Payne: Cadillac brings bling to the EV race with the Lyriq, the anti-Tesla

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 28, 2022

Park City, Utah — Inevitably, every Dream Cruise season, someone sidles up to me, points at a passing, bling-plated 1950s Eldorado shouldering aside Woodward traffic and says:

“Why doesn’t Cadillac make cars like that anymore?”

Say hello to my bling-tastic 2023 Lyriq tester, the first all-electric Caddy. I mean, just look at it. Chiseled bod right off a designer’s sketchbook draped over huge 22-inch pinwheels. Under the single-panel panoramic roof, a 33-inch screen arches across the front cabin. Below the screen, a royal blue-lined sunglasses drawer rolls out of the dash like a palace carpet … greeting a floating center console as long as the Queen Mary’s bow. The console comes equipped with a silver-crusted rotary dial and knurled cupholders that should hold wine glasses, not cups.

I adjusted my front throne with chromed, door-mounted seat avatars protruding from real ash wood, then stomped the accelerator pedal with my size 15s. The 5,610-pound sled surged forward with liquid-smooth power.

Yes, Cadillac is making cars like that again.

Actually, it never stopped, as owners of the magnificent Escalade land yacht know. But Escalade was an outlier, a properly-named land yacht out of place in an alphanumeric soup of CTs, XTs and Vs. Though flawed (more on that later), Lyriq signals that ol’ Cadillac swagger will be standard across the lineup as General Motors Co.’s iconic luxury brand transitions to electric vehicles.

Startup ingenuity led by Silicon Valley electric automakers Tesla, Lucid and Rivian has stirred interest in a new generation of luxury automobiles powered by batteries and giant screens, and it turns out Cadillac is perfectly suited for the new electric wave.

This is a brand, after all, that made its mark innovating technical advances like the electric starter and automatic transmission while introducing the world to jet-age design. That’s not to discount the athletic advances Caddy made in the last two decades chasing German rivals with weapons like the ATS-V and CT5 Blackwing. But the EV lets Cadillac be Cadillac.

If the austere Tesla Model 3 is an Apple smartphone on wheels, then the exotic Cadillac Lyriq is a rolling jewelry box. The anti-Tesla.

To make sure I noticed that Escalade style now rules The House of Caddy, my Lyriq was wrapped in more lights than a Trans Siberian Orchestra show. Spot a Lyriq in your rear-view at night and it looks like you’re being followed by the Fox Theatre marquee. Vertical headlights frame a faux Cadillac shield of white light. When the Lyriq slips past, the rear vertically-lit marquee recedes into the distance.

Cadillac is understandably targeting the Lyriq at young, techy Gen X and Yers, but I think Lyriq will naturally draw boomers, too. The older we are, the more sensitive we get to noise — even my Porsche-racing, flat-6-obsessed father wanted a break from the world’s cacophony when he reached his 60s — and Lyriq is a silent sanctuary.

Yes, Cadillac makes cars like that again. Driving along Utah Route 138 south of Salt Lake, wind noise was nonexistent (in contrast to the noisy Hummer EV’s A-pillar) a testimony to extensive sound-deadening, four wheel-well-mounted accelerometers, noise-canceling speakers and, of course, that electric drivetrain.

Even the sunglasses drawer is lined with blue cloth.

Rolling jewelry boxes exact a cost in weight. Lyriq’s nearly three tons of mass is 1,200 pounds more than a Model Y and just 500 pounds shy of an Escalade.

Where Eldorado once growled like the king of beasts, the Lyriq’s stealthy power was welcome on Park City roads. I performed repeated 0-60 launches to test the 325 pound-feet of torque from Lyriq’s Tesla Model S-sized, 102-kWh battery — which would have awakened every officer in the surrounding county if it had been a V-8.

