Cadillac XLR-V Review

cadillac xlr v review

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 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.

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  • Jlmartin99 Jlmartin99 on Nov 08, 2007

    Greetings Phil, Very wekk said and I purchased a Cadillac XLR and most recently reviewed Cadillac's XLR-V and Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG which were my final two candidates for purchase. I happen to adore Chevrolet's Corvette/Z06, Porsche 911 and reviewed these as consideration for purchase. Simply said, these are world class sports cars. I thought that was what I wanted when I started, but as I reviewed luxury GTs, I found myself wanting these designed cars, fitting my requirements the best. That is where Cadillac's XLR/XLR-V and Mercedes-Benz's SL550/SL55 AMG became my ultimate luxury performance roadsters of choice, with Cadillac's XLR/XLR-V as my selected luxury performance roadster. Cadillac has created something very special in the XLR/XLR-V worthy of world class status. In my view this takes nothing away from Corvette in that they are designed for different sports car buyers. In my case, Cadillac's XLR/XLR-V simply is the very best sports car for my requirements in the world, bar none. JLM

  • Mhs Mhs on Jul 27, 2008

    I've owned an XLR-V for about 15 months. Not that this may matter to anyone, but I have to mention this warranty. It is different than with the XLR. They break their back taking care of me. They get me into service ahead of other people in line. I actually felt a little guilty the last time. I also own a 2007 Corvette Z06, though I've owned that for a very short time. With neither car would I be inclined to take turns (in normally bad South Florida traffic) where I need better seat support. My father has a Mercedes CL63 (which did get a good writeup here), and I can see the difference in the seats, and where the complaint is coming from. But that Mercedes is more than twice the price. One can get a deal on the XLR-V, but not so on the CL63. That is part of the appeal. Do not compare cars with similar MSRPs. Compare cars with actual prices which are similar. For the $70k that I paid, I do not see a Mercedes which compares. And as indicated by the CL63 purchase, we are not closed-mindedly against Mercedes in general. But the SL series (which compares to the XLR-V) sure is commonplace. In comparison, I see (with discomfort) that people often approach my parked car and do a 360. People start conversations at gas stations. In South Florida, it seems like everybody is generally unfriendly, so it's odd for people to behave this way. On more than 1 occasion, I've had to ask the person inspecting the car to excuse me so that I can get into it. I have delayed returning to my car so that I would not have to interact with the person inspecting it. At the grocery store, a Publix employee (an older one) scared the hell out of me by sticking her head into my open passenger window to tell my that it (either my convertible top's action or the car itself) was the coolest thing she'd ever seen. Other people (yes plural) have stopped dead while walking to watch the top move. As if they've never seen a hardtop convertible. This is not our first nice car. But I've never seen reactions like this. And my car is plain old unobtrusive black, and not some attention-getting color. That CL63 with its 20 inch rims, AMG emblems, and chrome on black doesn't get as much attention. We also have the Lexus SC430 and I've never seen someone stop to watch that top's action. So much of the car's appeal is the coolness factor. The 443 horsepower is not bad, but it's nothing impressive in today's automotive world. Two different people told me that it reminds them of the batmobile. I don't see it, but again, I'm only addressing how it compares to the ubiquitous Mercedes SL and Lexus SC430 hardtop convertibles. It's all personal preference. And some incarnations of the batmobile were, after all, rather bad. Yes there are negatives. Wind noise is bad with the top down at highway speed, but they do make a screen for that. I felt it was over-priced. I really didn't like the interior at first, and I still don't love it. But it grew on me. I like the Lexus and Mercedes interior better, but I think that Cadillac was shooting for understated. Most people are not taking this car on the track, and I doubt that the seats will be inadequate for them either. The trunk space? If you want more, put the top up. That's the beauty, its versatility. And I doubt that the Lexus is much better when both tops are down. Unknown about the Mercedes. The top? Well it is inefficient. The Lexus is much better designed. Less moving parts. Less to go wrong. Quicker. But I don't think that the goal was a quick, efficient up and down maneuver. And when the rain comes quickly, and the traffic light is about the change, that quickness is what you want. But most of the time, it's enjoyable to watch the dance as the top does it's thing. Spectators seem to agree. I have never had to do a panic stop, but from what I've read about the specifications, it's braking is a little disappointing despite it's relatively lower weight and corvette-based brakes. And this is where I much prefer the Z06. But as repeatedly pointed out, it's apples and oranges. The runflat tires. Yes they suck in certain respects. But they're also on the Z06, and maybe even the Lexus. I forget. Heck, the Mini-Cooper S often have them. So even performance cars and German go-carts are seen to benefit from the convenience and mental comfort. Despite the negatives, I would put them on any car I owned if it did not already come factory. But if you want performance and better ride, one can easily change them out. In the forums I can see that Z06 owners often do. Of the two, I prefer the XLR-V to the Z06. 505 horsepower? 443? Whatever. Either one is good enough. If memory serves, the XLR-V somehow matches a 500 horsepower Ford GT500 in a 0-60 sprint, and that's quick enough. So what if a Z06 can smoke the same Mustang. I'm too old for that. When I've had bad day and want to light up the tires off a light, the Cadillac will do fine. Plus the XLR-V is unique, whereas the Z06 looks pretty similar to the standard Corvette. In sum, the car gets looks without making the owner seems like they're trying to get attention. It's the opposite of a car with pickle jar exhausts and fake intakes. And it is also a sleeper, because the attention that it gets has nothing to do with it's performance. I doubt that the average person would know what it can do, since even the "supercharged" emblems are smallish and only on the sides. If not already clear, I recommend it. But it's like Rocky Road vs. Vanilla ice cream. Most everybody likes Vanilla at least a little. Whereas Rock Road is maybe too different, and people will love or hate it.

  • DenverMike Pininfarina I know it's not related to this, I just like saying it.
  • Matt Posky I don't understand the appeal of fake meat and this seems to operate under a similar premise: You don't want the V8 because someone says it's bad for you. But you can have something designed to mimic the experience because that's what your body actually wants. The styling is cool I guess. But I don't understand why EVs don't just lean into what they are. Companies can make them produce any wooshing or humming noises they want. Buiding an entire system to help you pretend it still has a combustion engine seems a little lame.
  • DenverMike I'm sure it would have a volume control. It's nice to sneak into my neighborhood at 2am quietly. Or creep out, 4am. I don't get much sleep OK, but I always keep my V8 exhaust stock, as much as I love the sound of others loud. My stereo would make it pointless anyway.
  • FreedMike I’d love to see more tracks, or off-road parks if that’s your jam. But for those of us who’d love to take part in this kind of thing, practicality is the limiting factor. Racing has always been expensive, and most people don’t want to do it with their daily drivers - I’d love to see what my GLI would do on a track, but not at the cost of voiding my warranty, or potentially wrapping up the car (which I’m pretty sure would put me on State Farm’s Keith Moon-trashing-the-Holiday Inn list). As a practical matter, you have to have a vehicle that is intended to be used for racing, and the ability to fix it; most folks don’t have that kind of money or skill set.
  • Dukeisduke Oh, so it *is* a hatchback. Last night, I watched the replay of the reveal with Tim Kuniskis presenting the car, on Instagram. A "fly-through" of the car on the pre-rollout video made it look like they were going through an open hatch, so it had me wondering. The car attracted a lot of negative comments on IG, on feeds of guys who were there live.This is probably the least "electric car" electric car.