2023 Cadillac Lyriq First Drive Review: The New American Luxury Songbook

2023 Cadillac Lyriq First Drive Review: The New American Luxury Songbook

06/28/2022

Cadillac was once one of the most iconic automakers in the US. Heralded in popular song through the 20th century, it was the definition of American luxury. The landscape has shifted significantly since the glory days of oversized, powerful cars with smooth, wafting rides. But perhaps the biggest change and challenge starts now: electrification.

This tectonic shift is an opportunity for the brand to redefine itself and create a desirable alternative to the German and Japanese automakers that have so successfully encroached on its market share over the past few decades. It’s difficult, then, to overstate the importance of the all-new, all-electric Cadillac Lyriq.

The introduction of this first EV marks the end of combustion cars for Cadillac. It is leading the battery-powered way for the brands of General Motors and planning to stop selling vehicles with internal combustion engines completely by 2030. The overarching plan as it stands now is for all of GM to be electric-only by 2035.

Fans of the brand may be comforted by the choice of Lyriq to lead this electric charge. Not radically styled like some electric vehicles, it’s stylistically a strong step forward from previous Cadillac SUV offerings. Its notable performance numbers – 312 miles of range, sub-six-second zero-to-sixty, 190-kilowatt max charge rate – along with the luxury touches and experience seem like a strong value for a starting price of $62,990.

Gallery: 2023 Cadillac Lyriq First Drive

What’s My Name?

To help signal this change, Cadillac has revised its nomenclature. Out with the alphanumeric puzzles – where letters corresponded with vehicle types and numbers signaled sizes – and in with traditional names. Well, almost traditional. These new electric vehicles will get monikers derived from existing words but altered with an “iq” suffix. Hence, “lyric” becomes “Lyriq” and an upcoming halo sedan (with a rumored $300,000 price tag) turns the adjective “celestial” into a proper noun: Celestiq.

The name for this SUV borrows from the brand’s pop culture heritage. Bruce Springsteen (Pink Cadillac), Chuck Berry (Maybelline), and Ariana Grande (Cadillac Song) are just three examples of dozens of artists who have leaned on the lyrical quality of the 120-year-old brand name to hit-making effect. 

Beyond the more obvious connection with its musical heritage, Lyriq is also supposed to underline the importance of sound, and sometimes the lack of it, in the car. Invited by Cadillac to Park City, Utah, to experience and drive the Lyriq, I spent my first bit of time behind the wheel immobile, going through menus, pushing buttons, and listening.

With the entertainment screen pulled up, I scrolled through several radio stations. Now, I often feel let down by the sound systems that ship with cars, but the 19-speaker AKG Studio setup, featuring speakers in the headrests, was solid. With tight bass on hip hop tunes and clear mids and highs on classical selections – even as the volume approached maximum – music lovers will enjoy the crispness and clarity with which their favorite tunes are reproduced.

Part of the reason the stereo sounds so good is that the cabin of the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq is engineered to be a quiet place. An active noise canceling system enlists six microphones (to capture what occupants can hear) and accelerometers on the front suspension (to capture the current road noise to cancel) to keep outside noise and road vibration at bay, enhanced with the car’s natural good aerodynamics and acoustic laminated glass. The system worked surprisingly well while driving on a noisy grooved concrete section of the highway. What would have been an annoying drone in most vehicles was hardly noticeable in Lyriq. 

The New Style

Pushing on the flush door handles unlatches the doors and pops them open about an inch. There is a small gloss black lip on the sill that one then pulls to open the door. For some reason, while the rear door has (of course) the same handle, there is no convenient lip to pull on, so one has to stick their fingers in the cracked door opening and pull the edge of the actual door. Not ideal.   

Opening the front door, drivers are greeted by a premium-looking space. Climb inside and start touching things, however, and some of that high-end image turns out to be just that: image. The fancy-looking dial on the center console, which can be used to scroll and flick through menus is not glass, but acrylic; knurled knobs are metallic-coated plastic in place of pricier metal, and the switches controlling the environmental controls on the center stack had more play than I’d like.

Still, there are plenty of reminders that you’re in an upscale vehicle. The expansive glass roof with power sunshade adds an airy and spacious feel. The floating, curved LED 33.0-inch screen that flows from the driver’s side of the dash across the center to the passenger compartment, is quick to respond, bright, and detailed. Open-pore dark ash on the center console is echoed on the upper door trim, where a laser-cut design lets the adjustable ambient lighting shine through. The speaker grill is sculptural, flowing up to and along the bottom of the armrests. 

Another nice touch is the jewelry drawer that pulls out from just under the temperature controls. In our car, its blue lining is also repeated in the storage space on the floor of the center console, with the color appearing in piping down the center of the seats.

Have A Seat

The massaging eight-way power front seats with four-way power lumbar control, heat, and ventilation are comfortable and covered in a leather-alternative material. We are told a Nappa leather option would be coming next year. The controls for these have been moved from the side of the seat where they typically would reside to the upper portion of the door à la Mercedes-Benz, where they are easier to see and use. This rearrangement also allows for a slightly wider bottom seat cushion.

