Cadillac Lyriq Spearheads GM’s EV Assault
Cadillac aims to reestablish the brand’s credentials by hitting the heart of the luxury EV market with a sleek and aggressively-priced initial model.
The 2023 Cadillac Lyriq isn’t the first of GM’s new-age EVs to use the company’s all-encompassing Ultium lithium-ion battery “system” and all-new family of traction motors. That distinction goes to the GMC unit’s Hummer EV, but the Cadillac’s first-ever EV arguably is more important than the outsized and outlandish Hummer. Lyriq is vital to demonstrating GM’s vision for scaling EV batteries and modular vehicle architecture for a wide range of models, from mainstream to luxury.
There’s another angle to Lyriq’s impact in the market, though. Cadillac itself needs to prove it’s got the goods to take on the rapidly expanding universe of luxury EVs, led, of course, by Tesla. For now, better judge the Lyriq strictly on its competitive merits, however: Cadillac refuses to discuss production volumes from its Spring Hill, Tenn., assembly plant. Although executives said 2023 models are sold out and 2024 ordering was opened in late June, LMC Automotive reportedly projects a total run for both model years of just 22,000 units.
All chips wagered on Ultium
Jamie Brewer, Lyriq’s executive chief engineer, said the 2023 Lyriq boasts a near 50/50 front/rear weight distribution. The body and chassis structures are integrated with the battery. This solidity of this unified approach, which also leverages a variety of mixed materials, she added, “Goes right into precision handling.”
Brewer told SAE Media that in the course of hundreds, if not thousands, of CAD-based simulations of the body over the course of the car’s four-year development, the body structure was almost completely done before any physical parts were created. All avenues of lightweighting were explored, including strategic use of so-called “quiet steel” (a specialty material developed and branded by MSC) and “the most-advanced acoustic materials.” Program engineers did not sacrifice driving feel or structural performance in their drive to reduce mass, however. At 5610 lb. (2545 kg) and a 121.8-in. (3024-mm) wheelbase and 196.7-in. (4996-mm) overall-length footprint, the base RWD Lyriq is no featherweight, although like many EVs, the grunt of electric propulsion often masks plump curb weight.
If you’re looking for the much-coveted EV “frunk,” there isn’t one. Brewer said when initially laying out the Lyriq’s modular architecture, the choice came to a limited-area frunk and tighter dimensions for the rear cargo area – or a roomier traditional rear cargo area with no frunk.
Tim Grewe, GM’s director of electrification and strategy, said the Ultium battery chemistry of nickel-cobalt-manganese-aluminum (NCMA) relies on aluminum in the cathode to help reduce the loading of rare-earth materials such as cobalt; the anodes are blended graphite. Grewe reminded that Ultium cuts cobalt content by some 70% compared to current batteries used by GM. The flat, pouch-shaped Ultium form factor incorporates the battery electronics in the cell modules, which engineers said eliminates nearly 90% of battery pack wiring.
As recently as 2016, “we couldn’t imagine this cell,” said Grewe. He reiterated that the Ultium design is “prepared for upgrades” as chemistry or hardware and software improvements invariably happen.
The Lyriq’s twelve modules, each containing 24 of the pouch-type cells, yield 102 kWh of capacity. (By comparison, the Hummer EV effectively adds another layer of modules to double battery-pack capacity). The rear-drive Lyriq uses one permanent-magnet variant of the Ultium traction motor lineup to generate a peak 340 hp and 325 lb-ft (441 Nm). The all-wheel drive Lyriq adds a PM motor at the front axle for total system output of 500 hp, with torque rating yet to be finalized at the time of the media introduction.
At the pavement, it all amounts to a driving range up to 312 miles (502 km) for the rear-drive Lyriq, which seems adequate, if not extravagant. Charging times for 240V Level II charging are roughly 37 miles’ range per hour using the base 11.5-kW onboard charger and 60-amp capability. The RWD Lyriq is fitted with a 19.2-kW onboard charger that, combined with a special 100-amp household circuit, can provide a max of 52 miles’ range per charging hour. As part of its go-to-market strategy, Cadillac is providing buyers with a $1500 credit with charger-installer partner Qmerit. Meanwhile, public DC fast-charging yields up to 76 miles’ range in 10 minutes of charging.
The 2023 Lyriq has a new short/long-arm 5-link suspension attached by a solid-mount front cradle. Its design, said engineers, effectively is a double-wishbone “with an extra link.” We’d like to say it makes magic for the car’s handling, but low-speed cornering and steering response feels ponderous. At higher speeds, feedback is at best muted and benign. At the rear is another 5-link independent layout on an isolated cradle. All corners feature what Cadillac is calling “Passive Plus” dampers with frequency-dependent tuning meant to provide optimum response in challenging frequency ranges without the complexity and expense of adaptive dampers — which may come in the future, engineers admitted.
Driver-adjustable “one-pedal” driving enhances the deceleration experience and of course determines how much regenerative energy is returned to the battery. And Cadillac has innovated on the steering-wheel-paddle regen actuation introduced for the Chevrolet Bolt by making it a proportion-based action determined by how much the paddle is pulled, with deceleration ranging from 0.23g to 0.35g. It’s an engaging function that’s superbly executed.
Another driving-experience upgrade is acceleration-based. Brewer said engineers wanted to avoid the slam-bang acceleration feel common for EVs and the instant maximum torque from their motors. For the Lyriq, accelerator-pedal mashing produces determined thrust, to be sure, but it does seem more “metered” and fluid than some high-powered EVs. Cadillac doesn’t quote a 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) acceleration time, but this developmental facet may marginally blunt the hard numbers in favor of a more luxury-prioritized experience.
The Lyriq’s cabin’s showcase feature is its 33-in. (838-mm) continuous “free-form” LCD encompassing the area of the traditional gauge cluster and the center stack. Well-regarded gaming developer Unreal Engine provides the 3D graphics and the operating system (OS) is from Google. Look elsewhere for haptic feedback from touch interfaces, which Cadillac formerly tried without much approval. Although the graphics indeed are striking, many vehicles at the media launch suffered from various degrees of software and UX malfunctions. Engineers were quick to say that the test vehicles were in need of updates. And although the tactile surfaces are generally high-quality — Cadillac’s interior designers noted they were determined that their first EV would have no GM parts-bin interior pieces — there is a smattering of less-than-ideal minor trim.
The 2023 Lyriq is a roomy package with a unique profile. The new-age exterior styling blends many mostly attractive cues – and genuine presence. We wonder whether its appearance (more on the wagon than SUV side of the profile spectrum) will be enthusiastically embraced, but the Lyriq has class-competitive performance and features. Cadillac seems to have learned from past lessons about premium pricing: the 2023 Lyriq seems aggressively priced at its $62,990 base price for RWD, with AWD adding $2000 — even if Cadillac did concede many features and options have yet to be introduced.