2023 Lyriq SUV launches Cadillac into furious luxury EV race

2022-07-02 07:24:54 By : Mr. Wayne Zhou

PARK CITY, Utah – Cadillac’s first electric vehicle, the 2023 Lyriq SUV, which is trickling into dealerships this month, was worth the wait, but buyers will have to wait a bit longer for some popular features.

That’s due to General Motors’ bold move to pull production of the sleek and luxurious midsize five-passenger SUV forward nine months from next year, a heroic effort in the complicated world of automaking, where every step toward putting a vehicle on the road must be choreographed like a Lin-Manuel Miranda production.

The effort was worth it, even though buyers will have to wait for head-up display and all-wheel drive.

Endowed with plenty of other equipment and technology, the Lyriq beats key competing electric luxury SUVs from Mercedes and Lexus onto U.S. roads, and it arrives with looks and comfort to spare.

Every Lyriq to be built in the 2023 model year is already spoken for, a bragging point that would mean more if Cadillac were willing say how many that is, or even how many in the first edition its executives crow about.

GM also won’t say how many Lyriqs it has built so far, but Automotive News estimates 120 rolled out of the factory in Spring Hill, Tennessee, in May.

The order books are already open for model year 2024, which goes into production in spring 2023.

If you like what you see — and there’s a lot to like — get in line. Demand and supply chain issues virtually guarantee prices will go up from the Lyriq’s attractive launch price.

It’s fast, luxurious, pretty and you can own one without people asking you to justify the rants of a megalomaniac billionaire.

What more do you want?

Prices for the 2023 Lyriq started at $58,795 for the nicely equipped — there’s a caveat on that; keep reading — launch edition. I say “started” because it’s a hypothetical figure if you didn’t order one in the first few minutes Cadillac took orders a year ago.

The good news is that the regular 340-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive 2023 Lyriq has all the same equipment and sells for $61,795 and is still a terrific value for a luxurious, roomy, sporty five-seat luxury SUV. All prices exclude $1,195 destination charge.

All-wheel drive will be available early in calendar 2023. AWD models add a 160-hp electric motor powering their front wheels. That motor’s not ready for production yet, one of the casualties of pulling production from early next year to this spring. The other main one: no head-up display until MY24.

All Lyriqs are being built with hardware for GM’s Super Cruise hands-free driving assistant, but they’re waiting for software updates to activate the system.

All Lyriqs have a 102 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery under the vehicle’s floor. The RWD model should go 312 miles on a charge, according to preliminary figures.

Details on trim levels and pricing for the 2024 Lyriq should be available shortly.

The Lyriq doesn’t have a lot of competitors, one of the benefits of accelerating its launch to this summer. Excluding non-luxury brands, the Audi E-tron, BMW iX SUV and Tesla X and Y are the alternatives. 

The Lyriq’s features, performance and price stack up well against all of them.

Lyriq AWD: $63,795 (Available in January)

The Lyriq’s low profile, wide stance and sleek looks draw eyes and questions, while innovative lighting makes it immediately identifiable as a Cadillac.

The nose, where the grille would be on a vehicle with an engine that needed cooling, houses a unique new lighting signature. A gloss black plastic panel with rays of light running through it, backlit by LEDs that welcome the driver and remain lit to present a unique face, including a lighted Cadillac crest. The plastic panel passed the same stone and chip damage standards as a conventional grille.

Slim vertical LED head and taillights join the grille in programmed entry and departure sequences.

The low roof — just 63.9 inches high —and wide stance — 86.9 inches with mirrors out — combine with the Lyriq’s 196.7-inch length to create a low, sporty profile that’s enhanced by a long hood and sharply sloped tailgate. The Lyriq is 1.3 inches shorter than a Tesla X, 3.7 longer than an Audi E-tron.

The Lyriq’s skateboard chassis — batteries under the floor, with a motor attached to the rear axle another on the front when the AWD arrives — creates a roomy 105.1 cubic-foot passenger compartment, with extravagant leg and head room. There’s 28 cubic feet for luggage behind the rear seat, 60.8 when it’s folded. Plenty of room for luggage or to bring large purchases home.

The center console includes a big bin, cupholders, a wireless charging slot and large floor-level space for purses and the like.

The seats are comfortable and supportive. A single 33-inch diagonal LED screen stretches from the driver’s door to the center stack. It houses clear digitally projected gauges, an optional navigation view in front of the driver, and a big touch screen for navigation; audio; wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and more.

A 19-speaker AKG audio system that includes speakers in the headrests delivers excellent sound.

The embedded Google Maps navigation system wasn’t working in the pre-production cars I drove. Cadillac said a software update will fix that before any Lyriqs are sold.

Other notable interior features include a fixed full-length glass roof with a physical shade.

The Lyriq is quick, maneuverable and easy to drive. The steering is firm and direct. The electric power steering’s feel and performance change with the Lyriq’s drive modes: Touring, Sport, Snow/Ice, and customizable My Mode.

