Automotive operating system, although the user interface will be relatively familiar if you’ve used a recent version of Cadillac’s infotainment in other vehicles. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both supported, and this is the first implementation of either I’ve used that can project directions from your phone to the card for the driver, rather than just showing up in Android Auto or CarPlay window on the infotainment side of the screen. Powered by Android Automotive means you get great voice recognition too.