2009 Cadillac XLR-V Review

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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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2009 Cadillac XLR-V

Styling

The 2009 Cadillac XLR-V boasts styling that will catch your eye from a distance, but the interior isn’t universally appreciated.

The 2009 Cadillac XLR-V has a supercharged V-8 engine and a sharp-edged style that's all its own. Derived in part from the Chevrolet Corvette, the XLR-V is the hottest version of the brand’s two-seat, retractable-hardtop roadster.

Kelley Blue Book says the "edgy styling stands out from the crowd,” while Edmunds predicts its shape “will appeal to those looking to roll up to the valet in something different from the status quo.” As a V version of a Cadillac vehicle, the XLR-V gets special "design features [that] include polished wire-mesh upper and lower grilles, a sculpted hood and four stainless-steel exhaust tips," says Cars.com. The Detroit News calls the XLR-V a “sharply chiseled two-seater,” while Cars.com points out "stealth fighters inspired [the XLR],” adding that it’s “a contemporary expression of Cadillac's heritage of landmark design and advanced technology."

Edmunds is not a big fan of the interior of the Cadillac XLR-V 2009. "Abundant wood and metallic accents are a good start, but aesthetics ultimately miss the mark, thanks to generic-looking switchgear and unspectacular leather. For a car that costs a hair short of $100,000, this is a profound disappointment." However, the interior is definitely a step above the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V's little brother, the XLR. Cars.com reports that "the interior has Zingana wood trim and aluminum accents on the wheel," while the Detroit News raves that it's "trimmed in rich-looking ebony leather with French stitching and matching perforated-suede inserts, as well as aluminum accents on the steering wheel and instrument panel."

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2009 Cadillac XLR-V

Performance

The 2009 Cadillac XLR-V is enormously satisfying to drive fast, but in tight corners, the lack of steering feedback keeps it from being an A+.

With tighter handling and greater straight-line speed, the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V surpasses the stock XLR in every performance category.

The "special motor” in the Cadillac XLR-V is “a supercharged, 4.4-liter version of the highly regarded Northstar DOHC V-8," says the Detroit News, adding that it "delivers an ample 443 horsepower and 414 pounds-feet of torque—enough to rocket this sled from rest to 60 in about 4.9 seconds." Cars.com says, "The performance-packed [Cadillac XLR-V] is fitted with a supercharged 4.4-liter V-8 that develops 443 hp at 6,400 rpm and 414 pounds-feet of torque at 3,900 rpm."

"Cadillac has given each V8 a personal touch, with each being built from start to finish by a single craftsman," making it "responsive and quick, eager to leap to attention at the slightest tap of the throttle," says Edmunds about the 2009 XLR-V. The car is "viciously quick...courtesy of this Cadillac's supercharged V8, which will send you hurtling from zero to 60 in less than 5 seconds," notes Edmunds. Car and Driver reports it’s “able to purr around at lower engine speeds as befits a luxury marque, then snarl to the redline with almost shocking ferocity.”

Cars.com adds, the "six-speed automatic transmission incorporates Performance Algorithm Shifting and Performance Algorithm Liftfoot systems, along with Driver Shift Control for manually selected gear changes." The Detroit News reports that the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V's engine "drives the rear wheels through a new Hydra-matic six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift capability." The transmission “provides almost intuitive response to a driver's inputs,” Car and Driver says.

The EPA estimates for fuel consumption in the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V are perhaps a bit better than you might expect for such a dedicated performance model: 15 mpg in the city, 22 mpg highway.

The 2009 Cadillac XLR-V offers "tenacious grip in the corners and excellent brakes [with a] standard StabiliTrak stability control system [that] keeps things in proper alignment," says MyRide.com, adding, "disabling StabiliTrak might have upped the level of excitement." Car and Driver states “the ride is still considerably better than that of the Corvette with which this car shares so much platform architecture.” Cars.com notes that the XLR-V has "a rear stabilizer bar and a larger front stabilizer bar" than the standard XLR. Edmunds reports a "memorable and engaging ride," but suggests that "you'll find more refined and engaging driving dynamics in its European competition ... quite simply, you can do much better when spending this much money." This is despite the "magnetic ride control, which automatically adjusts the suspension to compensate for issues like pavement conditions and vehicle speed" as telegraphed by the Detroit News. Automobile gets a chuckle when it says the XLR-V’s steering is “like a late-in-life Marlon Brando having a root canal: weighty but numb.”

