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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, May 22, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2004 Cadillac XLR


The Cadillac XLR is truly unique because it so finely combines a world-class sports car's handling characteristics with the highest state of automotive technology and luxury found in today's premium automobiles. Anyone who appreciates high levels of performance and handling and loads of luxury features will enjoy driving the all-new Cadillac XLR. Being a split personality of a two-seat hard top luxury sports coupe, and two-seat luxury roadster, you can have fun and a pleasurable drive no matter the outside weather, come rain or come shine.

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

The XLR shows its stuff by beating the competition from M-B and Lexus with the longest wheelbase, widest track and lightest weight equaling better handling. With a more powerful V8 engine, the XLR has quicker acceleration, 0-60 mph in 5.8 sec. vs. 6.2 and 6.4 sec. from the SL500 and SC430. Pumping out 320 hp at 6,000 rpm and 310 lb.ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm, the XLR's Next Generation Northstar 4.6 liter V8 VVT is a 90-degree, DOHC, four-valves-per-cylinder engine featuring an aluminum block and cylinder heads, electronic throttle control (ETC), and a valvetrain configuration with roller finger followers. The engine has been extensively re-engineered for the XLR luxury roadster, and it marks the Northstar's first adaptation to rear-wheel drive (RWD), and all-wheel drive (AWD) configurations.

Other Northstar firsts on the XLR include four-cam continuously variable valve timing (VVT), electronically controlled, hydraulically actuated intake and exhaust cam phasers on all four camshafts for extra control, low restriction intake and exhaust manifolds and cylinder head ports, close coupled catalytic converters mounted directly adjacent to the exhaust manifolds, and a new air induction system, redesigned for enhanced capacity and noise attenuation. It also has a more powerful engine control module (ECM) and high-speed local area network (LAN) communication system dedicated to engine and transmission control, a new engine mounting system and a more rigid block structure for outstanding smoothness and quietness. It is also the first Northstar V8 engine that sits longitudinally under the hood.

The new Northstar V8 is mated to the new Hydra-Matic 5L50-E five-speed automatic transmission that is mounted to the rear, also not shared by the competition, and gives the XLR a virtual 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution for superior balance, as well as providing unusually roomy foot well space. Developed to manage the high torque and horsepower of the engine, it is one of the most technologically advanced transmissions on any highway or autobahn in the industry. The 5L50-E transmission is a modification of the Hyra-Matic 5L40-E transmission used in the Cadillac CTS. It offers three performance features normally found individually on various high-performance luxury sport coupes and sedans: driver shift control, performance algorithm shifting, and performance algorithm lift foot. Underpinning the XLR and responsible for it's amazing smooth ride and ability to pull over 0.9g's is it's architecture and suspension. It starts with the XLR's backbone, upon which the car's dynamic capabilities depend. Based on GM's new performance car architecture, this unique and patented structure comprises steel hydroformed perimeter frame rails, enclosed structural 'tunnel', aluminum cockpit structure and balsa-cored composite floors. Providing rigidity without bulk, and with exceptional resistance to torsional and bending forces, this architecture is the basis for the XLR's outstanding ride and handling characteristics. All body panels are made of composite materials except for the power retractable roof that I will talk about later.

The suspension system makes the XLR a true luxury roadster with the handling qualities of a performance car. To this end, the design uses modified double wishbones at each corner featuring cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite leaf springs, electronically controlled, gas-charged monotube shocks, and front and rear stabilizer bars. This unique suspension system is the same found in the C5 Corvette and is designed to maintain firm control over wheel motion, while delivering a composed and compliant ride quality. During normal driving, the chassis exhibits comfortable and confident handling characteristics but when pushed harder, the car remains stable and secure with outstanding road holding. With the XLR reaching a lateral G-force of more than 0.9 gs, it easily outperforms the SL500 and SC430 on the slalom. The XLR rides on big Michelin P235/50R18. ZP Extended Mobility (run-flat) tires, and these high-tech tires wrap around gorgeous 18x8 in. polished aluminum alloy wheels. The XLR is also one of the world's first vehicles to be equipped with Magnetic Ride Control-electronically controlled, magnetic-fluid based real-time damping (the C6 Corvette also has it). This system has four-wheel-to-body displacement sensors to measure wheel motion over the road surface and responds by adjusting the shock damping at speeds approaching one millisecond. That's five times faster than previous 'real-time' damping systems. The secret is the magneto-rheological fluid contained in its dampers, replacing traditional mechanical valves. Suspended in this fluid are tiny iron particles that respond to an electromagnetic charge. In the presence of a charge, the iron particles align themselves into fibrous structures that almost instantaneously create precise and wide-ranging damping characteristics. With sensors reading the road surface at a rate of 1in. at 60mph, the system responds by commanding constant changes in damping force at all four corners. The goal is to maintain tire contact with the road surface and to keep the body on an even plane, with smooth, well-controlled body motions even during aggressive maneuvers or on uneven surfaces. The suspension system is further enhanced with StabiliTrak and Traction Control that work in conjunction with the ECM, ETC, and ABS brakes to limit unwanted wheel spin and to keep you on track.

