It’s become the General Motors corporate mantra, the automaker routinely reminding us that it is on “a path to an all-electric future.” We’ve already got the Chevrolet Bolt, with an extended version coming out next year. There’ll also be two different GMC Hummers: an SUV and a full-size pickup.
All told, GM plans to introduce “20 or more” all-electric products by 2023 and as important as any will be the new Cadillac Lyriq, the luxury brand’s first pure battery-electric vehicle. With Lyriq, Caddy throws down the gauntlet with a direct challenge to competitors including Tesla. More significantly, the electric SUV will determine whether Cadillac is on the right path itself considering brand boss Steve Carlisle has confirmed that 100% of the marque’s line-up will be electric come 2030.
“This is a very big moment for Cadillac and General Motors,” said Carlisle, recently given the additional role of president of North American operation. Lyriq, he added during a media backgrounder this week, “really is a cornerstone upon which we’re going to build the future.”
Caddy has been dropping more and more hints about the electric SUV in recent months. It was originally scheduled for a spring unveiling but the timetable got tossed due to the coronavirus. Instead, GM’s premier brand had to settle for today’s digital debut. Even so, with the production model still the better part of a year away – for the Chinese market, with the U.S. version not rolling into dealerships until the 2022 model-year – Cadillac is leaving much unsaid for now.
With the formal debut of the Cadillac Lyriq, here are some basics that we do know:
- What we see today is officially described as a “concept,” but there will be relatively few changes with the production version;
- The midsize Lyriq will ride on an all-new BEV3 architecture flexible enough to handle a wide range of different products;
- Its skateboard platform will mount battery pack and motors below the load floor, and it will have the capability of offering different pack sizes and motor layouts;
- Available only in two-row form, that approach frees up space for the interior that otherwise would have been used for a gas engine;
- Two versions will be offered initially, a base model and a high-performance version.
Longer-term, don’t be surprised to see additional variants, confided Marty Hogan, Lyriq’s chief engineer. Cadillac “will evaluate the need,” among other things, for a Lyriq equivalent of the V-Series packages now offered on conventional, gas-powered Caddy models such as the CT4-V. “I see V-variants across the range as time goes on,” echoed brand chief Carlisle.
The good news is that the BEV3 architecture is extremely flexible, capable of being used for front- rear- or all-wheel-drive layouts. The base model will be RWD, the performance model going AWD, with motors on both front and rear axles, though precisely how many motors is uncertain.
Also unknown is how much power the base and performance models will make. We know that the GMC Hummer will be offered with a top-line, AWD package punching out a tire-spinning 1,000 horsepower. That level could be reserved for a future Lyriq V-Series or even Blackwing model. Something more in the 400+ range appears likely for the Performance version. Even then, GM insiders are hinting at something on the order of 4 seconds 0-60. And, thanks to the instant-on torque of electric motors, the SUV’s launch feel should be intense.
When the automaker’s second-generation EV technology, used in the Chevy Bolt, came out, its initial 238-mile range was seen as significant. Today, that’s barely enough, Tesla recently launching a long-range Model S delivering 400 miles per charge.
At the upper end, expect to see Lyriq delver at least 300 miles and, if anything, “We’re working to get all of our powertrain combinations north of 300 miles range,” said Hogan.
Lyriq will use the new Ultium batteries GM plans to produce at a new plant in Ohio operated as part of a joint venture with Korea’s LG Chem. Unlike Tesla’s cylindrical batteries, these are prismatic – or pouch-style – which GM claims offers more flexibility in their layout, allowing more customization depending upon the vehicle.
In some applications, GM will be able to load in as many as 200 kilowatt-hours of batteries – that will be needed to give the Hummer its promised 400-mile range and towing capacity. In Lyriq, expect something around 100 kWh or slightly more, depending on the range option.
The lithium-ion cells will be able to charge using second-generation 140 kilowatt quick chargers at 400V DC. That should mean an 80% charge-up at under an hour, though that’s another detail GM will reveal later.
There had been some speculation Lyriq would come with a more advanced, 800V system capable of utilizing a 350 kW charger, much like the Porsche Taycan. That more expensive system is in the works for future BEVs and, based on what GM President Mark Reuss told TheDetroitBureau.com last March, could eventually yield a 90% charge in under 10 minutes.
In terms of home charging, Lyriq will be capable of handling as much as a 19 kilowatt Level-2 240-volt system, one of the fastest home-charging rates now available.
In keeping with the high-tech nature of the Lyriq, one of the electric SUV’s hallmark features will be a gently curved, 33-inch LED display running virtually the full width of the instrument panel.The system will operate the latest version of the Cadillac Cue infotainment system.
Among other high-tech features, there will be a multi-plane head-up display that not only shows familiar information, such as speed, turn signals and warnings, but appears to project navigation information onto the road ahead. An arrow will point directly at the corner where you should turn, for example, if you’re using navigation. Meanwhile, the Lyriq will be offered with the updated Super Cruise semi-autonomous system, allowing hands-free operation on 200,000 miles of U.S. roads and adding the new ability to change lanes simply by tapping the turn signal.
The entire interior will adopt a more high-tech look and feel. And for those who complain that today’s Caddy cabins are elegant yet boring, the overall design is clearly one of the most striking and distinctive the brand has ever come up with.
EVs tend to be shockingly quiet. Caddy aims to eliminate the more unusual sounds that can enter the cabin, including wind and tire noises, using an active cancellation system relying on accelerometers, as well as microphones. On the flip side, it will debut with a 19-speaker AKG Studio audio system.The exterior follows the design approach of the interior. Where the latest-generation Cadillac models have softened the distinctive Art & Science design language that helped put the brand back on the map, Lyriq returns to a more aggressive and distinctive styling language. It revives the Caddy theme vertical lighting, boxing in a distinctive, slat-like grille that alternates what design chief Andrew Smith describes as “floating metal bars” between “crystal-like” slats. The grille, as well as the familiar Cadillac grille, both light up.
A coupe-like roofline flows into a crisply formed rear end with a relatively small back glass and mostly vertical lighting.
With the launch of Lyriq, Cadillac takes dead aim at competitors such as Jaguar, Audi, BMW and, of course, Tesla. It remains to be seen where the new SUV will be priced, though company officials hinted during the backgrounder that we should see it start below $75,000. Audi’s e-tron starts at $77,400 and has been faulted for a range of just over 200 miles.
Add up all the competitors and they’re barely matching what Tesla generates in sales. So, taking on the 800-pound gorilla of the EV market will be a challenge for Cadillac, especially when you consider how long it is taking to get Lyriq into showrooms.
“This is an important launch for Cadillac. They clearly need to be in the electric vehicle market,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst with Navigant Research. “My main concern is that it seem like it’s going to be late,” he added, noting most luxury competitors will already be competing in the BEV space, many by then with multiple products.
On the plus side, Navigant believes BEVs will still only account for about 3.5 to 4% of the automotive market at that point so, if Lyriq proves as good a product as promised, it could ride the wave as the EV revolution takes hold.