Q&A: Tristan Murphy, Cadillac Lyriq Interior Design Manager

(Editor’s Note: This is the second of two questions and answers focused on the development and design of the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq.)

Our investigation into the design of the Cadillac Lyriq 2023 continues with Tristan Murphy, the interior design manager of the Cadillac Lyriq 2023. The talk is the second of two parts, the first is Tuesday’s conversation with Josh Thurber, the vehicle’s exterior design manager.

The display of the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq is a complete custom display, no smaller displays glued together under glass.

For Cadillac, the Lyriq is a do-or-die moment, a historic opportunity to re-establish Cadillac as ‘The Standard of the World’, debuts as the brand’s first all-battery electric vehicle in Cadillac’s 120-year history.

Here’s our conversation with Murphy, which took place in the new Lyriq. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

TheDetroitBureau.com: As I stepped inside, I noticed the handles of the aluminum door handles with bushings, dating back to Cadillacs of the 1960s.

Tristan Murphy: We’re trying to pull a part of our history that’s really rich and that we love and bring it in a new, modern way and it wasn’t about being retro. But there are a lot of fun things we used to do. We thought it was really important to hold the physical controls, because you get into those old Cadillacs, and they had plungers that came out and all those things that were articulated. Those are the things that create that memory and that emotional connection. And if you just put everything on the screen, you lose that and you lose the detail and how things move and the articulation and all that cool stuff.

TDB: It’s interesting that you get a knurling like the first button you see when you get in.

None of the Lyriq’s interior components are shared with any other GM vehicle. They remain exclusive to Cadillac.

TM: It all hangs together. It’s on the multifunction controller, it’s on the switches, on the steering wheel. But even if you look down on the speaker grille pattern. It’s so three-dimensional. You know a typical speaker is a pretty flat piece with some return flanges. But the blank on this thing is almost as big as the door. We actually had to bring in our outer sheet metal people to teach them how to stamp it properly to get to this kind of formation because it was way beyond anything they’d ever done before. So I think it creates a much more special looking piece that gives you that implied movement again. It’s not just a stuck metal grille, it feels completely engineered.

TDB: I like the amount of metalwork on the interior, especially the little brass accents.

TM: It would have been very easy to say okay, panel, black metal, done. But again, just that little bit of extra detail of copper finish. So it’s really going down the rabbit hole with details and thinking about this thing as a piece of jewelry because again, like old Cadillacs; that’s exactly what they did. They really got to the weeds of these details and you don’t see that in today’s cars.

TDB: And did you get the chance to do it in previous programs?

The sill plate pays tribute to the ’60s and replaces the “Body By Fisher” and its horse-drawn carriage with a drawing of the new Lyriq.

TM: We had to talk very early about how detailed we wanted to be, knowing that this is going to take some time. You can argue, is it worth it? You know, I think so, that’s probably why I was put on the program.

Like all small window monograms.

There are two pieces of information, you have a company logo, which in the past we always had the black badge of General Motors, and then you have a font with glass and tech specs, right? So we’re at the end of the program and I asked if there was a reason we couldn’t put a Cadillac logo on it? Is there a legal reason why we can’t? And I got in touch with the glass guys, and they said, “Nobody’s ever asked us that before. So yeah, sure, let’s do it.” And then I said, “Okay, what about the font? I was like, can I make the Cadillac font just like the block font we use everywhere? And they say, “yeah, let’s do it.”

So it won’t make or break the car, but for me it’s all these little areas that just come to that commitment to question everything. Even these little AKG mics here. We applied the same pattern you see elsewhere in the car so that everywhere you look it feels like it was designed. There is continuity throughout the interior.

As usual, the Lyriq’s interior lighting can be customized.

TDB: Looking at the Lyriq’s instrument panel layout, it’s reminiscent of the 1967 Cadillac’s instrument panel layout, but everything about the Lyriq’s is new. Nothing comes from another GM vehicle, not even another Cadillac. How does it feel to finally be able to do something you had to share, not one thing about the interior?

