Yet another entry from Cadillac to show the world it's serious about competing with the top European and Japanese luxury brands, the two-seat Cadillac XLR roadster is the company's flagship vehicle. Though it shares the same platform as the current Corvette, the XLR variant is not a simple case of corporate badge engineering. It's more of a grand touring machine than a hard-edged sports car, as the Caddy's responses are softer and comfortably refined. It also uses a more subdued 4.6-liter, 320-horsepower V8 engine rather than the Vette's edgier 6.0-liter, 400-hp V8 power plant.
2008 Cadillac XLR Convertible
The use of lightweight components like aluminum suspension pieces and composite body panels keeps the Cadillac XLR from being a bloated luxury two-seater. In addition, the standard Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension system automatically firms up or softens the suspension based on driving conditions, ensuring generally smooth and responsive maneuvers. The combination of bold, angular styling outside and distinctive eucalyptus-wood cockpit accents gives the XLR a sophisticated presence. Further, the XLR's power retractable hardtop roof allows the comfort and security of a coupe when the top is raised.
As impressive as it is, the Cadillac XLR roadster is not quite the "standard of the world" just yet. Though its styling and Cadillac badge will appeal to those looking to roll up to the valet in something different from the status quo, the XLR comes up short in terms of maximum performance and interior detailing when compared to its German rivals. But if those qualities aren't your top priority, and you're not overly impressed with the rest of the XLR's competition, this Cadillac convertible is worth considering.
Current Cadillac XLR
The Cadillac XLR is a two-seat luxury roadster featuring a retractable hardtop roof. The standard XLR comes with just about all of the luxury features you'd expect, including 18-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tires, adaptive xenon HID headlights, heated leather seats with plenty of power adjustments, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless startup, a head-up display, a navigation system and a Bose audio system with satellite radio and a CD changer. There are also a couple special variants, the Passion Red Limited Edition XLR and the Platinum Edition XLR, that feature unique exterior paint and other minor trim enhancements.
A refined yet muscular 4.6-liter V8 powers the XLR, and a six-speed automanual transmission transmits the Northstar V8's 320 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. We've found the XLR to be a spirited performer, with 0-60-mph sprints taking less than 6 seconds and high-speed cruising that's generally hushed and effortless. Full-throttle shifts result in little hesitation, and the sound of the engine at speed is as good as or better than any V8 in its class. Antilock disc brakes are standard safety items, as are run-flat tires, a tire-pressure monitor, stability control, head/torso side-impact airbags and rear parking sensors.
Inside, the Cadillac XLR boasts an upscale cabin complete with rich eucalyptus wood trim and aluminum accents in addition to comfortable leather seating -- altogether clean-looking, modern and warm. State-of-the-art technologies abound, too: A head-up display shows vital information such as speed, fuel level and audio status on the windshield, adaptive cruise control automatically maintains a preset distance between the XLR and the car in front, and a large touchscreen mounted high in the center stack helps keep the dash free of numerous single-use buttons. Our editors found fit and finish to be excellent, save for a few pieces of metallic trim that seem tacked-on rather than cleanly integrated.
As fast as the XLR is when pushed, those expecting a true Cadillac sports car will be disappointed. Acceleration, though certainly quick, is not as forceful as its corporate cousin, and the XLR's softer suspension tuning results in noticeable body roll during hard cornering and plenty of nosedive under heavy braking. Even with its adaptive suspension's split-second response, the Cadillac XLR still feels less willing to tackle turns than the more athletic European contenders. On the open highway, the roadster hits its stride, delivering an undisturbed ride with effortless tracking.