PARK CITY, UTAH—They say—accurately, in my opinion—that nothing focuses the mind like a deadline. I’m not sure what the amplification factor is when that deadline suddenly shrinks 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 covered in the past, General Motors is at the start of an electrification plan that it hopes will mean no more tailpipe emissions from any of the group’s vehicles by 2035. The key to that is a family of batteries and electric motors (named Ultium) to be used across everything from big body-on-frame trucks to small crossovers. We’ve actually sampled a couple of early Ultium-based BEVs already—the bombastic Hummer EV truck and BrightDrop Zevo 600 delivery van. Both of those are rather niche applications, but the Lyriq is much more mainstream, given America’s love for the SUV.
At launch, the Lyriq is available in a single-motor, rear-wheel-drive configuration, with a twin-motor, all-wheel-drive version coming early in 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 Hummer EV’s massive 24-module pack. But the Lyriq is lighter, less powerful, and more aerodynamic than that big truck, so it’s able to achieve an EPA range of 312 miles (502 km). (For more details about the Lyriq’s powertrain, you may enjoy our interview with GM’s head of EV powertrains from a couple of years ago.)
Not that the Lyriq is exactly diminutive—at 196.7 inches (4,996 mm) long and 86.9 inches (2,207 mm) wide (with its mirrors), it’s right-sized for US roads. However, Cadillac’s designers and engineers have done a rather good job of packaging the batteries without making the SUV look unnaturally tall, at 63.9 inches (1,623 mm). The 121.8-inch (3,094-mm) wheelbase translates to plenty of interior volume for the front and rear occupants. But it’s definitely not a featherweight, tipping the scales at 5,610 lbs (2,545 kg).
I try not to waste too much time discussing the way a car looks, given how subjective that tends to be. But to my eyes, Cadillac’s designers have done a fine job here, with some interesting details like the light panels in Lyric’s nose and the treatment around the rear hatch, which a colleague pointed out calls back to the bustleback on the Cadillac Seville. We don’t have a drag coefficient for the Lyriq yet, but it’s clear that aerodynamics were a design priority, with air blades at the front and low drag treatments to the SUV’s alloy wheels.
The interior is similarly impressive, particularly for those of us who remember how lackluster GM interiors used to be. The flashiest feature is the 33-inch display that curves around the driver. Unlike other big infotainment screens we’ve seen recently, this is a single screen, not multiple panels bonded under glass, Cadillac told us.
It’s laid out similar to the three-screen system in the Cadillac Escalade, with three zones—a small touch-sensitive multifunction area to the left of the driver, the main cluster for the driver (which can be configured to show a gauge, a map, or even very minimal information (speed, battery state of charge) if you don’t want the distraction. The right side of the screen is touch-sensitive but can also be controlled with the rotary dial on the center stack.
The infotainment runs the Android Automotive operating system, although the UI 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 that I have used that can project directions from your phone to the map in front of the driver, as opposed to just showing up in the Android Auto or CarPlay window on the infotainment side of the screen. Being powered by Android Automotive means you also get great voice recognition.