2008 Cadillac XLR-V Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 22, 2008

The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V marries a folding convertible top with Corvette-style performance--what’s not to love?

The sportscar experts at TheCarConnection.com researched road tests on the 2008 Cadillac XLR to produce this definitive review. Editors from TheCarConnection.com also drove the supercharged Cadillac XLR-V, and they offer opinions and details on this unique American sportscar where they help better inform you of the XLR-V's performance, styling, comfort, and safety. This review also compares the 2008 Cadillac XLR-V with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V is a sporty two-seat retractable hardtop roadster, one based on the Chevrolet Corvette, but defined by its own sharp-edged styling, exclusive interior, and unique suspension tuning. This Chevy-based platform gives the XLR-V a strong foundation from which to launch--and wrapped in Cadillac's creased suit, the XLR-V is a striking-looking car, though its interior could use a little more refinement.

And launch it does--compared to the standard 2008 Cadillac XLR, the XLR-V jettisons the base 320-horsepower V-8 for a slightly smaller but supercharged V-8. The 4.4-liter Northstar dual-overhead-camshaft engine packs a 443-horsepower punch. The powerplant is hand-built by experienced craftsmen, one piston at a time. The gearbox is upgraded from the standard XLR's five-speed to a six-speed automatic. Brakes are enlarged to handle the engine's added power.

A sharp eye will quickly spot some of the V-Series's unique design cues. The hood has a more sculpted look, the power dome wrapping around the supercharger. There are the V-Series badges, as well as the wire mesh grille that has become an industry-wide signature for performance editions.

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Inside, the visual tweaks are modest, with a bit more Zingana wood detail carved into the car's center stack and new Ultrasuede 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. On the road, the V-Series payoff is noticeable. While the standard XLR provides a good, solid ride, you'd be more likely to describe it as sporty, rather than a true sportscar. Not so the 2008 XLR-V--this Cadillac is a rocket that handles with precision.

Since its introduction as a 2004 model, the Cadillac XLR has aged pretty well. The XLR is due for a light exterior refresh for the 2009 model year. Limited updates, including a heated steering wheel and a retuned version of Magnetic Ride Control, were made to all XLR editions for the 2008 model year.

As an automotive expert with nearly 30 years in the business, it seems kind of funny to write that 443 horsepower isn't too impressive these days, especially when you're talking about cars that cost six figures. Case in point, the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class offers three models that kick out more than 500 horsepower. BMW's M edition of its 6-Series packs a V-10 wallop of 500-plus horsepower. These cars are all products of special production units developed by their manufacturers, and the results are impressive and hugely expensive.

Perhaps compared only on price, the 2008 Cadillac XLR-V could be considered a contender, but those who play in this sandbox aren't looking for value. They're shopping for status and bragging rights. On these two counts, the XLR-V can't compete--except with the beautiful Jaguar XKR, a stunning kitten that runs with 420 horsepower.

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