Expert Reviews

2023 Cadillac Lyriq First Drive Review

The rapid onslaught of electric vehicles (EVs) rages on, and now it’s Cadillac’s turn to do the dance.

More than any of its rivals, however, this is likely the closest we’ll see to a literal song and dance, because as a play on the brand’s long history of being associated with music – whether that’s the famous affinity from a certain king of rock and roll, or the Escalade’s iconic status in hip-hop – there’s an awful lot riding on the very name of the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq. It is, of course, a compact-ish crossover that comfortably seats five and moves with a verve and style that something like a Chevrolet Bolt could only dream of.

On top of quite possibly being the most visually appealing electric crossover around right now, the decidedly comfortable and fancy Lyriq has some impressive tech, an appropriately stellar sound system, and, like most vehicles of this genre, is better and more exciting to drive than you might expect.

Respectable Specs

Let’s get some basic EV specs out of the way early. In this initial rear-wheel drive configuration, Cadillac says the Lyriq is good for 502 km of range from a full charge thanks to a 100-kWh battery. A single motor powers the rear axle and pumps out 340 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. (That little “450E” badge on the back, by the way, denotes the torque in newton metres, and isn’t officially part of the car’s full name.) A dual-motor, all-wheel-drive version expected to produce about 500 hp and presumably carry an even more impressive torque badge on its tailgate is coming next year.

This being a new EV from General Motors (GM), it sits on a version of the company’s Ultium platform also used in the outlandish GMC Hummer EV. DC fast-charging up to 190 kW is supported, and Cadillac is quoting up to 122 km of range recouped in 10 minutes, or 313 km regained in 30 minutes. The company is not releasing any 10-to-80 per cent DC fast-charge times due to the highly variable nature of that metric.

Level 2, 19.2-kW at-home charging, meanwhile, can let the Lyriq regain 84 km per hour plugged in, which means a full overnight charge should be more than feasible. Cadillac has partnered with EV charge station installation company Qmerit to make at-home charging easy for Lyriq buyers, although as of this writing, there are no details as to what that program will actually entail.

The Cadillac of EVs

Par for the course for a vehicle called the Lyriq, showmanship is key, and while nerdy – albeit sufficiently impressive – specs are nice, what arguably sets this Cadillac apart from other EVs is its style. I will readily admit to being a mediocre photographer at best, but taking a bad photo of the Cadillac Lyriq remains a difficult task. Its proportions are strong, the details are attractive, and the optional 22-inch chrome wheels are a particular highlight, sporting black inserts that make them look more conventional than they actually are. It even cribs the Ford Mustang Mach-E trick of blacking out the tops and bottoms to make the profile visually less bulky.

The front lights, including the ones in the big “grille,” put on a small light show when the Lyriq is turned on, while the whole C- and D-pillar situation makes it look fairly unique.

That tastefully luxurious style carries on inside, too. Cadillac boasts about the fact that the Lyriq cabin uses precisely zero carryover bits from other, lesser GM products, and the elevated attention to detail really does show. The top of the dash is soft, the brightwork looks and feels reasonably upscale, and the wood door inserts have been laser-etched so that the thin metal layer underneath is visible. During the day, the holes in the wood are opaque metal, but at night ambient lighting shines through. It’s all very next-level.

Moving to the back seat and sitting behind my average-stature self, rear legroom is vast. Headroom is fairly good, too, with a fair bit of excess space between my head and the ceiling, but taller people may not be as comfortable.

Just as commendable as the rear legroom here, though, are the finishes that do not take any hits compared to the front row. There’s a really nice brushed-metal piece adorning the lower centre plug area with the word “Cadillac” stamped into it (there’s a similar piece on the front lower purse cubby) that Cadillac definitely could’ve gotten away with not having. But, just like the leather-lined jewellery box-like cubby under the climate controls or the bespoke-for-now gear selection and turn signal stalks, it serves as a reminder to occupants that they’re not just in any average EV – they’re in the Cadillac of EVs.

Not that there are a ton of actual competitors out yet, but I’d wager that among the luxury electric crossovers that exist at the moment, the Lyriq may just be the swankiest and most attractive, at least on the surface. Think about it: it’s at least a league above the comparatively plain Tesla Model Y in terms of aesthetics. I have a feeling the BMW iX may have it beat on interior, but the Lyriq more than makes up the deficit when it comes to exterior styling. And it looks more special than both the frog-like blob that is the Genesis GV60 and the upcoming, not-nearly-as-fancy-looking RZ from Lexus.

