(Bloomberg) -- Park City, Utah, is pretty this time of year. Mountain sunlight drenches verdant hills strung with million-dollar ski lodges buttoned up for summer. Chestnut mares doze in pastoral repose. Shopkeeps don insta-smiles for travelers spending $40 on a bandana or squeaky dog toy.
But the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq transporting me through these bucolic environs had me in a funk. I had recently learned that the $62,990 SUV I was driving was a pre-production model—99% finished but technically not a customer-ready example of Cadillac’s first-ever fully electric vehicle. Which meant that any critique I might develop regarding it could be swatted away with an airy “It’ll be fixed by the time we get to production” comment from the folks selling it. This felt like a cop-out. Potential customers for this vehicle deserve to know what exactly they are getting into, not an approximation of something still to come.
The thing is, Cadillac is doing everything it can to get people into the Lyriq—fast. And it’s not working.
In 2020, Cadillac announced it would push ahead Lyriq production by nine months. At the time, it seemed obvious that in order to keep up appearances, parent company General Motors needed to produce an EV more easily swallowed by the general populace than the planned $200,000-plus Hummer and some (still) forthcoming electric pickups. Rival Ford started selling the Mach-e EV SUV in late 2020, and started production on the Lightning pickup truck EV this spring.
Meanwhile, every other luxury brand from Audi and BMW to Mercedes-Benz and Porsche is already knee-deep in EVs. Audi, for instance, lists eight of them for sale on its website, with more on the way. (Hyundai, by the way, is currently decimating Tesla and the rest of the EV pack with its affordable Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6.) So Cadillac offered a small “first round” of Lyriqs for sale in September 2021, and on May 19 opened orders for the 2023 model year version. A 2024 model-year Lyriq is currently open for “pre-order” sales, with production starting in the spring of 2023 and deliveries—with a higher MSRP—anticipated mainly in 2024.
It was unclear while I was in Utah how many of those first-round vehicles the company had delivered, or how the company selected people to purchase one in the first place. Spokespeople told me that deliveries of the 2023 models would start in a few weeks, declining to specify how many, if any, have actually sold.
Confused? Me, too. What I do know is that 2024 is nearly two years from now. So when I found myself on those mountain roads in Utah, I kept wondering: Would I, or anybody I knew, care enough about this thing to put down the refundable $100 deposit now to wait for some suburban vehicle they’d get sometime in the future?
I am no more immune to this age of instant gratification than anyone else; while the good-looking Lyriq passes the sniff test when it comes to power, range, and interior quality, it lacks the gut-check X factor that would make me want to wait.
Missing Some Luxuries
Maybe the Lyriq vehicles Cadillac sells next will have additional oomf. The one I drove lacked critical elements we have come to expect from even non-luxury vehicles: all-wheel-drive, heads-up display, and hands-free driving. At GM, hands-free is called “Super Cruise,” but in this car—as in early customer vehicles—it wasn’t functional. Customer cars will get Super Cruise as an over-the-air update later this year, a spokesperson said. The AWD system just wasn’t ready enough to put into cars, engineers told me. They already had the RWD system developed for the Hummer, so they used that one for Lyriq.
Cadillac doesn’t currently offer a company-official home-charging system; it says it will offer an Ultium-branded charger later this year. (Ultium is GM’s all-new battery system and platform. The company will spend $35 billion through 2025 to engineer it as a dedicated EV platform that can be calibrated to models across its lineup, from the Equinox to Hummer, which should help the automaker save money, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.) In the meantime, customers can buy a Clipper Creek home charging system through Cadillac to power the Lyriq. Prices on Clipper Creek’s website start around $350 and rise to more than $1,600.
The GPS and Navigation systems aren’t quite ready for prime time, either. In order to navigate a loop around the Park City area, I had to scan a QR code on my phone and then sync the phone to Bluetooth to use my own phone’s map that way. As I wound around near Wasatch Mountain State Park and circled sweeping vistas near Jordanelle State Park, I flipped through the map function on the dashboard just to see what would happen. While it did show accurate depictions of the road some of the time, most of the time I was in the car it showed a pixelated screen of gray.
All this will be ironed out by the time the next batch or so of customers take delivery, spokespeople told me. Quelle surprise.
Now that the ugly stuff is out of the way, the good stuff is this: The Cadillac Lyriq looks great. Rather than following the generic rounded hump of metal mold that Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Maserati Levante followed, it is distinguishable from those—or, say, an unbadged Audi. It folds sharp lines from the front black-crystal pinstriped grille to the bright red tail lights that wrap like big Ls around the rear of the vehicle. Standard 20-inch 6-spoke alloy wheels, or optional 22-inch split-spoke alloy wheels, complete the bold stance in something far prettier than what Ford has offered in the Mach-E. I hope this can become a signature look for Cadillac.
Inside, the Lyriq offers a gaping total of 105 cubic feet of passenger volume, which bodes well for any cowboy hat-wearing individuals who will want to drive it. The quality of the components and leather trim—which Caddy says are all unique to the Lyriq, with no parts-bin sharing across GM’s less exclusive brands—equals what you’d find in other premium rides from Lexus or Lincoln. I appreciated the mix of tangible knobs and buttons paired with touch-sensitive screens; it felt modern without going overboard.
An exceptionally quiet cabin, thanks to Cadillac’s clever noise-canceling system, made it all feel even more special that day I drove in Utah. The clean lines of the dashboard match the relative simplicity of the infotainment system, though you’d often have to dig through layers of options to find the tabs for tasks such as adjusting the strength of the regenerative braking. (A shortcut is available, though I never found it.) Intricate laser etching through the wood and metal were pleasing accents to the 33-inch curved LED screen set near the middle to form the centerpiece of the cabin.
A Smooth Drive
On the road, Lyriq behaves comparably to what you might expect from the $68,000-or-so Tesla Y. That’s what I meant when I said it passes the sniff test. With a 340-horsepower equivalent motor and 325 pound-feet of instant torque, it glides smoothly and powerfully as it heads to a top speed of 118 mph. Zero to 60 mph takes six seconds, slower than the BMW iX and Audi Audi e-Tron. But the steering apparatus and chassis are tight enough to keep the rig from wobbling or dawdling when you punch the gas or swerve.
The one-pedal driving system that brakes the car the moment you lift from the gas pedal will take some adjustment, but it does serve to help the vehicle achieve 312 miles at its farthest range. You can charge up to 76 miles of range in 10 minutes on a DC fast charger. These statistics are roughly the same as those of the comparably priced EV sedans and SUVs on the market today.
It all adds up to the Cadillac Lyriq being a capable, though not yet crave-able, SUV. Last I heard, GM said it wants to sell 400,000 EVs in North America by the end of 2023. At this rate, it’s going to have to move mountains to do it. Ski lodges included.
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