New & Used Cadillac XLR: In Depth
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The Cadillac XLR was a luxury sports roadster based on the Chevrolet Corvette, but with a unique body, interior, and many exclusive features. The eye-catching shape, folding hardtop roof, head-up display, and Cadillac Northstar engine gave it a high-tech look and feel during its run from model years 2004-2009.
Introduced at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show, the XLR was built on the underpinnings of the fifth-generation Chevrolet Corvette just as the Corvette itself was updated to its sixth-generation form. Despite the slightly older architecture, the XLR's performance and styling kept it on pace with concurrent offerings from other luxury brands.
Read our full review of the last Cadillac XLR here.
The Cadillac XLR's standard engine was the 4.6-liter Northstar V-8, rated at 320 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. This was the first rear-drive implementation of the Northstar V-8 engine. Mated to a rear-mounted Hydra-Matic 5L50-E five-speed automatic transmission (replaced by a new six-speed automatic transmission from the 2006 XLR-V for the 2007 model year), the XLR offered near-50/50 weight balance for better handling dynamics.
Magnetic Ride Control was also standard on all XLRs, making it one of the first production vehicles in the world to use the magneto-rheological damper system. The electronically controlled shocks allowed real-time adjustments to maximize both handling and comfort.
Adaptive Cruise Control was also offered on the XLR, using a radar-based sensor to detect forward traffic and adjust speed downward if necessary.
Like any Cadillac, but perhaps especially so for this sporty model, the XLR was well-equipped in all forms. Heated and cooled seats were standard equipment, as was a 7-inch color touch-screen display, DVD navigation, a nine-speaker Bose sound system with six-disc in-dash CD changer, a head-up display, and more.
The high-performance XLR-V model was added in 2005 for the 2006 model year, bringing with it an upgraded 4.4-liter supercharged version of the Northstar V-8 engine rated at 443 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque. This new engine was also shared with the Cadillac STS-V. The XLR-V launched with a Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission, which added new electronic control features including Performance Algorithm Shifting, Performance Algorithm Liftfoot, and Driver Shift Control.
Other upgrades to the XLR platform for the XLR-V model included: recalibrated Magnetic Ride Control dampers; a larger front stabilizer bar, and addition of a rear stabilizer bar; larger brakes; stiffer suspension bushings; larger wheels and tires; a power steering fluid cooler; and a higher-capacity fuel pump. The XLR-V also received unique styling elements, including a polished wire-mesh grille; a domed hood to accommodate the supercharger; upgraded interior trim elements; and unique paint colors, among other tweaks.
Upon its introduction, the 3,650-pound XLR was the lightest among its competitive set, per General Motors--a group which included the Mercedes-Benz SL500, Jaguar XK8, and Lexus SC430. It was also the widest and most powerful of that group.