After an absence for more than a decade, a two-passenger sports car joins the Cadillac lineup for 2004. Named the XLR, the new retractable-hardtop coupe gives Cadillac an elite luxury roadster with a performance-oriented chassis and structure. Its styling reaches back to the Evoq concept car that toured auto shows starting in 1999. Cadillac’s last two-seater was the Allante, which was produced from 1987 to 1993.
An all-new 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 VVT (variable valve timing) engine goes into the XLR, which the manufacturer calls the lightest, most powerful vehicle in its class. Cadillac promotes the “harmonious blend of technologies and materials meant to add pleasure, not complexity, to the driving experience.” The list of technical features includes a head-up display, radar-operated adaptive cruise control and GM’s StabiliTrak electronic stability system. Magnetic Ride Control provides magnetic-fluid-based real-time damping via signals from four wheel-to-body sensors. Keyless Access with push-button start-up permits true no-key operation. For safety’s sake, the engine will not start unless the remote fob is in the car and the driver is pushing the brake pedal.
Cadillac claims the XLR has the longest wheelbase, widest track, lowest height and most horsepower in the luxury roadster class, which includes the Jaguar XJ8, Lexus SC 430 and Mercedes-Benz SL500. The XLR went on sale in the summer of 2003.
Cadillac says the XLR was inspired by a stealth fighter design and serves as “a contemporary expression of Cadillac’s heritage of landmark design and advanced technology.” The coupe’s linear appearance displays hints of the marque’s history. The strong grille harks back to the past, but with a modern expression. The XLR’s vertical headlights are part of Cadillac’s current design philosophy.
The XLR’s weight distribution is virtually 50/50, helped by the rear-mounted transmission. Cadillac says the coupe’s steel hydroformed frame rails couple with an aluminum cockpit structure and balsa-cored composite flooring to provide “rigidity without bulk.” Transverse-mounted composite leaf springs are installed at the front and rear and use a double-wishbone suspension setup at each corner. Michelin ZP tires feature run-flat technology that eliminates the need for a spare tire.
Built on a 105.7-inch wheelbase, the XLR is 177.7 inches long overall and stands 50.4 inches tall. The retractable hardtop, which was developed by Car Top Systems GmbH of Germany, converts the coupe into an open roadster in less than 30 seconds, when the driver presses and holds a single button. The top structure is made of aluminum and magnesium and features composite exterior panels, a heated glass window and glass rear-quarter windows.
Two occupants fit into the XLR’s luxurious interior, which is highlighted with eucalyptus wood and aluminum accents. The seatbacks and cushions are both heated and cooled. The gauges were designed in conjunction with Bvlgari of Italy. The DVD navigation and entertainment system works with a 7-inch screen in the upper center console and operates only when the gear selector is in Park. A nine-speaker Bose audio system includes an in-dash six-CD changer. An XM Satellite Radio and GM’s OnStar communication system are also standard. Trunk capacity is 11.6 cubic feet with the top up, and that figure dips to 4.4 cubic feet when the roof is retracted.
Under the Hood
A 4.6-liter dual-overhead-cam Northstar V-8 engine with variable valve timing and four valves per cylinder produces 320 hp at 6,400 rpm and 310 pounds-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. Premium fuel is required. The sole transmission is a rear-mounted five-speed automatic with Driver Shift Control and performance algorithm shifting. This is the first longitudinal application of Cadillac’s Northstar engine.
Side-impact head and thorax airbags are contained within the seats. The seat belts have powered pretensioners. Four-channel all-disc antilock brakes and traction control are standard.