Cadillac Makes a Big Leap With Its First Fully Electric Vehicle

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.”

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