Complementing stealth with tech, the Caddy struts its technical know-how with innovations like one-pedal driving, steering-paddle regenerative braking and rear aerofoil that channels air over the rear window — enabling a wiper-less design that clears rain and snow. Years of know-how gained from going toe-to-toe with the German Trinity are apparent. Despite its girth, the Lyriq’s low center of gravity and sophisticated shocks made for neutral handling in Utah’s mountain twisties. Surely there’s a Lyriq V-series Backwing in the wings?

With a gem so polished, imperfections stand out.

The 2023 Cadillac Lyriq EV sits on an 800-volt Ultium battery platform with 102 kWh battery.

Cadillac’s signature cut-and-sew dashboard has been replaced by — imposter! — a vellum material right out of a Ford Explorer. And Lyriq lacks a front trunk like Tesla or Mustang Mach-E. Indeed, despite its skateboard construction and a wheelbase nearly 10 inches longer than the comparably priced gas-powered XT5 SUV, the Lyriq’s cargo and seating capacities are similar. A head-up display — technology pioneered by General Motors — is not available on 2023 models. Blame a rush program to get Lyriq to market nine months ahead of schedule.

Cadillac’s 800-volt Ultium battery platform promises quick charge rates on 350 kW fast chargers, but its capability’s been dialed back to 190 kilowatts (unlike, say, Porsche’s 800-volt system. which charges to 270 kW) so you only get 187 miles of charge in 40 minutes as opposed to a Taycan’s 169 in 22 minutes. For quick stops around town, the Caddy will gain 76 miles in 10 minutes.

I plotted a trip from Park City to Denver, and charging would have added 4.5 hours to the eight-hour trip. Better to stay close to home, as I figure most Lyriq owners will do with 312 miles of battery range (versus an XT5’s road trip-friendly 462 miles of gas range).

The Lyriq does not have a frunk cavity like the Tesla Model Y or the Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Lyriq’s range will also get you the 250 miles from Ann Arbor to, say, your Glen Arbor summer cottage Up North. A suggestion: take advantage of Cadillac’s $1,500 offer for home charger installation and put it in your second home.

That trip will be made easier later this year when Lyriq gets an over-the-air update to Super Cruise update, the semi-autonomous system competitive with Tesla’s Autopilot. That’s right, my $62,990 rear-wheel-drive tester ($64,990 with all-wheel-drive) comes standard with Super Cruise as well as Google Maps, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 19-speaker AKG stereo system, blind-spot assist and a Windows-like configurable screen start bar.

That’s a lot of bling on a luxury SUV priced just $7K north of the $55,725 Hyundai Ioniq 5 — and well below the $75,440 you’d pay for a comparable Model Y with its $6,000 Autopilot system.

The interior of the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq EV sits under a single-pane, panoramic glass roof with 33-inch screen and floating console wrapped in leather. Oddly, the dash is not cut-and-sewn leather but is a soft vinyl material.

That leaves behind other midsize lux contenders like the Audi e-Tron and BMW i-4, which lack the technical ambition of Lyriq/Tesla.

The question mark is Cadillac’s ambition. A decade ago, Caddy beat the Model 3 to market with the gorgeous, compact ELR plug-in. But it was overpriced and under-sold. Then GM followed up with the electric Bolt — but badged it a Chevy, not a Caddy.

Lyriq is just a start, but it’s got Papa Eldorado’s DNA.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq

Vehicle type: Battery-powered, rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive, five-passenger SUV

Price: $62,990 including $1,195 destination fee for RWD model; $64,990 for AWD

Powerplant: 102 kWh lithium-ion battery with rear electric-motor drive

Power: 340 horsepower, 325 pound-feet torque

Transmission: Single-speed direct drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5-6 seconds (mfr., AWD-RWD); top speed, 118 mph

Weight: 5,610 pounds (RWD as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA MPGe NA; range, 312 miles

Report card

Highs: Lovely cabin; road presence

Lows: Cheap dash material; no frunk or head-up display

Overall: 3 stars

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

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