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 Tue, Apr 26, 2005
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By JOHN GRAFMAN
For me, this story starts way back in the time known as The Eighties. Growing up, I spent countless hours driving my parents' Cadillacs. From the monster size Sedan DeVille de Elegance to the more user-friendly Eldorado, those Cadillacs had Caddy styling, Caddy handling, Caddy braking. At that point in time, those attributes were what defined the term Land Yacht.
Back then, there were two brands in the area that signified luxury, Cadillac and Lincoln. Well, there were the odd Mercedes and such, but the domestic manufacturers were still the dominant players back then.
Today's Cadillac is worlds apart from those land yachts. And the brand is all the better for it. While the other car companies have been improving their wares, Cadillac wowed the world with its Evoq concept car. It had all the trappings of the best that Europe had and threw it back in their face. The Evoq was the avant-garde in Cadillac's battle to regain its former glory.
The concept spawned the XLR that has made its way to our press pool. None of the flair was lost along the way. While it retains all of the style and performance we could hope for, the car became a product of the initial design compromises - for better or worse.
To my surprise, I like the styling of this two-seater. Ordinarily, I lean toward a much more organic looking, jellybean feel than the folded paper origami shapes, but this is a catchy design. I have tried to identify just why I like this so much, and perhaps it's due to the smallish size, the balance proportions, or the wedginess of the form. Perhaps the similar surfaces reflect the stealth fighter, which is certainly one of the benchmarks in man's conquest of motion. Clearly though, the XLR isn't mistaken for any other car on the road. Period.
Although the XLR has been available since 2003, they are not seen in the same numbers as the Mercedes SL products in the Southern California coastal communities. Consequently, the Cadillac captures more attention than many other high-end machines. Not being in the mainstream does have a distinct advantage.
A push of the button changes the tight quarters of the XLR into an even cleaner shaped roadster. The activation takes about thirty seconds, a few moments longer than some other cars. Although this results in a complex set of motions, it's worth the wait. Gawking on-lookers have enough time to become mesmerized in the seeming impossible actions being performed before their very eyes. The finale is reached when the trunk closes with a thump. It's a little heavy-handed, but it's also reassuring that it seals completely.
Once the top is stowed, the world becomes a much more inviting adventure behind the wheel of the Cadillac XLR. There is a certain communion with the world around you that only a convertible can instill. The capabilities of the vehicle do bring a feeling of vast superiority over the natural world, as we know it. The only thing the XLR isn't able to do is fly. This car is so fast. If it had wings, it probably could!
One item that catches my eye right off the bat is the strange front fender panel section aft of the front wheel that terminates at the leading edge of the door. I notice the strange reflection and move in for a closer inspection. As it turns out, the section of the fender is bowed outward and then tapers back in the last few millimeters in to meet the door. I am not sure why it's necessary. It's really a sore spot in an otherwise outstanding design.
The interior continues the crisp, folded paper look. What works on the exterior doesn't resonate as strongly with me on the interior. But it still maintains the Cadillac identity. There is no confusion as to who makes this. I just never feel at home with some of the plastic material GM utilizes. The patterned metal panels have been commented on in other vehicles by other publications for appearing to lack elegance. Nevertheless, the metal really isn't bothersome to me. Eucalyptus wood trim is there to remind us that this isn't a Chevy. The dark wood does an admirable job of lending a sense of luxury to this. Luxury autos themselves might be harder to distinguish these days as many mid level vehicles offer many of the refinements that had only recently been associated with upscale autos.
I am addicted to the Keyless Access with push button starting. This is one of those features that I adapt to like a duck to water. In the Cadillac, I just keep the key in my pocket and the car recognizes my proximity. Once the XLR is aware of my approach, the doors unlock upon a tug of the door handle and the ignition is just a simple push of an illuminated dash button. I did have trouble rotating back to the world of everyday cars. I am constantly trying to open and start the cars without a key!
