New Cadillac Is On a Roll

Lyriq EV has joined the all-new Escalade and the Blackwing sedans. They have everything to take the new Cadillac to a modern version of the old days’ glory

Older car fans will remember the times of “the standard of the luxury”. Even though Cadillac started using that slogan in the late 1970s, it would have been accurate even earlier. The brand sailed through years as a reference not only in North America; it set trends in the luxury market that reached European cars and made countless jaws drop in Latin America. However, we relied on older people’s memories for a reason.

The oil crisis hit luxury automakers hard. Most people simply could no longer afford their cars. They knew they had to offer something different, but there was no money or time to do that. In short, the economy wheel stopped all of a sudden. Cadillac managed to survive, but that event and subsequent others made it go through a slump. Fortunately, it seems that it has finally gathered what it takes to change that.

Walkaround of the 2021 Cadillac Escalade (source: Cadillac)

What happened to Cadillac in the past?

Back in the 1970s, the only way high-end divisions could survive was by downsizing. Cadillac, Lincoln and Chrysler had to use smaller engines and develop smaller cars. After all, people would no longer buy what they used to offer. That was a sharp blow to their sales because they suddenly lost their edge; it is part of why foreign companies began to thrive. The market had twisted enough to break decades-old standards.

The first attempt to build a new Cadillac came with the CTS, two decades ago

Sadly, that was not the only issue. In order to recover Cadillac as quickly as possible, GM had to cut costs in many ways. The new cars shared countless parts with Chevrolet and Buick, and adopted generic design to stay on the safe side. They ended up retaining their most loyal customers and nothing else; the brand had simply become irrelevant to anyone else, especially with rivals as strong as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

The original CTS, depicted above, arrived in 2002 to turn things around. GM had to build a new Cadillac and started with car design. The inexpressive lines of the past gave way to others which were just as boxy, but now angular and modern; a luxury take on the style trend that became famous in the 2000s. Paired to the Cadillac Escalade refreshed for the same year, that sedan helped a lot. But that still was not enough.

Walkaround of the 2020 Cadillac CT5 (source: Cadillac)

Was that new Cadillac not enough?

Revamping the style finally made people pay attention to Cadillac again. This time, the problem was that they still had no reason to stay inside its cars. The brand suffered heavy and consistent criticism for using GM’s “parts bin” too much. In other words, its cars had many of the same components seen on Chevrolet, Buick and GMC models. That caused a serious image problem, but we are going to give it a closer look.

Sharing key components, like engines and suspensions, has become a standard; companies have created the modular platform precisely because of that. The problem here is sharing trim parts like door handles, air vents, stereo knobs, and window switches. In short, automakers had a tendency to think that people did not care much about them; they saw a chance to borrow parts from other cars and save money.

As it turns out, people do care about trim quality. After all, those are the parts they use on a regular basis. Rough textures, reflective paint, loud click noises, fragile knobs… no one likes those; we may endure them in cheap cars out of necessity, but definitely not in a luxury one. Attention to detail is more important to a premium experience than ostentatious items because, again, we interact with those details all the time.

Walkaround of the 2020 Cadillac XT6 (source: Cadillac)

What has it been doing now?

Using German automakers as an example, we have already mentioned here that consistency is a big part of luxury. The sales department invests a lot in store decoration and staff training; marketing invests a lot in advertisement campaigns; engineering invests a lot in comfort, performance and fuel efficiency… There is no reason not to invest in attention to detail too. Especially when it directly affects users’ experience.

Fortunately, the new Cadillac has been addressing that issue. All models were updated with the best GM can offer in terms of platform and technology. The Escalade preserved its position among full-size SUVs while the CT4 and CT5 sedans have impressed everyone with their dynamic behavior, especially in their V Blackwing version. The smaller SUVs are far from bad, but they still have some room for improvement.

At a first glance, those recent moves would be enough to set the brand on a good path. The thing is, that renovation has started right when electrification is finally taking off. The latter has made new demands to companies and there is pressure from everywhere for them to embrace it. The bright side is that Cadillac is better prepared than ever to face this new change. This time we can really talk about a new Cadillac.

Promotional video for the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq (source: Cadillac)

The really new Cadillac

Yes, the Lyriq above is beautiful and futuristic. It also has nice tricks such as the welcome sequence to turn on its lights. We could also write a whole article on the fact that it uses GM’s brand new Ultium platform; it brings a modular battery arrangement and an array of cutting-edge solutions for performance, energy use, convenience, and safety. But the most satisfying part is another one: it has solved that trim problem.

In an interview hosted by The Drive, Cadillac’s Interior Design Manager Tristan Murphy proudly mentions that the Lyriq only uses exclusive internal parts. That effort took a toll on production costs, but it worked like a charm; all those parts have the appearance, texture, sound and weight that you would expect from a luxury car. GM president Mark Reuss approved the budget for that and the brand has finally delivered.

As that interview comments, Reuss made sure to engage Cadillac’s team in that goal. All parts feature an elaborate construction, whether for their color scheme or for how they feel on the hand. The dashboard uses a beautiful combination of colors and textures including the laser-cut, open-pore Dark Ash trim. A Carscoops article has defined it as “undoubtedly some of the nicest wood ever installed in a Cadillac”.

The Lyriq is the first model of the new Cadillac
The 2023 Cadillac Lyriq will set a higher standard for the new Cadillac (source: WheelsAge)

What can we expect from now on?

If the new Cadillac holds on to that standard, only great things. Sharing parts among vehicles of the same brand is a totally different thing; now that the Lyriq is on sale, future Cadillac releases can borrow some of those new trim parts. The typical money and time savings will not come with customer backlash this time. Although that is already a great thing, the truth is that the company has even bigger plans in the making.

The Celestiq will be the flagship model of the new Cadillac

Rather than becoming something different, the company is reinterpreting itself. The SUV lineup is there, following the market trend, but the new Cadillac is not putting all eggs in that basket like Lincoln. In the next few days, it will release a concept car named Celestiq. It anticipates a high-end sedan that will have limited yearly production, accept commission orders, and fight for Bentley and Rolls-Royce customers.

With so many exciting projects already coming to the streets, the brand’s future looks promising. Now, we can truly believe that the new Cadillac has what it takes to reclaim its market position. If things keep going well, we can expect it to be a strong contender against the segment references. By the GM goes all electric, in 2035, its flagship division will finally have become “the standard of the world” once again.

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