2009 Cadillac XLR-V Review

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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 22, 2009

Combine the performance of a Chevrolet Corvette with the luxury of a folding convertible top and you have the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V.

This review compares the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V with other vehicles in its high-performance class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions. Editors from TheCarConnection.com also drove the supercharged Cadillac XLR-V, and they offer opinions and details on this unique American sportscar to help better inform you of the XLR-V's performance, styling, comfort, and safety.

Based on the Chevrolet Corvette, the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V is defined by sharp-edged styling, an exclusive interior, and unique suspension tuning. The Chevy platform upon which the retractable hardtop roadster is built provides the XLR-V with a strong sportscar foundation. Since its introduction in 2004, the Cadillac XLR has aged well, but despite its striking exterior profile, the vehicle’s interior isn’t quite up to the standards of many rival luxury coupes and roadsters, and it needs further refinement.

A supercharged 4.4-liter Northstar dual-overhead-camshaft engine with 443 horsepower in the V-Series replaces the base 320-horsepower V-8 of the standard XLR, bringing way more than adequate acceleration for just about any situation. The powerplant is hand-built by experienced craftsmen, one piston at a time. And in the XLR-V, 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.

The car is distinguishable by the V-Series badges, but a sharp eye will easily spot some of the V-Series's unique design cues. The hood features a more sculpted look, a power dome that wraps around the supercharger, and the wire mesh grille that has become an industry-wide signature for performance editions. For 2009, there are a few subtle styling changes to the XLR-V, including new front fender vents and new front and rear fascias, plus new upper and lower grilles.

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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. This year, the instrument panel is leather-wrapped for a more luxurious look.

On the road, the V-Series payoff—or, shall we say, pay-in—is noticeable. The standard XLR provides a good ride and feels modestly sporty, but the XLR-V shows off the best of GM’s Corvette development and is tuned to handle with sportscar precision. A retuned version of the automaker’s Magnetic Ride Control is now featured on the XLR-V. TheCarConnection.com’s editors appreciate how the system allows both a supple ride and a crisp handling response.

The XLR-V comes equipped as expected of vehicles in this class: with the works. Last year, a heated steering wheel was new, while this year Bluetooth connectivity is finally added, along with the next-generation OnStar 8.0 system featuring Destination Download.

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