What's New for 2008
For 2008, the Cadillac XLR-V adds a standard heated steering wheel and a new Alpine White Edition option package.
Cadillac's efforts to re-establish itself among the world's best automakers have met with encouraging results. Recent years have seen a return to rear-wheel drive and, as a result, two solid-performing sport sedans, a surprisingly athletic crossover SUV and the image-building XLR roadster. However, Cadillac decided its intent to compete with the top European brands would only be clear if it built a wickedly fast version of its highest offering -- one with blistering performance, head-turning looks and maybe a six-figure price to match. Enter the Cadillac XLR-V.
As in Cadillac's other V-series offerings, the "V" in 2008 Cadillac XLR-V signals a generous helping of velocity-biased hardware. Under the hood sits a hand-built 4.4-liter V8 that's been supercharged to the tune of 443 horsepower. It's complemented by firmer suspension tuning and upgraded brakes. Visual cues like 19-inch wheels, a mesh grille and quad exhaust tips clearly signal that this is no ordinary XLR.
For the most part, the Corvette-based XLR-V delivers on its performance promises. Its acceleration will leave several luxury roadsters behind, and the roadster's angular shape still looks distinctive. However, some aspects of the drive leave us cold, such as the vague steering and handling that, while impressive, fails to measure up to the extraordinarily high standards of this class. We also have mixed feelings about the XLR-V's interior. Some materials are appropriately rich, yet others seem quite average, and the cockpit doesn't fit drivers of all heights.
Competition in this class includes such accomplished roadsters as the Mercedes SL-Class, Porsche 911 Cabriolet and Jaguar XKR, as well as the four-seat BMW M6 convertible. Of these, the Porsche offers the most visceral drive; the Mercedes, the best combination of luxury, style and performance, specifically in AMG form. The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V is an interesting domestic alternative and may even turn more heads than the other cars, but if it were our 100 grand, we'd take the Porsche or the Benz.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V is a two-seat luxury roadster. Its retractable hardtop turns the body from a closed coupe to wide-open convertible in under 30 seconds. Nearly every imaginable luxury feature comes standard, including a nine-speaker Bose stereo (with satellite radio), OnStar telematics, a navigation system, keyless start, xenon headlights, adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel with power tilt and telescope adjustments, a head-up display and rear park assist.
In fact, the XLR-V's comprehensive equipment list leaves room for only a pair of options: the Alpine White Edition (which features its namesake's exterior hue along with chrome wheels) and chrome wheels. Just like the standard wheels, the chrome versions are 19 inches in diameter and are wrapped in 235/45 front rubber and wider 255/40 rear treads. All XLR-Vs have leather and suede upholstery and real wood interior accents.
Powertrains and Performance
A supercharged 4.4-liter V8 sends 443 hp and 414 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. Power is channeled through a six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift capability. Cadillac claims the XLR-V can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, which would put it more than a full second ahead of the standard XLR.
Antilock disc brakes, traction control and stability control are all standard. As in all convertibles of this ilk, the XLR-V's side airbags inflate to protect both the head and torso.
Interior Design and Special Features
The cockpit of the XLR-V offers much to like. Its design is mostly simple even with all the state-of-the-art technology. Furthermore, the leather is supple, the wood convincing and build quality solid. However, we find the XLR-V's cockpit less appealing in light of the car's price. The switchgear lacks aesthetic appeal, and some trim pieces have a tacked-on appearance. As in many cars of GM origin, too many functions have been crammed onto the turn-signal stalk. In addition, the steering wheel's a bit large for our tastes, and the limited rearward seat travel may cramp taller drivers.
With a jump of 123 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque over the standard XLR, the 2008 Cadillac XLR-V is vastly more responsive. Push on the right pedal and the XLR-V catapults forth on a wave of supercharged torque. Even with its firmer suspension setup, though, the XLR-V is still tuned for a balanced approach between ride and handling, which means it's softer than many rivals. This attribute, combined with a rather heavy and numb steering setup, makes this performance roadster feel a little out of its element on winding roads.
However, in normal driving, the XLR-V feels swift and stable. Cowl shake is nearly nonexistent, and the V8 sounds terrific. Wind buffeting can get somewhat intrusive with the top down, but the XLR-V is whisper-quiet with its top up.