What's New for 2008
The additions of an available Alpine White limited edition, optional chrome wheels and a newly standard heated steering wheel are the only changes to Cadillac's XLR roadster for 2008.
In a rather nifty commercial featuring music by Iggy Pop and the Teddy Bears, the 2008 Cadillac XLR roadster is presented as the latest in a long line of great Caddy coupes and convertibles. Of course, it's the first model to represent both categories thanks to its power-folding hardtop. But while the commercial proclaims "I'm a punk rocker, yes I am," the XLR's grand, eye-catching design practically screams "I'm a Cadillac" with thoroughly modern lines that pay homage to -- rather than copy -- all those that wore the Caddy crest in the past.
For better or worse, driving the XLR is more indicative of those past Cadillacs than it is of the Corvette it's based on. The 320-horsepower V8 is plenty powerful and the steering is precise, but even with its adjustable suspension, the XLR is more suitable for straight-line highway cruising than back-road athleticism. Those expecting a Vette in evening wear will be disappointed.
So, too, will those anticipating this Cadillac to match the interior quality and driving experience of its fellow $80,000 convertibles. Subsequently, unless the XLR's handsome looks and all-American pedigree strike a strong chord with you, we suggest focusing on the rather impressive list of competitors that includes the BMW 650i, Jaguar XK, Mercedes-Benz SL550 and Porsche 911 Cabriolet. The 2008 XLR may be the latest in a long line of fine Cadillacs, but in this price bracket, that's not necessarily enough.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Cadillac XLR is a luxury roadster that features a retractable hardtop. It is offered in base, Platinum Edition and Alpine White Edition trim levels. The base XLR comes with most of the luxury features you'd ever want, including 18-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tires, adaptive xenon HID headlights, eight-way power and heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, Bose audio (with satellite radio and a CD changer), OnStar, a navigation system, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition, adaptive cruise control and a head-up display.
The XLR Platinum Edition adds unique 15-spoke wheels, different wood and metallic cabin accents, special door sill plates, exclusive color choices and "Platinum" exterior badging. The Alpine White Edition isn't quite as grand (nor costly) as the Platinum, but comes attractively painted in its namesake and also features chrome wheels and grille. Chrome wheels are also available separately.
Powertrains and Performance
A muscular yet refined 4.6-liter V8 powers the XLR. A six-speed automatic (that allows manual-style shifting) sends the V8's 320 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. The XLR is a spirited performer, as the 0-60-mph dash takes less than 6 seconds, while high-speed running on the highway is hushed and effortless. Full-throttle shifts result in little hesitation, and the sound of the engine at full song is as good as or better than any V8 in its class. Braking performance is equally impressive, with a stop from 60 mph taking just 118 feet, and with no fade evident after successive panic stops.
Antilock disc brakes, run-flat tires and stability control are all standard, as are side airbags that offer head as well as thorax protection. Rear parking sensors are also included.
Interior Design and Special Features
While packed to the gills with high-tech luxury features, the 2008 Cadillac XLR fails to match the interior quality of similarly priced competitors that wear the badges of BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. Its soothing blend of soft leather, eucalyptus wood trim and aluminum trim are certainly inviting, but the plastics quality is below average for this lofty class and its design is a little too reminiscent of the outgoing first-generation CTS.
Still, this is a hardtop convertible, and as such, the XLR won't disappoint customers looking for a two-seater that can provide both a suntan and a quiet top-up highway ride. The trunk boasts a respectable 11.6 cubic feet of space when the top is up. Top down, however, that number drops to a more confining 4.4 cubic feet.
As fast as the 2008 Cadillac XLR is when pushed, those expecting a Corvette in a three-piece suit will be disappointed. Acceleration is certainly quick, but the XLR's soft suspension tuning results in noticeable body roll during hard cornering and plenty of nosedive under heavy braking. The 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 the more athletic Mercedes SL. On less serpentine roads, the XLR hits its stride, delivering an undisturbed ride with effortless, arrow-straight tracking afforded by the precise steering. At highway speeds, wind buffeting is somewhat intrusive with the top down, but not so much that it detracts from the XLR's otherwise enjoyable freeway ride.