PARK CITY, UT – After two years of hype and anticipation, from General Motors and battery-electric-vehicle fans alike, the automaker’s Ultium models finally are hitting the road.
First up was the GMC Hummer EV pickup and arriving within a few weeks is Cadillac’s Lyriq CUV.
Some are calling the Lyriq the first real competitor by legacy automakers to Tesla, the dominant BEV manufacturer with nearly 70% market share in the U.S. and the best-selling BEV (Model Y), per Wards Intelligence data.
Is the Lyriq a Tesla killer? After driving it here, it has the potential to be, but there are reasons why it may struggle, although they have little to do with the quality of the vehicle.
The daringly styled, ultra-modern CUV rides on GM’s new modular skateboard platform using Ultium lithium-ion cells, from the same-named joint venture of GM and LG Energy Solution. Twelve to 24 cells are placed into modules and packs contain up to 24 modules. The Lyriq has a single 12-module layer, unlike the 2-layer, 24-module pack in the Hummer EV. Thus, the Lyriq’s pack is rated at 100 kWh, half that of the larger GMC.
Estimated range for the pack, in the rear-wheel-drive Launch Edition 450e-badged Lyriq driven here, is 312 miles (502 km), somewhat competitive with the ’22 Tesla Model X. That Tesla, closer in size to the Lyriq than the smaller Model Y, is all-wheel-drive only with a range of 311 to 348 miles (501 to 560 km), per the U.S. Department of Energy and EPA.
The RWD Lyriq has a 250-kW (340-hp) electric motor making 325 lb.-ft. (441 Nm) of torque from launch. Production of an all-wheel-drive Lyriq, with an additional motor on the front axle, is due this fall.
Cadillac Vice President Rory Harvey says the Lyriq’s exterior received the best feedback in customer clinics of any model in GM’s history and not unexpectedly the vehicle turns heads on our rural route outside Park City.
For a luxury BEV, the Lyriq has an appropriately futuristic appearance: low-slung, angular, with short overhangs, a steeply raked D-pillar and vertical daytime running lights. It’s got a busier appearance than a Tesla, but that’s a good thing as it stands out rather than blends in among the current crop of BEV CUVs.
The Lyriq also has a full glass panoramic roof and big wheels and tires (20-in. or 22-in.), with Executive Chief Engineer Jamie Brewer noting it was one of the first times GM engineered wheels and tires for aerodynamics.
The aluminum wheels have inserts for better aero and wheels were designed to be stiff for reduced NVH, critical in a BEV that doesn’t have the engine noise of an internal-combustion-engine model to mask other sounds.
With that in mind, the Lyriq also features active noise cancellation technology via AKG speakers, with four accelerometers at the vehicle’s four corners measuring and predicting road inputs and translating them into a frequency.
We find NVH good overall during our time behind the wheel, although there was some noise coming from the wide tires on a few rough-aggregate rural roads.
Due to its width and low center of gravity, due largely to the heavy pack below the cabin that’s integrated into the structure of the CUV, ride and handling is good and cornering flat.
The ride quality errs more on the comfortable side than the athletic side, even in sport vs. touring drive mode. The Lyriq has a 5-link short/long arm front suspension on a hard cradle for more precise steering and a 5-link independent rear suspension, the latter with a small overall size to maximize the width of the battery, Brewer says, adding adjustable dampers tune frequency without taking up space or adding mass.
As in many BEVs the Lyriq features one-pedal driving, with the high setting equating to 0.3 g of deceleration, with a held steering-wheel-mounted paddle adding an extra 0.05 g, for a maximum of 0.35 g. We’re sensitive to extreme motor drag in BEVs, but thankfully it wasn’t too nausea-inducing.
It also helps us regenerate nine miles (14 km) of range overall during our 75-mile (121-km) drive route. We start out with 239 miles (385 km) of range and after our first 38 miles (61 km) we lose 34 miles (55 km) of range. Air conditioning, usually the biggest energy suck in any BEV, is on, with driver and passenger temp set in the mid 60s but with just one bar of fan speed selected.
On a second leg, because we heavily use sport mode and drive more aggressively overall, there’s 157 remaining miles (253 km) of range after 27 miles (43 km). But by the time we get back into Park City, thanks to the one-pedal feature set to high and downhill coasting, we end our second leg at with 166 miles (267 km) of range, more than making up for our hot-dogging.