The Lyriq has a different skateboard chassis from the bigger Hummer EV pickup. The Hummer architecture will underpin the upcoming electric Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, and presumably electric versions of the Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade large SUVs.

Derivatives of the Lyriq skateboard can be expected to underpin GM’s upcoming midsize electric SUVs, starting with the Chevy Blazer that will be unveiled in July. It also may be used for compact electric SUVs, including the Chevy Equinox.

There’s a lot of confusion about GM’s Ultium architecture and the company’s new EVs. It’s self-inflicted. With the whole English language to choose from, GM chose to use the word “architecture” for two different things in the same vehicle:

Let me translate: “Ultium” does NOT refer to the vehicle’s structure or mechanical systems, as automakers, including GM, have used the word for the last couple of decades. Those parts — also called the skateboard, chassis, frame or platform, and including the suspension and related hardware — are not Ultium.

“Ultium” refers to the batteries, electric motors, electronics and associated systems GM developed for its new EVs.

Aargh. Sometimes I feel like I should charge automakers a consulting fee. They’d love that: They could fire me.

The Lyriq’s chassis/skateboard/architecture has sophisticated shock absorbers and five-link front and rear suspensions for precise steering and a smooth, controlled ride.

The way brakes work changes radically in EVs, which combine traditional wheel-mounted friction brakes with a regenerative system that sends energy from the slowing wheels back to the battery. GM developed its own brake software to make the Lyriq’s brakes feel natural while also recovering as much energy as possible.

The engineers also gave the Lyriq an exceptionally effective version of one-pedal driving, in which energy regeneration is cranked up so much that the vehicle will usually slow to a stop without the driver touching the brake pedal, but also without the painfully slow coast-down that fuels "Prius rage" when normal drivers get stuck behind a would-be hyper miler. 

The driver can select one-pedal driving, or choose less regeneration and use the brake normally. When I did the latter, the brakes felt like a conventional car — exactly what the engineers wanted.

I’m a big fan of one-pedal driving, though. I focused on that. The Lyriq lets you choose two levels of regenerative deceleration: 0.2 or 0.3 G. Two-tenths of a G doesn’t sound like much, but it’s more deceleration than a lot of people use in everyday driving. It worked well, and 0.3 was even better for late-braking drivers like me.

A paddle on the steering wheel allows you to increase regenerative braking, even in the highest one-pedal setting. The pressure-sensitive paddle increases making regen deceleration to 0.35 G. That’s not quite a pedal-to-the-floor panic stop, but it’s more deceleration than some drivers ever use.

As with most EVs, the heavy batteries are mounted under the vehicle’s floor, between the side rails of the skateboard, or frame. The resulting low center of gravity makes the Lyriq feel firmly rooted to the road in quick maneuvers. GM hasn’t revealed the Lyriq’s front/rear weight distribution, but engineers say it’s close to 50/50.

If the RWD is near 50/50, we can expect the AWD version to be even closer, or slightly tail heavy like an exotic sports car, thanks for the addition of the smaller 160-hp motor for the front axle. All that's good for performance and handling.

The two motors' 500 hp — and I’d guess more than 450 pound-feet of torque — should make the AWD Lyriq a serious performance vehicle. I expect even more when Cadillac introduces the as-yet unannounced V-series performance badge to its new range of EVs.

EV performance is about more than acceleration, though.

Battery range and charging time will probably be more important to most owners than 0-60 mph time. The rear-drive Lyriq’s estimated 312-mile range is very competitive, so it’s reasonable to expect good figures from the AWD model.

It’s harder to evaluate Lyriq’s charging time. Owners can expect a full battery after charging on a 240-volt home charger overnight — as the vast majority of EV owners do. That’s excellent.

The picture is less clear comparing charging time for long highway trips using DC fast chargers. Cadillac promises “up to 76 miles in 10 minutes” charging at 190 kW. That’s similar, but not exactly comparable to the format most automakers use, providing charging time from 20% battery level to 80 or 90% at 150 or 350 kW.

GM director of electrification strategy Tim Grewe provided this yardstick: Current Cadillac owners generally make two 20-minute stops in a 400-mile drive: “We wanted the Lyriq to charge fast enough that our owners won’t have to change that behavior.”

I get nervous when an automaker hands me an apple and a mango and says, “Don’t they compare beautifully?” Adding 162 miles of charge in 20 minutes isn’t world-beating, but it appears reasonably competitive. That’ll have to do until GM or independent tests make direct comparisons possible.

Base price: $61,795 (all prices exclude $1,195 destination charge)

Rear- or all-wheel drive subcompact SUV

Model driven: Rear-wheel drive launch edition (sold out)

Power: 340 hp; 325 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: Direct drive single speed

Estimated charging rate: Up to 21 miles/hour @ 7.7 kW; 52 miles/hour @ 240v; 76 miles in 10 minutes @ 190kW

Cargo volume: 28.0 cubic feet behind rear seat; 60.8 with rear seat folded

Towing capability: 3,500 pounds (All-wheel drive only)

Assembled in Celaya, Spring Hill, Tennessee