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2009 Cadillac XLR-V

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Cadillac XLR-V offers good comfort and a heady dose of luxury, but space—especially cargo space—is limited.

The 2009 Cadillac XLR-V comes up short on storage and cargo space yet provides decent comfort levels for the driver and passenger.

“The vertically gifted will find getting comfortable in the driver seat a challenge," says Edmunds. "Cabin dimensions in this convertible are also tight, resulting in a cramped environment for taller drivers... There's also not a whole lot of room available.” By way of apology, MyRide.com explains that the "narrow foot well [is] necessitated by the wide powertrain tunnel." ConsumerGuide tempers its praise of this 2009 Cadillac somewhat, calling it "not expansive, but as roomy as any rival," and stating that the "comfortable, supportive seats set low, so entry/exit requires minor effort." Cars.com counters this, commenting that “high sills demand some twisting to get inside.” TheCarConnection.com notes that the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V’s interior space is cozy. The Detroit News complains about "ergonomics in the cabin, which feels more cramped than the cockpit of the SL."

Cargo and storage space are more disappointing, though. With the Cadillac 2009 XLR-V’s top up, MyRide.com reports that the "long but shallow trunk provides 11.6 cubic-feet of cargo room," adding that it "fails to impress in terms of cargo capacity." The Detroit News suggests that the Cadillac XLR-V 2009 "isn't the ideal vacation vehicle, unless you pack light—very light ... with the retractable hardtop stowed in the trunk, the XLR-V has a razor-thin 4.4 cubic feet of luggage space, which is about enough room to stash two soft duffle bags—forget the picnic basket and golf clubs. And there's barely enough room in the two-seat cabin to stow an iPod, let alone a laptop computer."

Regarding materials, Edmunds is critical, reporting "middling interior quality unsuited to six-figure price," and that "some materials are appropriately rich, yet others seem quite average." On the other hand, the Detroit News is highly complimentary, calling 2009 Cadillac materials "really top drawer—just about the nicest that GM offers on any of its interiors in North America." To help settle the score, TheCarConnection.com’s editors think that the XLR-V’s interior looks great, but its execution suffers with materials that aren’t quite up to snuff for such an expensive vehicle.

Edmunds also complains about noise levels in the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V: "Wind buffeting can get somewhat intrusive with the top down, but the XLR-V is whisper-quiet with its top up."

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2009 Cadillac XLR-V

Safety

The 2009 Cadillac XLR-V has all the expected safety equipment for a high-performance luxury roadster.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crash-tested the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V. The structurally similar Chevrolet Corvette hasn’t been tested either.

MyRide.com reports that "both [2009 Cadillac XLR-V] occupants will benefit from front and seat-mounted side airbags." Edmunds says, "Antilock disc brakes, traction control and stability control are all standard," while "side airbags inflate to protect both the head and torso."

"Seat belts have powered pretensioners," while "four-channel all-disc antilock brakes, traction control and a stability system" are standard, says Cars.com.

MyRide.com reports that the 2009 Cadillac has a "high rear body line that results in limited visibility."

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2009 Cadillac XLR-V

Features

Though the high price tag of the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V mostly corresponds to the world-class performance and limited production numbers, you can rest assured that nearly everything comes standard.

There are no major options on the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V—just a very long standard equipment list.

Because the 2009 Cadillac is fully loaded, the very term "optional equipment" is meaningless here. Edmunds adds that the Cadillac XLR-V 2009's "comprehensive equipment list leaves room for only a pair of options: the Alpine White Edition (which features its namesake's exterior hue along with chrome wheels) and chrome wheels."

The Detroit News asserts, "Cadillac lavishes enough high-tech features on the car to rival Germany's best, but without the unnecessarily complicated controls ... standard features include adaptive headlamps, radar cruise control, an ultrasonic reverse sensing system, rain-sensing wipers, a DVD navigation system with touch-screen."

Edmunds states "only one [Cadillac XLR-V 2009] trim is available, but—as befits the car's nearly six-figure price tag—it's fully loaded. Perks like Bluetooth phone connectivity, heated leather seats and adaptive cruise control (which automatically maintains a preset distance between the roadster and the car ahead of it) are all standard."

Kelley Blue Book reports, "Just about everything a luxury-performance fan could savor is included" in the list price of the 2009 Cadillac, though they note that "none of the features are unique or particularly dramatic."

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8.6
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Styling 8.0
Performance 9.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 9.0
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