- Fast acceleration
- Lusty V-8 engine sound
- Nicely integrated keyless entry/starting
- Not as responsive as its looks suggest
- Surprisingly small trunk
- Less refined than it should be
The eye-catching 2009 Cadillac XLR starts with the sharp-edged Corvette and makes some compromises for the sake of grand-touring luxury.
Cadillac’s sporty, two-seat retractable-hardtop roadster, better known as the XLR, is based on the Chevrolet Corvette. However, it’s plenty different, with sharp-edged styling and an exclusive 4.6-liter, 320-horsepower Northstar V-8 engine in standard trim.
The 2009 Cadillac XLR has aged well since its 2004 introduction, although it offers a slight exterior refresh for this model year, including a modestly reworked front end, a new wheel design, and some tweaks to the interior. The front end now looks very similar—in design, though not in proportion to that of Cadillac’s sedans, with the familiar mix of creases and chunky proportions, plus smooth swathes of sheetmetal that we’ve come to expect from the luxury brand.
The XLR looks good at first glance, but up close it has the appearance and feel of materials just not up to the typical standards of a car this price. Seats are comfortable, but they're jammed next to a wide, tall drive hump and center console. However, all the fundamentals of a good hardtop convertible are here; the mechanical dance performed by its folding hardtop is pure engineering magic that will stop people in their tracks so that they can take a better look, and wind buffeting is spot-on, allowing you to carry on a conversation even at highway speeds. The space feels especially airy if you specify the lighter interior tone. Beware, though, that the folding hardtop occupies a huge portion of the cargo space, leaving you just enough room for some weekend bags.
Performance enthusiasts can choose the high-performance XLR-V, which packs a 443-horsepower punch from a supercharged 4.4-liter dual-overhead-cam V-8 engine and can reach 60 mph in less than five seconds. As impressive as the V-Series XLR is, most drivers won't be disappointed with the standard 2009 Cadillac XLR. (TheCarConnection.com has a separate review of the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V.) The 320-hp, 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 in the XLR doesn’t quite have the monstrous low-end torque of the Corvette’s standard engine, but it’s especially smooth and velvety when revved. The XLR is a bit slower and slightly less nimble, but the trade-off is well worth it, given the XLR's purpose in life is to be a luxury two-seater, not a bad-boy racer.
One of the XLR's strongest traits is its outstanding MagneRide system. Explaining how it works would require an entire story of its own. Suffice it to say, this computer-controlled suspension can read the road—and the driver's input—so rapidly that it can change settings in about the time it takes for the XLR to roll three inches at 60 mph. This Cadillac roadster handles well, given the decent ride.
The 2009 Cadillac XLR has a heated steering wheel and a retuned version of Magnetic Ride Control. Adaptive Forward Lighting swivels the headlamps as the vehicle corners; a head-up display, heated and cooled seats, and a DVD navigation system are among the standard equipment. GM's StabiliTrak stability control, Magnasteer power steering, and Magnetic Ride Control are also standard on all versions of the XLR. OnStar Destination Download and Bluetooth connectivity are standard, too. All XLRs are now dressed in what used to be the step-up Platinum edition, with handcrafted leather in its cabin. A new Alpine White Limited Edition sports a chrome grille and 18-inch chrome wheels.