Proper Tech, Good Noises

As far as tech goes, the Lyriq’s big star would probably be the mega-sized, 33-inch display that doubles as both instrumentation and infotainment. The screen itself is impressively sharp, richly coloured, and goes right up to the curved bezels, while the actual layout is simple and easy to navigate. Cadillac has used this display’s size not to cram more controls or information into one view but to clarify the same content that would normally be there anyways, making everything inherently easier to see, tap, and use. The small left-hand side section of this screen is touch-sensitive and can be used to swap through instrument modes, display trip computers, or control the lights.

Just like it is in the Hummer, Google Maps is built into the Lyriq’s native software, a solution that ought to be adopted by every single other automaker under the sun. (Automakers: stop trying to make proprietary navigation systems happen.)

Cadillac wouldn’t dare put out a vehicle called the Lyriq without giving it an absolutely banging stereo system and, lo and behold, this one is something the company should be proud of. It’s a 19-speaker setup where four of the speakers are actually located in the front headrests. These may make the seats look like some sort of insect-based alien but, more importantly, the system does actually sound pretty great, spitting out some of the most powerful bass I’ve ever heard in any car that isn’t an old, modified Honda Civic that seems to exclusively blast Eurobeat.

This audio system is also responsible for this car’s next-generation noise cancellation tech that verifiably works quite well. Eerie silence is often the first thing one notices when setting off in an EV, but this applies doubly so to the Cadillac Lyriq. Sound isolation from wind and other cars is extremely well done, although road noise from the Lyriq’s own tires is a little more noticeable than expected at higher speeds.

First Drive Impressions

And about that speed: 325 lb-ft of instantaneous EV torque and 340 hp mean the single-motor Lyriq will get up to highway pace sufficiently briskly. Acceleration is accompanied by a relatively subtle artificial EV noise coming in through speakers that’s simple in composition but pleasant.

It’s not bad in the corners, either. It's not exactly a sports car – not that anyone should really expect it to be – but it goes where you point it smoothly, eagerly, and with little to no drama. Ford’s Mustang Mach-E and the Hyundai Group trio that is the Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, and Genesis GV60 have already demonstrated that relatively heavy electric crossovers like this can hold their own on a twisty road, and the Cadillac Lyriq confidently joins that club. The steering has an intuitive ratio and just the right amount of lightness for a luxury crossover like this, while the suspension does a more-than-decent job at smoothing bumps. The seats are also comfy and good at keeping back pain at bay.

The brake pedal, even in sport mode, is a little spongier than I’d like, but it was effective at keeping the Lyriq away from the back of a leading car that decided to stop and take a left unexpectedly. One-pedal driving can be enabled, but regenerative braking is also on tap even without it thanks to something Caddy calls variable regen on-demand. It’s a paddle behind the left side of the steering wheel which essentially functions as a hand-operated, pressure-sensitive regenerative brake trigger. This function does double duty in making driving the Lyriq feel that much more like playing PlayStation and offering the option of ad-hoc regenerative braking to drivers who may not want to one-pedal drive all the time.

Those familiar with GM’s semi-autonomous highway driving system will recognize the Super Cruise hardware that’s present in the Lyriq, but the units used for this media drive program did not have the necessary software yet. Cadillac says an over-the-air update scheduled for later this year will enable Super Cruise functionality.

Final Thoughts

So the range and charge figures are promising, it looks great inside and out, and it’s comfortable and perfectly pleasant to drive. Can the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq do no wrong? Don’t be silly, of course it's not perfect.

There’s no head-up display, for starters, which is a surprising omission for a brand-new, tech-forward vehicle that starts at $69,898 before fees and taxes. The headlights do not swivel in tandem with the steering. Maddeningly, the only way to open the glove box is via a menu within the touchscreen. There’s no frunk despite this being a one-motor, rear-drive EV, and – just like the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, Genesis GV60, and Lexus RZ, to name a bunch – there is no rear wiper.

Regarding that last one, Cadillac claims that the way the Lyriq is shaped means aerodynamics are able to take care of any rain, snow, or dust that accumulates on the rear window, but I’m going to reserve judgment until I can test this in actual inclement weather. Oh, and as a final, admittedly smaller flaw, the rear window itself is a bit small, which limits visibility.

With the exception of that small rear window, though, all of these gripes are likely budget-based feature omissions that could theoretically be corrected in subsequent model years when multiple trims of Lyriq (read: more expensive versions) become available. For now, though, the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq comes as a single-trim, no-real-options affair and is generally a commendable and very comfortable starting point for electric Cadillacs.