Cadillac’s best-selling vehicle last year was not the Escalade, it was the XT5. Escalade was second, though you can be forgiven for thinking it might have had the top spot, as Escalade is modern Cadillac, with a presence that overshadows almost everything else. Did you know, for example, that Cadillac makes sedans, too?
I ask that not entirely in jest, as Cadillac sold fewer than 24,000 sedans last year, or about the same number of Silverados Chevy sells every two weeks. The thing about modern Cadillac is that it keeps making good cars (you may have heard that the ATS-V was good), but those cars never seem to break through. That isn’t just a Cadillac problem, for sure — ask Lincoln how things are going — but it is a fact of modern life that Americans don’t aspire to have a Cadillac in their driveway like they once did. Instead, for the affluent, the goal is usually a big dumb German SUV.
With the 2023 Lyriq, which starts at $58,795 with deliveries beginning in the first half of next year, Cadillac is trying to change all that. The Lyriq is all-electric, for one thing. The Lyriq is also officially an SUV, but, in person, it is less intimidating than that implies and looks more like a crossover. The Lyriq is big but not too big. It has over 300 miles of range, which is enough. It has Super Cruise, which is arguably better and safer than Tesla’s questionably-named Autopilot. The Lyriq will use GM’s Ultium batteries, not, you know, those other ones.
The Lyriq has no frunk, but it does have storage space in the back that is big enough for a baby elephant. Maybe even literally. I know because I saw the Lyriq with my own eyes Wednesday in Manhattan, part of a small media tour Cadillac is doing to hype the Lyriq, for which Cadillac will be taking reservations starting September 18.
The Lyriq has a paddle-shifter-looking thing on the steering wheel to adjust the the degree to which regenerative braking slows the vehicle’s momentum when coasting. There are ducks (sorry, martins) on the Lyriq, but I’m not going to tell you where they are because that is the whole point of an Easter egg. The Lyriq was originally planned for late next year, but that timeline was moved up, Cadillac said, and even with the global chip shortage, Cadillac says that goal remains on track.
The interior is as luxurious as it has to be, and roomy too, which Cadillac’s designers said was a big benefit of going electric. (Cadillac’s competitor Lucid is all about interior space, too.) There is a 33-inch screen. The front seats have speakers in the headrests. There is no gear shifter in the middle, freeing up more space. There are 19 speakers in total. There is laser-etched patterns “through wood over metal decor,” which Cadillac says has never been done before. There is little plastic, which might be a response to other Cadillacs that had all too much of it.
On the outside, the front will probably get the most attention, because it has a complex light situation going on, and there is a fun lighting sequence that starts as you near the car. Cadillac has also done a fairly good job hiding the cameras and radar and whatnot. Does the car look like it starts at $58,795? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think it looks suitably expensive. It is even a little extra, but that’s what Cadillac aspires to be. I would tell you that Cadillac’s designers obsessed over every light and line, but you knew that.
The Lyriq’s closest competitors are probably the Volvo XC40 Recharge or C40 Recharge, though you could tell me that the Tesla Model Y is also one as well, and I would probably agree, though that really isn’t the vibe Cadillac is going for. There is the Audi E-Tron, too, though that is a bit more expensive; same deal with Jaguar I-Pace and Lucid Air. The Ford Mustang Mach-E is trying to do something different, and so is the Bolt EUV. The Mercedes EQC, meanwhile, doesn’t even come here. And the Volkswagen ID.4 isn’t luxury.
This is also just the beginning, as the Lyriq will be joined at some point by the Celestiq, which will be the brand’s flagship. I asked the Cadillac people why there are no screens in the back. I mean what if I’m an executive and have a driver, what gives Cadillac?? And they said oh, you know, just wait till you see the Celestiq, this is just the start — an answer that made sense but also made me think that Cadillac is serious about this if the Lyriq is just the groundwork.
This is also the kind of brand transformation that Cadillac needs, though whether it will work or not is anyone’s guess. I do know that I saw the Lyriq in person, and could imagine someone genuinely desiring it, which is not the feeling I get any time I see a CT5. I’m not sure if the Lyriq will be a gamechanger for Cadillac, but it’s not really intended to be, at least for now, with Celestiq and, yes, an electric Escalade also in the works. Like I said, it’s just the beginning.