Cadillac, one of the most venerable nameplates in automotive history, with a nearly 120-year tradition, just unveiled a near-production-ready concept for its first EV (electric vehicle). The Lyriq, a luxurious four-seat SUV, will be the first new car underpinned by General Motors’ scalable Ultium battery system. This densely packed electric platform will allow GM to produce dozens of all-new electric vehicles of different shapes and sizes over the next few years, with various amounts of power and range, from cars to full-size pickups.
When the Lyriq is offered for sale to the public in late 2022, likely starting in the mid–five figures and with an expected range of over 300 miles, it will be the first step in Cadillac’s role as GM’s pioneering EV brand. It will also enter an increasingly crowded field of battery-powered SUVs, from familiar luxury manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Tesla, as well as from upstart start-ups you may have never heard of, like Bollinger, Fisker, and Rivian. Cadillac’s play in this field will include innovative technology and, especially, forward-looking exterior and interior design.
The Lyriq has hopes to compete in an increasingly crowded field of battery-powered SUVs.
“The coolest Cadillacs from the past have always been turning points,” says Andrew Smith, the brand’s executive design director. “They’re always about the future. So the general brief for Lyriq was: Design the future of Cadillac.”
The result is an alluring shape that balances the traditional with the outré. The front end is blunt, with a fresh, active lighting signature—arranged not just at the corners like traditional headlamps but also combined and woven into the “grille.” These lights, to become a Cadillac signature, will be used to “greet” occupants as they approach, providing what Smith calls “a sense of occasion and experience.”
Cadillac designed the side of the car to appear as if it has “a liquid-metal feel.”
The sides of the body feature quite a bit of interesting concave and convex surfacing, an effort to achieve what Smith calls “a liquid-metal feel.” The overall shape is fluid, if rectilinear, reflecting Smith’s desire for the Lyriq to have a “classic strong stance.” The rear-end treatment is perhaps the most novel, featuring a mollusk-like protruding rear hatch, and Cadillac’s signature vertical tail lamps rendered in two parts, the uppermost one of which reaches deep into the body side, almost playfully.
This last element may have been influenced by the location in which the Lyriq was created, the General Motors Technical Center outside Detroit, a midcentury-modern campus masterpiece designed by Eero Saarinen, with help from Harry Bertoia, Florence Knoll, and others. “You’ll see in some of the footage, we actually shot it around the Saarinen campus,” says Smith. “In that environment, I just love this car. The whole feeling of midcentury-modern campus, of the optimistic future. When you see this car driving around, you think, The future is here.”
The interior of the Lyriq continues this paradigm of mixing the conventional with the expressive. A giant single-screen OLED display curves across the dashboard, angled at the driver. An all-new head-up display layers in augmented reality and projects it over navigation and other information on the windshield in the driver’s line of sight. And the next generation of Cadillac’s Super Cruise driver-assistance technology is integrated, allowing for truly hands-free driving (while a driver’s eyes remain on the road) on 200,000 miles of mapped U.S. highways.
A look at the sleekly designed rear of Cadillac’s new all-electric SUV.
While traditional materials like wood, metal, and leather are still utilized inside, they’re featured in intriguing ways. The wood veneer is backlit. The metal is brushed and knurled. Much of the leather interior is a dreamy bottle-green color. Some leather trim is cut and turned on its side, to expose what Smith calls “its crust,” and then interspersed with metal. Surprise and delight abounds, as with the bright ultramarine suede inserts inside the cabin’s glove box and storage bins.
Overall, the Lyriq’s design reaches more than the contemporary electric SUV designs from Audi and Mercedes-Benz, which attempt to slip their electrification under the radar, looking like just another crossover. But it is less radical than efforts from Tesla or Jaguar to create completely new shapes for their battery-powered vehicles, liberated from the requisite conventions—engine up front, gas tank in back, transmission between—of internal combustion engine design. According to Smith, this is intentional. “The whole idea of an EV having to look like a science project? Maybe if it’s the only one in your portfolio, that might be relevant,” Smith says. “But if it’s the first of many, it should just be proportional and beautiful.”