TM: If we hadn’t really gotten this commitment for a full set of checks, if we hadn’t been able to get to that level, I just don’t think we would have been so aggressive with the cartridges everywhere. It would have been good, you have a transfer pattern here, and maybe other parts have a different neural pattern than the previous generation parts, which should be fine, but let’s not introduce too much stuff because it’s going to look like a parts bin. So again, it’s really going to allow us to go after all this meticulous detailing again. No more GM parts in the custom Cadillac. Let’s do it right.

I remember Mark Reuss, very early on when we started this and Celestiq, he said, “You know, we owe it to Cadillac. We owe it to the brand and the customers to really do it. Let’s go all out. to go.” And yes, it was just kind of a kick-off to do it.

TDB: I try to think of the last time Cadillac did it.

TM: That’s an interesting point. I don’t know; probably the thirties.

Cadillac Celestiq showcar front fender
Much of the Lyriq’s design will be carried over to the soon-to-be-revealed Cadillac Celestiq EV, but taken to another level.

TDB: There’s nothing here between the controls that looks familiar, except maybe the climate control knobs.

TM: No, not even the buttons. Although they look similar, they are not. And even the temperature interface. Look at the details, even the little arrows that change. See the little jump at the bottom as the number goes down and then again, the other arrow jumps up as the number goes up. That’s a little animation. So even at those levels we need to get the details.

On the screen, we really worked on how to make this thing beautiful. It’s not just any rectangle; the actual display is fully molded and designed to the mold we’ve done here. It’s not the typical rectangle we’re trying to hide like the (Mercedes-Benz) Hyperscreen. That’s a really cheap version. They bought some ready-made displays, and again they’re expensive displays, but they just glued it to a piece of glass and that’s about it. So this is much more elegant and luxurious in our opinion. And speaking of it, what are you paying for in a luxury brand? For us this is what it should be. The way Mercedes-Benz or everyone else does it, that’s what we do for Chevy. I mean, and that’s not to be rude, because they do beautiful things. I mean, I like what Mercedes does. But we have very consciously said that we have to go our own way. We can’t come to the table right now with an experience that feels like anything else down the road.

TDB: Although the Lyriq has one screen, there is a sense of hierarchy in the graphics so you know where to look first, then second and then third.

Reuss on Spring Hill
GM President Mark Reuss said the new Cadillac Lyriq is the first step in the brand’s return to a leadership position in the luxury segment.

TM: Absolute. We learned how to design an interface, especially interfaces of the more capacitive type. How far do you want to push it? Where do you want to put that? Because again, it’s a mix. You want some of these controls to be solid, and some of these others that you don’t use very often can be capacitive. And you want them to have that little pawl where you push with your hand. And this is the first (capacitive switch) that you can move your hand over and there is no accidental activation. You really have to press it to actually activate it. So that’s a brand new technology. You don’t get the accidental activation, and that was really key for us if we continued with this technology.

TDB: I see you put the seat controls on the door.

TM: It allows you to get a wider seat because you no longer have to worry about trying to keep a space where your hands go down between the door and the seat. So it allows us to actually make the chair wider and more comfortable.

TDB: It’s always the little things that make a real luxury car.

TM: Yes, exactly. If they catch the eye, that’s what I remember. One of the last components that wasn’t brand new was the coat rack originally, and we had a review and we were so close that we had literally done everything. We asked: can we please pay for a new coat rack? And again, it was like that last little pimple, you know, it was like oh, come on. We need a new coat rack. And it was like, okay, okay. And now we can say that everything is done.

TDB: And this then informs the Celestiqwhat goes further.

TM: Yes, which is why getting this one right out of the box was important because it really informs the next chapter for Cadillac. So we start with Lyriq and we don’t stop. You will continue to see other or future variants and again it will all have this set of components and on some of them, like with the Celestiq, we’re going to take it to the next level.

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