The XLR's Magnasteer power-assisted rack & pinion steering system is a good match to the unique suspension system. It transmits the feel for the road at high speed and when parking it gives boost to easily turn the big tires and wheels. As with sports cars with a near 50/50 weight distribution, the wheel feels neutral and reacts quickly to your input. A true luxurious ride with world-class handling performance when needed or wanted. The XLR quickly and safely slows down from speed with big, power-assisted and vented disc brakes. Up front they measure 12.8 in. and 12 in. in the rear. The front dual-calipers feature XLR stenciled on each. Four-channel ABS helps you maintain control of the XLR when braking quickly from high-speeds or when going into a tight turn at high-speed. The all-new XLR is truly unique in the very competitive world of hard-top grand touring sports cars. There are only two other vehicles in the market and the XLR outperforms each on the road in straight-line acceleration and on twisting, turning roads.

Cadillac continues with unique exterior styling that is brilliantly executed, including an interior with supreme comfort, luxurious amenities, unique special features, and safety, not matched by the competition. The XLR traces its roots to the Evoq concept car. Cadillac stunned the automotive world with the audacious Evoq, unveiled at the 1999 Detroit Auto Show. The XLR is a contemporary expression of Cadillac's heritage of landmark design and advanced technology. Inspired by stealth fighter design, XLR takes the ongoing product-driven resurgence of Cadillac-led by the Escalade SUV and CTS sedan-to an entirely new level. Bold and edgy, yet elegant and refined, the XLR's lnear, crisp design creates a dramatic presence and modern icon for luxury and performance. Yet it still pays tribute to the marque's rich history. The XLR's strong grille, for example, harkens back to Cadillac's heritage but expresses itself in a new way. The front fascia is also highlighted with vertical HID headlights, projector beam lights, and Daylight Running Lamps behind clear lens. The lower bumper contains a wide, centered air-intake, and powerful fog lamps at the sides. From the side you see a steeply raked windshield, flared front and rear fenders, seamless doors with shaved handles, aero-styled heated/self-dimming, remote powered sideview mirrors, and lower rocker panel extensions. The rear features big, vertical LED brake/tail lamps, big backup lamps inside the license plate surround, and peering under the center of the big rear bumper are 4-chrome tipped oval exhaust pipes that ring out with a throaty yet refined sound.

The XLR offers the ultimate convenience of a retractable hard top. Compared to soft-top convertibles, a retractable hardtop is quieter with the top up, more secure and more visually pleasing. Car Top Systems (CTS) GmbH of Germany, the renowned designer of many of the world's top-rated convertibles, developed the XLR top. By pushing and holding a single button, the XLR can convert from coupe to open roadster in less than 30sec. The top assembly for the XLR is installed as a complete module, and contributes to the car's overall structure rigidity. The top structure is made of aluminum and magnesium with composite exterior panels, a heated glass backlight, and glass rear-quarter windows. When the top is down it fits neatly into the trunk but it does take up valuable storage space. With the top down there is about 6-in. of space from the back of the trunk to a divider but you have the entire width to lay things out if you have to. With the top up there is plenty of space for grocery bags, luggage, and golf clubs. The XLR's interior design epitomizes contemporary luxury. Unique eucalyptus wood is found on the door pulls, center console, steering wheel and stick shifter, while striking aluminum accents on the door panels and center stack that combine to provide a luxurious and inviting environment. The power tilting/telescoping, aluminum faced, wood and leather wrapped steering wheel feels fantastic in your hands plus the wheel's two spokes contain buttons that operate the audio system, and trip computer.

