With its lights and look, the EV would fit right in at SEMA.
The Cadillac Lyriq, as the company's first EV, is important in many ways, not least of which is that it's landing in the meaty midsize SUV segment, one of the most popular. But it was also the first car that Cadillac designed as a show car. And we don't mean, 'it wanted the production car to look a little bit like the show car,' Cadillac built the show car.
"The good thing was we had the show car as a benchmark. With other programs you see a show car then you see the production car," said Andrew Smith, executive director of Cadillac design. "They do the production car, then do a better version for the show car. The assignment was 'here's the show car, do it.'"
Obviously creating a car during a pandemic was a task in itself. With the offices mostly empty, a few select designers stayed, milling clay and making minute changes. It would be sent around the company, changes would be initiated, and then they'd do the whole thing again. And even with something as digital as tele-car design, the analog clay model is where you really can tell what works.
"We made sure we kept every essence that we could from the show car, with the surface language, the tension in the surface and the lines, we made sure the proportions stayed the same, and that we still had a good amount of dash to axle. And really capturing these vehicle lighting elements," said Josh Thurber, exterior design manager.
And as we've learned, lighting is the new face of these electric vehicles. You can see a badge from 10 feet away, but a lighting signature can go for miles.
"Lighting was really big for us, to really take this EV architecture and figure out, what do we do? We don't need a big grille to cool a big engine, we only need air from the bottom," said Thurber. "It gave us the opportunity to really define how we do the new face of Cadillac. We came up with this polycarbonate shield that we can laser patterns on it and light it."
That front shield, which hides the radar and sensors, but uses a paint finish to allow them to work, is another piece that looks like it would fit right in at SEMA. That and the new slim vertical headlights are what create the welcoming choreography for the vehicle.
"We have a lot of great technology enablers," said Candace Willett, lead designer in charge of the choreographed experience and lighting, "the deep thick-cut blades add a lot of texture. With Cadillac, dead fronting a vehicle is not an option. Cadillac is about detail, about jewelry, it's about more, always more. This grille was an excellent opportunity to add in lighting, bring in the choreography, and create a sense of occasion when you walk up to the vehicle. The lighting on the show car had a lot of depth and detail to it."
Those headlights took a long time to develop, starting out at 65 millimeters (about 2.5 inches) and eventually slimming to just 15 mm (0.6 inches), making them the slimmest projector headlights in history.
"How do we get our entire element into a vertical, and how do we get the high and low beams with that? With this system we have one simple vertical graphic doing all the functions," said Dan Schmeckpeper, exterior lighting lead designer. "We did bring horizontal across the top, that was on purpose to animate the turn, which has legal requirements. But you can see how the lights stayed true to the show car."
Cadillac continued the show-car type features on the interior of the Lyriq, starting with the new 33-inch curved screen, but not finishing there. It needed to feel instantly iconic, instantly timeless.
"This was our chance to redefine what the experience was when you step inside the vehicle and we really wanted to focus on the same philosophy as the exterior with the integration of design and technology. We wanted it to feel like an integrated design solution," said Tristan Murphy, interior design manager.
The details are what make it special. The rotary knobs for the air vents are knurled metal and both rotate for volume of air and angle the blower. That knurled pattern crosses over on the infotainment rotary dial and even on the cupholders. If it was important to customers, like cupholders or a glove box, Cadillac addressed it. Yes, the company is even getting showy in places you can't see.
"We're not treating it like a glove box. We know what happens in a glove box because it's just a molded plastic bin. You just throw whatever crap in there and it rattles around and that's it," said Mark Chrapla, senior creative designer, interior. "We wanted to make sure these bins were treated with respect and care, so that you actually feel comfortable, and it's communicating to the customer to put your watch in there or nice sunglasses or nice phone. It's more inviting for nicer items."
And that's the overall theme for the vehicle as a whole: make it more inviting for nicer…people. Make it impress them from the second they walk up to the vehicle, to when they sit down and drive, to when they exit and lock the vehicle, enabling the "goodbye" lighting sequence. Make that the thing your neighbors come over to see, instead of a giant V8.
The Cadillac Lyriq comes out ahead of schedule early next year with a base price of $59,990. That's when we'll get to see if all of the company's hard work building a show car for the street paid off. We think it will.