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Flint: Does Detroit Hate America? by Jerry
Why don’t GM and Ford like American cars?
If there’s been any bright spot for troubled General Motors in recent years, it’s the nascent revival of the automaker’s once-formidable Cadillac Division. There was a time, not that many decades ago, when Caddy called the shots in the luxury market, but in recent years, the “Standard to the World” has had to take a back seat to more posh import contenders, like Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Yet with the introduction of its edgy “Art & Science” styling theme, Cadillac showed that it might be down, but it certainly wasn’t out. Though it’s by no means a world-beater, the first production model, the CTS sedan, is one of the luxury segment’s most distinctive designs. Then there’s the angular XLR, the production version of the GM brand’s striking Evoq concept roadster.
Cadillac’s first hardtop convertible, the XLR was unabashedly aimed at the likes of that roadster benchmark, the Mercedes SL. Now the 2-seater is being served up in a more sporting trim. Boasting a big boost in power, along with some exterior and interior refinements, it becomes the most expensive Cadillac in history, planting the flag at precisely $100,000.
Dubbed the XLRv, it’s the newest in a growing line-up of products Caddy calls its V-Series – along with the original CTSv and the new STSv sedans. One might be tempted to take a dismiss tone, labeling the Vs little more than AMG wannabes, the latter being Mercedes’ super-high-performance brand-within-a-brand.
But where the German maker has clearly decided to go for all it can get, slapping an AMG badge on anything it can beef up with a bigger engine and stiffer suspension, Cadillac is playing it a bit more cautious. One of the most basic rules for the new performance line is that anything wearing the “V” will have to deliver 0-60 times of under five seconds. So forget a DTSv. You’re not going to get those numbers out of the lumbering, front-drive sedan. Nor will there be a V-powered Escalade, screaming down the freeway on the big SUV’s optional new 22-inch wheels and tires.
So, for now, at least, there will be just three V-Series models, with XLRv the flagship.
A sharp eye will quickly spot some of the performance roadster’s design changes. The hood now has a more sculpted look, the power dome wrapping around the supercharger mated to Cadillac’s trademark, Northstar engine. There are the V-Series badges, and the wire mesh grille that has become an industry-wide signature for performance editions.
Inside, the visual tweaks are modest, with a bit more Zingana wood detail carved into the car’s center stack, and new ultra-suede inserts added to doors and seats, where they have the functional benefit of providing more grip in hard turns. And that’s something this new Caddy can do.
Let’s get to the hard numbers: the base roadster’s 320-horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque have been bumped up to 443-hp and 414 lb-ft. That’s enough to launch from 0-60 in an impressive 4.6 seconds – making this the fastest Cadillac ever. And Caddy claims the new roadster will deliver 0.94 Gs on the skid pad.
To handle all that power, there’s a new, 6-speed automatic (the standard XLR has a 5-speed), pushing power into the rear wheels. The V gets inch-larger 19-inch Pirelli run-flat tires. And to scrub off speed equally fast, the front brakes measure 13.4 inches, the rear an even 13 inches.
To make it all come together, Caddy has done more than just bolt on a blower. Displacement has actually been downsized, from 4.6 liters to 4.4, to stiffen the block. The cooling system has been significantly enhanced, and there’s a freer-flowing air induction system, along with a low-restriction exhaust. Surprisingly, the XLRv makes 26-hp less than the STSv sedan, largely the result of functional restrictions created by the roadster’s cramped engine compartment.
subscribeVirtually all suspension and ride
componentry have been tweaked and tuned to handle the extra power and give a
more dynamic ride, including the variable-assist magnetic steering system and
Caddy’s MagneRide suspension.
On the road, the payoff is noticeable. The standard XLR provides a good, solid ride. It’s nimble and quick, but you’d be more likely to describe it as “sporty,” rather than a true sports car. Not so the XLRv.
At 3804 pounds, the XLR is a bit heavier than we’d like to see, and you do feel it a bit, but it’s not enough to ruin the fun, especially with its weight distributed 50/50.
During a day
of driving through the mountains bridging
So, what’s not to like? Unfortunately, a number of things.
Like the original XLR, trunk space is minimal, at best, barely half as much as one gets in the Mercedes SL. And the interior, though arguably Cadillac’s best ever, is still a long way from what you’d call benchmark. There’s too much plastic, and the wood doesn’t quite look real, for one thing. We also noticed a few fit-and-finish issues, though they were admittedly minor.
Overall, there aren’t quite enough visual cues to tell the world what we’re driving. The XLR is a stand-out, sure, but we want the V to be equally distinctive.
And there’s that nagging question of money. Okay, the V version comes with everything, absolutely everything you could ask for on the roadster, from the new, standard-edition XM radio to the Active (radar) Cruise Control system. But you’re still likely to gulp at the $100,000 price tag. Sure, you’d pay $127,875 for the SL55 AMG, but despite recent quality problems, Mercedes has earned its premium. We’re not sure many Caddy customers are ready to swallow the nearly $28,000 bump up from the base XLR.
That said, there’s little
question that the automotive world needs to take notice of the XLRv. Caddy is,
on the whole, getting better with each new model. It has more work ahead before
it’s on a par with the best, but while this high-performance roadster isn’t
quite where it needs to go yet, it’s darned close, and you certainly wouldn’t
have to apologize for owning one.
2006 Cadillac XLR-v
Base price: $100,000
Engine: Supercharged 4.4-liter Northstar V-8 with Variable Valve Timing. 443-hp/414 lb-feet torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic,
Length x width x height: 177.7 x 72.3 x 50.4 in
Wheelbase: 105.7 in
Curb weight: 3804 lbs
Fuel economy (EPA cty/hwy): 15/22 mpg est.
Major standard features: Power windows, doors and mirrors, heatedland cooled eather power seats, AM/FM/6-disc, in-dash CD. Rain-sensing wipers, , , remote keyfob and keyless start, MagneRide suspension, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, voice-activated navigation system, Active (infrared) Cruise Control, heads-up instrument display.
Safety features: driver and front passenger airbags, side airbags, force-limiting seatbelts, daytime running lights, HID headlamps.
Warranty: Basic: Four years/50,000 miles basic and powertrain, Six years/Unlimited miles corrosion.