What's New for 2006
The XLR receives adaptive front headlamps, a first for Cadillac. Also new this year is standard XM Satellite Radio with a hidden antenna and redesigned wood treatment around the center stack.
Slowly but surely, Cadillac is effectively changing its image from a company that builds stodgy, old people's cars to a brand that offers exclusivity, style and a little attitude. If the Cadillac XLR can't drive that point home, maybe nothing can. While the XLR has it roots in the Evoq concept first shown at the 1999 North American Auto Show, its spiritual substance may date a little farther back than five years.
Cadillac's failed Allante convertible was by most counts a reasonably good car -- at the very least it was a step in the right direction. When the Allante really hit its stride in 1993, incorporating the then-new Northstar engine, GM killed it. The XLR can only be seen as the spiritual successor to the Allante, but this time Cadillac has pulled no punches in terms of power, style and features. The XLR shares the same basic platform as the sixth-generation Chevrolet Corvette. Normally, carmakers are eager to distance themselves from the platform-sharing formula, but with the XLR, Cadillac seems almost proud to hint at the car's roots. The company calls it a luxury roadster with performance car roots -- and who can blame it?
The Cadillac XLR is built alongside the C6 'Vette, but don't think of it as a gussied-up Corvette, rather think of the 'Vette as a slightly more aggressive XLR. Cadillac engineers utilized aluminum and magnesium composites to insure the XLR didn't turn into a bloated behemoth. Many suspension components are made of aluminum, and special composite body panels help keep the weight down. The XLR also offers cutting-edge technology like Magnetic Ride Control, an adaptive suspension system that provides nearly instantaneous response to changing road surfaces and driver inputs.
In actuality, the 2006 Cadillac XLR is no match for the Mercedes-Benz SL500 when pushed hard in turns, but it competes favorably with softer luxury roadsters like the Jaguar XK8 and Lexus SC 430. With liberal doses of style, technology and performance packed into such a small package, the XLR's premium price shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, but it does push Cadillac into previously uncharted territory. At almost $80,000, the 2006 Cadillac XLR is squarely in the territory of the high-dollar imports. Although its performance and interior furnishings aren't good enough for a run at the leadership, Cadillac's roadster is a solid entry in its class and worth a look if you want to pull up to the valet circle in something a little different.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Cadillac XLR is available as a two-door, two-seat roadster only. Its retractable hardtop is power-operated and goes from open to closed in about 30 seconds. Virtually every luxury feature comes standard, including a navigation system, traction control, stability control, adaptive high-intensity discharge headlights, rear parking sensors, headlamp washers, dual-zone climate control, a 250-watt sound system with an in-dash CD changer and a 7-inch touchscreen for driver information, entertainment and navigation system control. The XLR boasts an upscale cabin complete with Eucalyptus wood trim and aluminum accents in addition to leather seating.
Powertrains and Performance
The XLR comes with an advanced 4.6-liter Northstar V8 that uses variable valve timing and a low restriction intake to generate 320 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. To insure the noise from all that power stays under the hood, Cadillac developed a new acoustic engine cover that also gives the engine bay a perfectly finished look. Using a modified version of the five-speed automatic transmission found in the CTS sedan, the XLR offers both a shift-it-yourself feature and a fully automatic mode. The transmission is mounted in the rear to help achieve proper weight distribution.
The Cadillac XLR comes with a host of safety features, most designed to keep the car from getting into an accident in the first place. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes and stability control are standard, as are side airbags. Because the XLR is a two-seater, the passenger-side front airbag can be switched off to accommodate children in safety seats.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the Cadillac XLR aims for simple elegance. Clean-looking but certainly not bland, the XLR's interior is modern and warm. Standard features include such gee-whiz technology as a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, a voice-activated DVD navigation system, heated and cooled seats plus optional XM radio and a Bose audio system. The touchscreen is mounted high in the center stack and helps keep the dash uncluttered by eliminating the need for numerous single-use buttons.
As fast as the XLR is when pushed, those expecting a Corvette in Cadillac's clothing will be disappointed. Not only does the Cadillac XLR return less enthusiastic responses to the throttle than its corporate cousin, its soft suspension tuning results in considerable body roll during hard cornering and plenty of nose dive under heavy braking. Magnetic Ride Control shocks are standard equipment, but even with their split-second adjustability, the XLR still feels less willing to tackle the turns than an SL. An overly large steering wheel makes it feel all the more ponderous, but at least the level of steering assist isn't overly aggressive. Acceleration is excellent and the sound of the V8 at full throttle is as good or better than anything in its class. At highway speeds wind buffeting is intrusive with the top down, but not so much that it deters from the XLR's otherwise exemplary all-around performance.