As I prepared to take Lyriq on the road, I activated the massage function. The settings are shown on the right side of the screen, which helps configure the lumbar manipulations. Driving along with the stereo silenced, the confines of the cabin are so hushed that I could actually hear the motor in the seat softly whirring away, which I found distracting.

The rear seat can accommodate three passengers, but ideally, it serves two better, with an armrest in the middle position folding out of the seatback. Ingress is easy and, with a wheelbase that’s actually longer than that of Escalade (120.9 inches versus 121.8 inches) and a flat floor, knee and legroom feel quite generous. Similarly, there is a reasonable amount of headroom for rear passengers – I’m 6-foot-2 and still easily had an inch or so to spare – with the back hatch glass beginning its steep pitch behind the passenger area.

Shut Up And Drive

Pulling back and down on the gear selector puts Lyriq into drive. Even with the foot off the brake, though, it does not creep forward. Indeed, it seems to take an extra bit of push on the accelerator to convince the brake to let go. When it does get rolling, so do the good times.

There’s a lot to like about driving the Lyriq. We’ve mentioned how quiet it is while underway, but it’s also worth mentioning how nicely the vehicle rides. The Lyriq is the first Cadillac with a five-link suspension at all four corners (short-long arms in front, independent at the back), and aided by passive-plus premium dampers all the way around, road irregularities practically disappear. 

One-pedal driving can be engaged in any mode and features an additional “high” setting for extra slowing and power regeneration. Using a single pedal for accelerating and most braking may be uncomfortable for some at first, but once you get used to a new way of modulating inputs to a single pedal, you probably won’t want to drive any other way. On the Utah mountain roads where we drove the Lyriq, I found the one-pedal option highly preferable as it keeps the vehicle speed in check on the long descents, eliminating the need to occasionally dab the brakes. 

Lyriq has three drive modes, plus a customizable option: Tour, Sport, Snow/Ice, and My Mode.  In Tour mode, the suspension is softly sprung with a fair amount of body roll. Sport mode tightens that up significantly, along with sharpening the steering and adding more aggressive accelerator pedal mapping. I kept the car mostly in Sport, enjoying the heavier feel and snappier go pedal.

On the left side of the steering wheel is a regenerative braking paddle that works regardless of whether one-pedal mode is engaged. It is input-sensitive, so the harder you pull, the harder it will brake. If the stopping power requested exceeds what the regenerative system can generate, the physical brakes are imperceptibly blended in.

Lyriq has a fifty-fifty weight distribution, so if you throw it into a turn at speeds that challenge the gripping abilities of the specially-developed Michelin Primacy P75/40R22 all-season rubber (a $1,550 option that includes a 22-inch wheel) our car was equipped with, it stays quite neutral. Stomp the juice pedal mid-turn and electronic stability controls keep things tame, without adding more rotation to the vehicle. 

Weighing in at 5,610 pounds, it is not, obviously, a sports car. Still, with all the acceleration one really needs – from a standing start to highway speeds – and a stiff, responsive chassis, it’s as enjoyable to challenge a curvy mountain road with as it is to quietly waft along an arrow-straight interstate listening to composer Caleb Burhans’ Evensong. Your musical mileage may vary.

Number Cruncher 

A lot of the credit for the performance and poise of the Cadillac Lyriq comes down to the Ultium platform it sits on. With the 102-kilowatt-hour (usable) battery, this rear-wheel-drive version with 340 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque is rated by the EPA for 312 miles on a charge. An all-wheel-drive variant will be added later this year with 500 horsepower, but EPA range numbers for it haven’t been released yet. 

When the battery does get low, it can be charged up at a maximum rate of 190 kW at a suitable DC fast charger. Of course, that number doesn’t really indicate how long you may have to wait for it to charge, so Cadillac further states that it can add up to 76 miles of range in ten minutes. And speaking of charging, if plugged in at home to a charger and circuit capable of supplying enough power to satiate the onboard 19.2-kW AC charger, it can add 52 miles of range in an hour. That’s more energy than most people will use in an average day.  

Using the portable charge cord (with 110- and 240-volt adapters) that comes with the car, owners can expect to add 37 miles per hour (240 volts) or 21 miles per hour (120 volts).  This is probably also a good time to mention that Cadillac will give customers $1,500 towards the installation of a home charger (not supplied) or two years of unlimited free charging on the EVgo network.  

The Final Countdown

The Ultium platform should also get some credit for the value that Cadillac Lyriq represents. With all General Motors’ brands using the same motors, inverters, battery cells, and software in their powertrains, savings from scale help cut costs. The development time for new models can also be greatly reduced and Lyriq is a terrific example of that. The second Ultium vehicle after the GMC Hummer, its development time was brought forward by almost a year.

One of the reasons Cadillac sped up the Lyriq program was the realization that the market was far thirstier for electric vehicles than the automaker had thought. Turns out, if you offer an attractive vehicle capable of meeting the needs of drivers at a reasonable price, customers will flock to your door. At least, this appears to have proven true in the case of Lyriq.

The company reports that it has sold out its 2023 model year production – it won’t give the number – after getting over 250,000 “handraisers” and 21,000 hot leads. It suggested that if a customer ordered now, they would probably see delivery in the second quarter of 2023.

While that certainly is a long wait, most will probably feel it worthwhile for what I think is the next great Cadillac.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq

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