A commentator named Peakay recently posed a pointed question: “Do you guys like anything?” While there are plenty of positive reviews hereabouts, I understand Peakey’s frustration. When ttac.com publishes a rash of reviews describing nasty looking, badly built, dynamically dim-witted vehicles, the negativity eats away at this car lover’s soul. Which made the prospect of reviewing the Cadillac XLR-V a daunting proposition. I really wanted to like this car.
Walking up to the XLR-V did nothing to dampen my anticipation, and much to increase it. The roadster is the only Caddy that doesn’t wear the brand’s “Art and Science” motif like an aging prostitute sporting a K-Mart pants suit. The XLR-V’s creased fiberglass strikes the perfect balance between edgy aggression and proportional elegance. The model-specific hood strakes and wire mesh grill add welcome wickedness to a minimalist masterpiece.
This is one of the few convertibles that sings the same siren song whether the lid’s fitted or flipped. With the hardtop deployed, the XLR-V offers more chop top chic than Chrysler’s gangsta 300C. With the top down, it’s sexy enough to run with ze Germans and Jags of the world. Either way, the XLR-V is confidently Cadillac, without resorting to Elvis-era clichés (although the taillight design pokes fun at the whole fin thing). If only the other Caddies had such great bones.
I’d like to say I walked up to the XLR-V and discovered one of the smoothest paint jobs you’ll find outside of Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance. I’d like to say that the XLR-V’s trunk hinges were free from duct taped wiring and an exposed fuse, and that the teeny tiny little trunk (sausage shaped and smaller than ONE of the Boxster’s boots) wasn’t covered in the same rat fur blighting last week’s DTS. Unfortunately, the XLR-V put OCD boy right back in bean counted Hell.
Damn my eyes! Niggling little faults I wouldn’t even think to check in a Mercedes SL clamored for my attention. The driver’s portal slammed shut with a resounding thunk– and the panel housing the window switches vibrated independently of the door. The disappearing tin top performed an artful ballet– with all the jerkiness of an arthritis sufferer tying his shoes. The Zingana (son of Zebrano?) wood surrounding the shifter was silken to the touch– and looked like a faded panel from my parent’s old rec room.
Although iPoditude and Bluetoothedness are MIA, there are toys aplenty, including a way cool head-up display. Still, there’s no getting around it: the XLR-V’s interior is a little, um, cheap. The plastic speedo bezel emblazoned Bulgari is more airport duty free than Fifth Avenue swank. The material surrounding the vents is ew-inducing. How much would it have cost to upgrade the convertible’s cabin materials, or provide some chairs with a bit more lateral bolstering than a La-Z-Boy recliner?
Cadillac apologists are free to deploy the old Ferrari defense: Caddy sells you an engine and throws in the car for free. Even before the supercharger kicks in, it’s clear the XLR-V’s 443-horse 4.4-liter Northstar V8 is a serous torquemeister. Tickle the go-pedal and the big Caddy gently kneels on your lower back. Floor it and mayhem is your co-pilot. The XLR-V accelerates from zero to sixty in 4.6 seconds and hits the quarter in 13. Do you believe in muscle cars Miss Turner? WELL YOU’RE IN ONE.
This much is clear the moment you throw the 4000lbs. drop top into some curves. With 19” rubber and Magnetic Ride Control at all four corners, the XLR-V stays flat, level and griptastic deep into lateral G-land. But unless the pavement is glassine, confidence is low. Over broken pavement, the XLR-V has no natural handling fluency whatsoever. You could just wrestle the beast around the bends (in the great muscle car tradition)– if those support challenged seats didn’t make it such a supremely uncomfortable exercise.
Better then, to just stunt and floss and drag race from time to time. And believe me, I’m down with that. The XLR-V is a bit rough around the edges and it ain’t no sports car, but the hardtop drop top looks like a genuine Cadillac and goes like Hell. What's more, the XLR-V has an X-factor, an appeal that can't be measured or rationalized. If only it cost $25k less.
Yes, there is that. At $100k all-in, the most expensive Cadillac ever is a joke. The similarly-priced Mercedes SL550 is better-looking, better-built, better-handling, far more practical (its trunk is cavernous in comparison), offers less at-speed top down turbulence, doesn’t depreciate like a stone thrown into a deep dark well and isn’t that much slower.
Cadillac should have priced the XLR-V lower or pulled-out all the stops and built a world beater. They did neither and paid the price. (Which is more than you can say for their potential consumers.) That said, I can understand those few hundred people who bought an XLR-V. It's another GM "almost car," but it IS a Cadillac.