Like most BEVs, the Lyriq has an eager character, although we find the accelerator slightly restrictive during mid-speed driving. BEV torque can be jarring to access easily and we presume Cadillac is saving that experience for the 500-hp, dual-motor AWD Lyriq coming later this year.
The Lyriq is as cool inside as outside, filled with artistic flair, high-quality materials and the keen attention to detail that is needed for a competitive luxury interior in 2022 and lacking previously in GM models.
Knobs are knurled, the cupholders have textured floors, a pop-out tray is royal blue inside, as is the piping running down the center of the seat backs. Leather seats are perforated in a rain-drop-like pattern and the pierced metallic trim on doors is transparent for ambient lighting to shine through at night.
Models here have a white-and-black interior, with an ebony-stained ash wood trim, but Lyriq Interior Design Manager Tristan Murphy says a unique recycled-newspaper trim is due in forthcoming grades.
Fit and finish is good in our testers, with tight fits, including trim on pillars – a spot where gaps tend to be common.
Vowing not to use any GM parts-bin pieces, what you see inside the Lyriq is new to Cadillac, says Murphy, although not necessarily unique to Lyriq as some of the materials and shapes likely will appear in future models from the brand.
A centerpiece of the interior is a massive, seamless, 33-in. (84-cm) LCD display screen featuring typical gauge cluster information to the left of and behind the wheel, and infotainment features in the main screen in the center of the instrument panel. The operating system is via Google, with Google Maps and Google Assistant featured.
The latter responds to our requests flawlessly and incredibly quickly. Google Maps, while beloved on many a smartphone, is rather short on info in the Lyriq, with some data that would be apparent on a phone hidden or unavailable on the map screen, presumably for an uncluttered appearance.
But we like the charging-station locator. A touch of the icon below the info box on the main screen quickly brings us a list of nearby chargers, letting you know how many slower Level 2and DC fast chargers are available at each station and the driving time to each.
Passenger comfort is good. Front-seat bottom cushions are long enough for ample thigh support, although the lumbar support for the driver seat back cushion isn’t as robust as we like. Paradoxically it seems, based on recent tests of other vehicles, the less expensive the vehicle the better the bolstering for your lower back.
We briefly test the vehicle’s advanced driver-assistance technology. GM’s Super Cruise is not yet functional in these vehicles but is expected to arrive as an over-the-air update later this year.
Adaptive cruise control performs well over a short period, but it’s difficult to locate and make out the small ACC icon and speed readout on the cluster screen. A head-up display typically has more prominent ADAS iconography, but there is no HUD in models here. A Cadillac official says a HUD will be available later this year, possibly with similar, but not identical, augmented reality as seen in the Escalade.
The vehicle overall is stunning, but as mentioned some things will be holding it back. Namely, the Lyriq won’t be easy to find. Cadillac isn’t releasing numbers, but Wards Intelligence forecasting partner LMC Automotive calls for production of just 3,000 Lyriq this year and only 19,000 more in 2023. All units for the ’23 model year already have been presold, says Cadillac, which just opened orders for the ’24 Lyriqs on June 22.
It’s going to be hard to “kill Tesla” with only 22,000 vehicles. Obviously, GM has a huge mountain to climb to get production of its Ultium BEVs up to the hundreds of thousands of BEVs Tesla can assemble per year. Hopefully it can find more batteries (and chips) to increase Lyriq production sooner than later at its Spring Hill, TN, plant.
Another issue is charging. GM is easing the pain of the rather sorry state of public charging by giving $1,500 toward the installation of Level 2 home chargers with Qmerit, but there will be times public charging is needed.
Non-Tesla charging infrastructure in the U.S. isn’t robust, with stations from networks such as ChargePoint, EVgo (with which GM is partnered for two free years’ of unlimited charging for the Lyriq) and Electrify America fewer and farther between than Tesla Superchargers, and, anecdotally, experiencing more downtime as well. The strength of Tesla’s 14,000 U.S. DC fast-charging ports, of 24,000 total any-network DCFC ports nationally, is a clear competitive advantage in the market.
That said, we think the Lyriq is a homerun for Cadillac, despite these issues. Legacy OEMs need to bring something different to the table than Tesla, and, based on design alone, the Lyriq is the BEV they need to effectively battle for market share.