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2023 Cadillac Lyriq First Drive Review: A Whole New Ballgame

Cadillac's first EV will make you forget about all those other stodgy crossovers it builds.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq
The Lyriq is a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one.
Andrew Krok/CNET

Even before Cadillac let me take a spin in its flashy new Lyriq electric SUV, the public was champing at the bit to pick one up. The first round of orders sold out in mere minutes, and after making an entire model year's worth of 'em available in the same way, those too sold out. That's a hell of a blind gamble from the general public, but after driving the Lyriq, I think these folks are about to hit the jackpot.  

Before I talk about the Lyriq, let's talk about the rest of Cadillac's unibody crossovers: the XT4, XT5 and XT6. Frankly, they're all tepid. Their interiors are uninspiring, leaning too heavily on parts from other General Motors cars, whether it's switchgear or tech. The cars themselves don't ride particularly well. They feel like letdowns in the face of some very strong competition. It appears the automaker already kind of knew this, because every step Cadillac took in creating the Lyriq addresses all these issues in major ways.

For the Lyriq, Cadillac took a long look at GM's parts bin and promptly told it to piss off. The automaker went back to the drawing board for the Lyriq's interior, and the result is impressive. Every touch point is brand spankin' new and far fancier than any other GM product. Seemingly simple bits like the climate vent knobs have knurling. The undertray, which is large enough to handle at least one purse, is lined with blue leather, as is the pop-out cubby underneath the climate controls. The window switches feel better than those in German cars. Even the steering wheel and the stalks behind it are unique. They won't be unique for long, since all these posh new bits will make their way to future Cadillac models, but it's good to see the automaker finally establishing itself as something other than Buick Plus.

The attention to detail doesn't stop with the switches. Considering the Lyriq starts around $63,000, the interior almost feels like a bargain. Sure, there are a few bits of hard plastic in the lower half of the cabin, but by and large, Cadillac outdid itself. The open-pore ash wood trim on the door panels has laser-cut triangles, with 28-color ambient lighting shining through from behind. The leather is soft, and the seats in both rows are comfortable and supportive. The 19-speaker AKG sound system absolutely bumps, with some impressive fidelity at "nobody will ever listen to music this loudly" levels. Even the USB-C port in the undertray has a brushed metal surround.

Cadillac could've easily taken the multipanel OLED display from the new Escalade, slapped it in the Lyriq and called it a day. Instead, the automaker whipped out an entirely new beast, a one-piece 33-inch LED display, and it slaps. It's capable of displaying more than a billion colors, and thanks to Unreal Engine, the graphics are cutting-edge. It's touch-capable, but there's also a dial controller and quick-access buttons on the center console if people want to skip the fingerprints. The gauge-cluster half can display range, speed and power usage in a couple different ways, but it can also show a fullscreen map with turn-by-turn directions.

Many dashboard displays are just rectangles hidden inside more interesting shapes, but the Lyriq's screen was purpose-built for this application.

Andrew Krok/CNET

Did I mention that the Lyriq's navigation is straight-up Google Maps? Because it is, and it's just as easy to use here as it is on your phone. Google integration permeates the entire infotainment system, offering Google Assistant and the Play Store baked right in, similar to what GM is doing with other new-for-2022 vehicles. A quick-access dock at the bottom of the right half of the display lets me bounce between various settings to cut down on distraction. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, too, with USB-C ports and wireless charging to ensure everyone stays juiced up. The only real complaint I have here is that the screen is the only way to open the glove box, which is silly. There's no head-up display, but honestly, you don't need one.

The Lyriq is preternaturally soft and quiet. There are no three-chamber air suspensions or magnetorheological shocks under the body, but that's fine, because the passive dampers do just as good of a job eliminating all but the harshest road inconsistencies, even with my tester's honkin' 22-inch wheels and low-profile 275/40R22 Michelin all-season tires. Active noise cancellation dominates unwanted road and wind noise until you're pushing 80 mph, and even then, it's still Lexus quiet in here. All that plushness may lead you to believe the Lyriq leans like a wayward ship in turns, but you'd be wrong. GM's Ultium EV platform keeps the weight nice and low, so there's surprisingly little body roll through switchbacks.

The Lyriq's charge port is on the driver's side fender. Just tap the Cadillac badge, and the panel will slide down.

Andrew Krok/CNET

102 kilowatt-hours' worth of battery cells are integrated into the Cadillac's floor, offering an EPA-estimated range of 312 miles in rear-wheel-drive configuration. The pack will recharge at speeds up to 190 kilowatts at a DC fast charger. Home charging will be a little slower, with an onboard 7.7-kilowatt trickle charger that will add a few miles of range per hour from your average 120-volt outlet. Plug the Lyriq into 240-volt AC and things are a little zippier, offering 11.5 kW for AWD variants and a peppy 19.2 kW for RWD models. The latter is enough to add 52 miles of range per hour, which means charging overnight will top you off by the time you have to head to work in the morning.

340 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque may not sound like all that much, but it's more than enough to get the Lyriq moving in a hurry. The accelerator pedal is tuned for smoothness, but swapping to Sport mode on the infotainment display will perk up the response a bit. The Lyriq's powertrain is not here to roast rubber and whip shitties in the 7-Eleven parking lot, it's here to coddle the hell out of you, and it does.

The Lyriq isn't trying to be a sports SUV. Tour mode is where this car shines.

Andrew Krok/CNET

When it comes to slowing down, the Lyriq gives me options. One-pedal driving is offered in two different strengths, and I prefer it in its strongest setting, which allows for some serious deceleration in case I misjudge stopping distances. But there's also a pressure-sensitive on-demand paddle on the left side of the steering wheel that lets me dial it in gradually, which is a neat addition. It's not a game changer, but variety is the spice of life.

As for exterior aesthetics, the Lyriq is kind of a weird bird, but weird is good in the year of our lord 2022. This SUV turns necks around every corner. The large "grille" up front turns into an inverted light-up mustache at night, and there's a fun little animation when the car is locked or unlocked. Considering the XT4, XT5 and XT6 could be mistaken for each other at most points in time, it's good to see Cadillac breaking free of the cookie-cutter mold.

The Cadillac Lyriq is a whole new beginning for a brand that desperately needed to stand further afield from its family. If this is a sign of what's to come, the competition will need to stay on its toes. Sleeping on Cadillac is no longer an option.

Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of CNET's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.