(Editor’s Note: This is the second of two Q&As focused on the development and design of the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq.)
Our investigation of the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq’s design continues with Tristan Murphy, the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq’s interior design manager. The conversation is the second of two parts, the first being Tuesday’s conversation with Josh Thurber, the vehicle’s exterior design manager.
For Cadillac, the Lyriq is a do or die moment, a historic chance to re-establish Cadillac as “The Standard of the World,” debuting as the brand’s first fully battery-electric vehicle in Cadillac’s 120-year history.
Here’s our conversation with Murphy, which took place inside the new Lyriq. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
TheDetroitBureau.com: Climbing in, I noticed the bushed aluminum door handle pulls, which go back to ’60s Cadillacs.
Tristan Murphy: We’re trying to pull some of our history that’s really rich and that we love and bring it in a new modern way and it wasn’t about being retro. But there’s a lot of cool stuff that we used to do. We really felt it was important to hold on to the physical controls, because you get into those old Cadillacs, and they had plungers that pulled out and all these things that articulated. Those are the things that create that memory and that emotional connection. And when you just put everything up on the screen, you lose that and you lose the detailing and how things move and the articulation and all that cool stuff.
TDB: It’s interesting that you put knurling on like the first knob you see when getting in.
TM: It all ties together. It’s on the multifunctional controller, it’s on the toggles, on the steering wheel. But even if you look down on the speaker grille pattern. It’s so three dimensional. You know a typical speaker is a pretty flat piece with some return flanges. But the blank on this thing is almost the size of the door. We actually had to bring in our exterior sheet body sheet metal guys to help teach them how to stamp it properly to get to this type of formation because it was well beyond anything they had ever done before. So I think creates a much more special looking piece that again gives you that implied movement. It’s not just a stuck on you know metal grille, it feels fully designed.
TDB: I like the amount of metalwork on the interior, particularly the small copper accents.
TM: It would have been really easy to say alright, panel, black metal, done. But again, just getting that little extra detail of copper finish. So it’s really going down the rabbit hole with detailing and thinking about this thing like a piece of jewelry because again, like old Cadillacs; that’s exactly what they did. They really got down into the weeds of these details and you just don’t see that in today’s cars.
TDB: And were you given the chance to do it in previous programs?
TM: We had to have a lot of conversation of how detailed we wanted to get very early on, with the knowledge that this is going to take some time. You can argue, is it worth it? You know, I think so, which is probably why I was put on the program.
Like all the little window monograms.
There’s two pieces of information, you’ll have a company logo, which we’ve historically always just had General Motors the black badge, and then you have a font with glass and technical specs right? So we’re towards the end the program and I asked was there any reason why we can’t put on a Cadillac logo? Is there some legal reason we can’t? And I contacted the glass guys, and they’re like, “nobody’s ever asked us that before. So yeah, sure, let’s do it.” And then I said, “OK, what about the font? I was like can I make that the Cadillac font like the block font we use everywhere?” And they’re like, “yeah, let’s do it.”
So, it’s not going to make or break the car, but to me it’s all these tiny little areas are just getting down to that commitment to question everything. Even these little AKG microphones here. We put the same pattern that you see elsewhere in the car to make sure that just everywhere you look feels like it’s been designed. There’s continuity throughout the interior.
TDB: Looking at the Lyriq’s instrument panel layout, it calls to mind the 1967 Cadillac instrument panel layout, but everything about the Lyriq’s is new. Nothing comes from another GM vehicle, not even another Cadillac. How does it feel to finally be able to do something you had to share not one thing on the interior?
TM: If we had not been allowed to really get this commitment for a full suite of controls, if we had not been able to get to that level, I just don’t think we would have been as aggressive with the patterning everywhere. It would have been like well, you have carryover pattern here, and maybe other parts have a different neural pattern from previous generation parts, which should be like alright, but let’s not introduce too many things because it’s going to start looking like a parts bin. So again, it’s going back to really enabling us to go after all this meticulous detailing. No more GM parts in the bespoke Cadillac. Let’s do it right.
I remember Mark Reuss, very early on when we were kicking off this and Celestiq, he said, “you know, we owe it to Cadillac. We owe it to the brand and the customers to really let’s do it. Let’s go all in.” And yeah, it was just a really kind of the kickoff there to do it.
TDB: I’m trying to think of the last time Cadillac did it.
TM: That’s an interesting point. I don’t know; probably the 1930s.
TDB: There’s nothing here among the controls that looks familiar, except maybe the climate control buttons.
TM: No, not even the buttons. Although they look similar, they’re not. And even the temperature interface. Look at the details, even the little arrows that change. See the little jump at the bottom when the number goes down and then again, the other arrow jumps up when the number goes up. That’s a little animation. So even at those levels, we have to get the details.
On the screen, we really worked on how to make this thing beautiful. It’s not just a rectangle; the actual display is fully shaped and designed to the shape we did here. It’s not the typical rectangle that we try to hide like the (Mercedes-Benz) Hyperscreen. That’s really a pretty cheap execution. They bought some off-the-shelf displays, and again, they’re expensive displays, but they just bonded it to a piece of glass and that’s kind of it. So this we feel is much more elegant and luxurious. And when you talk about it, what are you paying for in a luxury brand? To us, this is what it should be. The way Mercedes-Benz or everybody else does it, that’s what we do for Chevy. I mean, and that’s not to be blunt, because they do beautiful things. I mean, I love what Mercedes is doing. But we were very deliberate in saying we need to do our own path. We can’t come to the table with an experience that feels like anything else on the road right now.
TDB: Even though the Lyriq has one screen, there is a sense of hierarchy to the graphics, so you know where to look first, then second, then third.
TM: Absolutely. We’ve learned how you design an interface, especially more capacitive type interfaces. How far do you want to push it? Where do you want to put that? Because again, it’s a mix. You want some of these controls solid and then some of these other ones that you don’t use as often, they could be capacitive. And you want them to have that little detent where you’re pushing with your hand. And this is the first (capacitive switch) where you can move your hand across it and there’s no inadvertent activation. You actually have to press it to make it actually activate. So that’s a brand-new technology. You don’t get the inadvertent activation, and that was really key for us if we’re going to continue with this technology.
TDB: I see you put the seat controls on the door.
TM: It actually allows you to get a wider seat because you’re no longer worrying about trying to keep a space where your hands go down between the door and the seat. So it allows us to actually make the seat wider and more comfortable.
TDB: It’s always the little things that make for a true luxury car.
TM: Yeah, exactly. When they become glaring, that’s what I remember. One of the last components that was not brand new was originally the coat hook, and we were having a review and we were so close, we were literally done everything. We asked can we please pay for a new coat hook? And again, it was like that last little zit, you know, it was like oh, come on. We’ve got to get a new a new coat hook. And it was like, all right, all right. And now we can say everything’s been done.
TDB: And this then informs the Celestiq, which goes even further.
TM: Yeah, and this is why it was important to get this one right out of the box, because it really informs this next chapter for Cadillac. So we’re starting with Lyriq and we’re not going to let up. You’re going to continue to see other or future variants and again, it’ll all have this suite of components and on some of them, like with the Celestiq, we’re going to take it to a next level.