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Cadillac Unveils the 2023 Lyriq Electric SUV, Takes Aim at Tesla

Range is the main talk of the day, but will the numbers hold up to a two-year wait?

Todd LassaWriterManufacturerPhotographer

The moment of truth is set for fall of 2022, when General Motors begins to find out whether a luxury marque with the heritage and baggage of Cadillac can take on the rabid loyalty afforded Tesla Motors with an electric SUV of its own. That's when the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq unveiled Thursday in "show car" trim  goes on sale in earnest, the first GM car to be powered by the automaker's new Ultium battery system on its latest "skateboard"-style platform. Cadillac says the show car unveiled online shares at least 85 percent with the forthcoming production version.

There has been some talk lately of GM changing its name (though General Electric is taken, har), but nothing about Cadillac, the erstwhile Standard of the World that's attempting to leap past that tarnished image to perhaps aim for Standard of the Green World.  

2023 Cadillac Lyriq: Brilliant LED Lighting

The Cadillac Lyriq's striking, though familiar styling begins at the front with brilliant (literally) 50-LED-light hashmark lamps encircling the inner edge of the space where a conventional grille would be, all surrounding a modern electric take on the 115-year-old crest that lights up along with all those other LEDs as the owner approaches with their key.

"The vehicle lights up and recognizes you," says Cadillac design chief Andrew Smith. "We call the crest [lighting up] 'complex animation. '"

Unlike Tesla's SUVs, which are coupe-like crossovers with fastback styling, the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq is a wagon-like two-box design, with a more conventional, more capacious, more squared-off roofline. Smith describes the Lyriq as having "a classically great stance." Matching the thin vertical headlamps are thin, vertical red-lensed lower rear lamps, with c-shaped upper tail lamps that curve around the vehicle's rear roof support.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq: Minimum 300-mile Range

Cadillac says the Lyriq will achieve a range of at least 300 miles, whether equipped with dual-motor "performance" all-wheel-drive or with single-motor rear-wheel-drive, putting it in direct competition with the Tesla Model Y compact SUV and Model X midsize SUV. The Tesla Model X Long Range is rated 96 mpg-e with a 328-mile range; the Model Y has an EPA range estimate of up to 315 miles for the Performance AWD version at 121 mpg-e, while the 21-inch wheel option drops the Model Y's range to 291 miles at 111 mpg-e.

The Cadillac Lyriq RWD model looks to offer 20 to 30 miles more range than the AWD model, "so far," says Marty Hogan, GM's executive chief engineer for the Ultium electric vehicles. That could put the AWD Lyriq's range in the same neighborhood as the longest-range version of the Model Y, and the RWD Lyriq could potentially match or beat the Model X's numbers. Another key competitor, the AWD-only Jaguar i-Pace, is rated 76 mpg-e and 234 miles.

The two-year-plus lead time before the Lyriq goes on sale allows for battery and other range improvements—but it allows the same for competitors already on the market, too. GM's Ultium battery system and platform can accommodate rear-, front-, or all-wheel drive/four-wheel drive, and will come with six, eight, 10, or 12 battery modules in single-stack guise; up to 24 modules can be installed in taller vehicles, like trucks and SUVs, with space for two stacks of battery modules. GM says range will be as high as 400 miles on some models.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq: Charging Options

Charging options will include DC fast-charging rates of more than 150 kW, Cadillac says, and Level 2 charging rates up to 19 kW, with an optional onboard plug-in module. Cadillac did not release an expected 0-60-mph time, though Hogan says the Lyriq will be competitive, with "near-instantaneous torque."

"The Ultium platform gives us the flexibility to optimize battery energy, storage, and layout," Hogan says, for "premium vehicle dynamics."

The battery modules are part of the body structure and support the Cadillac Lyriq's crash stiffness. Near-50/50 weight distribution (for AWD models) and a low center of gravity make for superb ride and handling, Hogan adds.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq: Full-Dashboard 33-inch LED Display Screen

The interior is dominated by a single 33-inch LED display screen, similar in design to the 38-inch OLED screen in the '21 Escalade and stretching across most of the dash. It's a refreshing alternative to the large tablet-sized rectangular screens found in Teslas and other modern vehicles, and Smith says it's easier (thus safer) to read information at the bottom of the thin horizontal screen than at the bottom of tablet screens. Other advantages of the new display include a quick refresh rate and good contrast ratio, he says.

There's a rotary controller on the cantilevered center console, and at the bottom of the instrument panel, a "jewelry box"-style pull-out tray. Laser-etched and backlit wood veneer trim on the door panels add depth and detail. Other advanced features will include GM's latest SuperCruise, with a lane-changing feature, a dual-plane head-up display, and remote self-parking.

GMC Hummer EV Comes First

Production of the estimated 1,000-plus-horsepower GMC Hummer EV begins at GM's Hamtramck assembly plant in Metro Detroit, which has been dedicated to electric vehicle production only, in 2021. GM will unveil the new Hummer this fall.

Cadillac Lyriq production begins in China first, and though GM has not announced the date for its launch there, it has announced U.S. production is scheduled to begin "shortly afterward" in late 2022.

After years of chasing and gaining on (but not catching) Mercedes-Benz and BMW with its internal combustion-powered models, Cadillac is now attempting to recapture its "Standard of the World" reputation with an even more ambitious challenge to Tesla. The question that won't be answered for more than two years is whether engineering and design brilliance can overcome Cadillac's long-outdated image as purveyor of excessive Detroit iron.