Another feature that surprises me, that other luxury car companies don't integrate in their products more often, is the Heads Up Display (HUD). The HUD reflects an image into the windshield in front of the driver, usually pertinent info like the speedometer. In a car that can move so fast and smooth, keeping an eye on the speed is not a bad idea at all. On start up, the HUD gives a momentary welcome graphic display that does feel unique, much like the XLR is.
In a quest for features that are a notch above the fray, the Cadillac does have the HUD ace up its sleeve. I hope more of this will be available in the future. Anything can be a distraction when driving, but at least the driver is forced to look at road ahead while using the HUD. This is a better solution than some of the overly busy on-screen systems others use.
The Cadillac uses an onboard monitor, but the fact that it is a touch screen does alleviate some of the trouble in operating the functions. Actually, the biggest problem comes from sun glare. Naturally, I briefly think about closing the top, but that deranged thought was soon extradited from my head. After all, the whole point of a convertible is to have the top down.
The standard fare on this includes the Bose audio system with in-dash six-CD changer and DVD Navigation and voice recognition. Run-flat tires with a tire monitoring system eliminate any concern over stopping in the middle of the night to change a tire, and relieves the manufacturer from having to package a spare. Heated and cooled eight-way power seats with lumbar adjustment are included. Other nicites are adaptive cruise control and high-intensity discharge headlights, ultra-sonic rear park assist and GM's well-renowned OnStar system.
Now with all of these goodies in a eye catching car that is certainly plenty fast, and a GPS system more than capable of keeping even Mr. Magoo from taking a wrong turn and lastly an audio system good enough to be on MTV's Pimp My Ride, what should I do? Road trip!
Road trip it is. Stop! It seems I forgot one crucial element in any trip - packing. The bombshell: With the top safely stowed away in the trunk, there isn't even enough additional room in the rear for even a briefcase! A purse just might fit - barely. Now I could hit the trail with the top upright and gear in the rear, but what sense does that make. If I have to have the top up, I may as well be in a coupe and not a convertible. If I can locate additional space behind the seats or even a little room in the glove box I can find some hope. But road trips evidently are not on the mission statement for this machine.
As a commuter car without any practical long-range destination as part of the agenda, I am still keenly fond of many aspects of the XLR. Taking all the go-fast goodies from the Corvette is what makes this Cadillac magic. Blowing the doors off nearly all other cars on the road and out-handling almost all of them as well is good enough reason to love this. While the ride is sports car firm, the Magnetic Ride Control suspension is able to produce an exceptionally compliant ride in circumstances that are less than perfect. The XLR effectively outperforms all prior Cadillac offerings.
Identifying what this isn't is rather a simple affair. It isn't a family hauler, land yacht, or a vacation transport. Without many of the normal Cadillac's traits, some might have trouble understanding what this really is. With the images of what a Cadillac conjures up in my mind, the XLR is a bold move forward.
This is the Cadillac of sports cars. Shocking isn't it?
For more information please go to www.cadillac.com
Price:Base $75,835, as tested $76,650
Engine type:Northstar 4.6L V-8 VVT (variable valve timing) DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, four-cam continuously variable valve timing
Horsepower:320 @ 6400
Torque:310 @ 4400
Drive configuration:Front engine / rear-wheel drive
Transmission type:Hydra-Matic 5L50-E rear-wheel drive, electronically controlled 5-speed automatic with torque converter clutch and Driver Shift Control
Suspension:Front: short/long arm (SLA) double wishbone, cast aluminum upper & lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite leaf spring, Magnetic Ride Control Rear: Progressive air springs, Continuous Damping Control 4 settings, adjustable Ride Height Control, Lowers automatically at sustained high speeds. High manually selectable at lower speeds
Wheels and tires:Front: Spun-cast aluminum, 18" x 8" Michelin Extended Mobility ZPP235/50R18 Rear: Spun-cast aluminum, 18" x 8" Michelin Extended Mobility ZPP235/50R18
Brakes:Front: Discs 12.8" x 1.3"diameter Rear: Discs 12.0" x 1.0"diameter
Power-assisted disc with 4-channel ABS
Overall length: 177.7" Overall width: 72.3" Overall height: 50.4Curb weight (lbs.): 3,647
EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway:17/25