You also have the only 'heads-up' display featured in a luxury sports car. You can control where the screen appears and how bright you want the information reflected onto the windshield. It is real important because you don't have to take your eyes off the road to know your current speed, radio station selected, low fuel, turn signals, if on, and gear selected in semi-manual mode. The unique, one-of-a-kind instrument cluster was designed by world famous Italian jewelry designer Bvlgari. All buttons, dials and levers are within easy reach and fully illuminated for safe nighttime driving. The XLR's leather, high-back bucket seats are 8-way powered with power lumbar support, and are heated and cooled in the back and the cushion. A 7 in. color touch screen mounted in the upper center console gives driver and passenger access to DVD navigation, a 9-speaker, world-class Bose audio system with 6-CD in-dash changer, digital signal processing modes, plus the Bose speaker system features tweeters on each side of the seat back headrests.

One of the XLR's foremost convenience features is Keyless Access. Keyless Access makes XLR a truly 'keyless' car. A driver can simply keep the fob in a pocket or purse to operate the doors, trunk and ignition. The fob communicates with the XLR's computer control system via radio antennas under the car's bodywork. The system is intuitive and hassle free. The XLR is the world's first luxury sports car with no door handles, the doors are opened by touching a pad located in openings at the rearward edges of each door. Once the pad is pressed, the doors unlock and open if fob is within a 1-meter radius. To open the doors from the inside is a small eucalyptus faced push button placed next to the door pull. There is a lever on the floor next to each door for emergency opening in the event of an accident and electrical failure.

To operate the ignition the driver presses a button on the instrument panel. The same button is pressed to stop the engine. As a safety feature the engine will not start unless the fob is in the car and the brake pedal is depressed. No other luxury car manufacturer has both shaved doors with electro-mechanical actuators to pop-open the doors, and a push-button start. Other XLR features include power express down/up windows/power door locks, dual-zone electronically controlled climate settings located just below the 7in. color screen, electro-chromic rearview mirror, flip-out storage pockets in each door, locking glove box, thick pile carpeting, theater lighting, variable speed wipers/washers with headlamp washers, and a sonar based rear- backup assist with beeps and has warning lights inside to let you know when an object is detected when backing up. The XLR is one of the few cars on the market with Adaptive Cruise Control that uses a radar sensor mounted at the front of the car to detect objects in its path. If the lane ahead is clear, the system will maintain the set speed, just like conventional cruise control. When a vehicle is detected in the same lane in front of the car, the system will adjust vehicle speed to help maintain a constant following distance, set by the driver. It is so much fun not only driving the XLR but also enjoying the unique and luxurious features found inside the car. Keeping you safe inside the XLR are front and rear crush zones, a very strong, hydro-formed frame, steel beams in each door, front and side airbags, 3-point safety belts with pretensioners and load limiters, Daylight Running Lights, quicker acting LED brake lights, low tire pressure monitor for all four-tires, and thick safety hoops behind the rear seatbacks. If you find yourself in need of help, like if you lock yourself out, you can call and have ONSTAR electronically unlock the doors or answer any questions that you might have by just touching the ONSTAR button for hands free, instant communication.

What can I say, there is lots to tell about this fabulous all new Cady. The XLR is one of the best looking, best performing, most luxurious and safe of any 2-seat luxury retractable hardtop sports car on the market. The XLR is a step up for Cadillac as it continues on it's path to re-establish itself as one of the world's greatest luxury marque's. The price is steep but it is worth it if you can afford the $75,385.00 price. Have some fun, test drive the all-new XLR at your nearest Cadillac dealer. I enjoyed it, every second. © All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz

For more information on Cadillac products, go to More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2004 Cadillac XLR Price: $75,385.00 Engine type: 4.6 liter DOHC 32-valve, V8 with aluminum alloy block and heads with VVT Horsepower: 320 hp at 6,400 rpm Torque: 310 lb.ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/rear-wheel drive Transmission type: five-speed electronically controlled automatic overdrive rear-mounted transmission with semi-manual shift mode, performance algorithm shifting and performance algorithm lift foot. Front suspension: Independent double-wishbone with aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse mounted composite leaf springs, electronically controlled monotube shocks, anti-roll bar Rear suspension: Independent double-wishbone with aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse mounted composite leaf springs, electronically controlled monotube shocks, anti-roll bar Wheels and tires: 18x8 in. polished aluminum alloy wheels, P235/50R18 Michelin ZP Extended Mobility (run flat) tires Brakes: Front: 12.8 in. power-assisted vented disc Rear: 12.0 in. power-assisted vented disc 4-channel/4-sensor ABS Overall length: 177.7 in. Overall width: 72.3 in. Overall height: 50.4 in. Curb weight: 3,647 lbs. EPA mileage estimates: 17 mpg/city, 25 mpg/highway 0-60: 5.8 sec. 60-0 mph: 114 ft.

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