2008 Cadillac XLR

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
July 22, 2008

Buying tip

The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V will likely be in short supply as the roadster undergoes a mid-cycle update for 2009; if you want this model, it will pay to look nationally to find one in dealer stock and then negotiate your best deal from there.

features & specs

2-Door Conv
2-Door Conv
15 city / 24 hwy
14 city / 21 hwy

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.


2008 Cadillac XLR


The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V has edgy styling in its corner and Zingana wood to liven up its interior.

The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V is the hottest version of the brand’s two-seat retractable-hardtop roadster. It’s derived in part from the Chevrolet Corvette, but the XLR-V has a supercharged V-8 engine and straight-edge style all its own.

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." 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 [which] include polished wire-mesh upper and lower grilles, a sculpted hood and four stainless-steel exhaust tips," Cars.com points out.

The interior is definitely a step above the 2008 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." On the other hand, Edmunds is not such a fan of the interior of the Cadillac XLR-V 2008: "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."

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2008 Cadillac XLR


The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V turns in stunning performance, but European sportscars have marginally better handling.

The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V surpasses the stock XLR in straight-line speed, and its handling is tighter without treading on Corvette territory.

"The performance-packed [Cadillac XLR-V 2008] 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," praises Cars.com. The "special motor” is “a supercharged, 4.4-liter version of the highly regarded Northstar DOHC V-8," the Detroit News adds. They also note 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."

Edmunds reports this 2008 Cadillac as being "viciously quick...courtesy of this Cadillac's supercharged V8, which will send you hurtling from zero to 60 in less than 5 seconds." This source notes that like the engines of certain BMW models, "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." Car and Driver says it’s “able to purr around at lower engine speeds as befits a luxury marque, then snarl to the redline with almost shocking ferocity.”

According to Cars.com, 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 Cadillac XLR-V 2008'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 fuel consumption in the XLR-V at 15 mpg in city driving and 22 mpg on the open road.

Cars.com notes that the XLR-V has "a rear stabilizer bar and a larger front stabilizer bar" than the 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.” Nonetheless, MyRide.com asserts the 2008 Cadillac XLR-V offers "tenacious grip in the corners, excellent brakes [with a] standard StabiliTrak stability control system [that] keeps things in proper alignment." This source remarks "disabling StabiliTrak might have upped the level of excitement." Car and Driver says “the ride is still considerably better than that of the Corvette with which this car shares so much platform architecture.”

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2008 Cadillac XLR

Comfort & Quality

Storage and cargo capability aboard the 2008 Cadillac XLR-V are limited, but for short trips, it offers good comfort and a heady dose of luxury.

The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V provides good comfort levels, but falls short on storage and cargo space.

TheCarConnection.com notes that Cadillac XLR-V 2008 interior space is a bit cozy. The Detroit News complains about "ergonomics in the cabin, which feels more cramped than the cockpit of the SL." Edmunds warns that "cabin dimensions in this [2008 Cadillac] convertible are also tight, resulting in a cramped environment for taller drivers...There's also not a whole lot of room available. The vertically gifted will find getting comfortable in the driver seat a challenge." 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 2008 Cadillac somewhat: "not expansive, but as roomy as any rival," stating that the "comfortable, supportive seats set low, so entry/exit requires minor effort." Cars.com counters this: “high sills demand some twisting to get inside.”

If passenger and driver space are tight, cargo and storage space are even tighter; the Detroit News suggests that the Cadillac XLR-V 2008 "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." With the Cadillac XLR-V 2008 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."

When it comes to materials, the Detroit News is highly complimentary, calling 2008 Cadillac materials "really top drawer -- just about the nicest that GM offers on any of its interiors in North America." Edmunds is more critical, however, reporting "middling interior quality unsuited to six-figure price," and that "some materials are appropriately rich, yet others seem quite average."

Edmunds also feels that 2008 Cadillac XLR-V noise levels are a mixed bag: "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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2008 Cadillac XLR


The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V hasn’t been crash-tested yet, but comes with a long list of standard safety equipment.

The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V has not been crash-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

"Antilock disc brakes, traction control and stability control are all standard," according to Edmunds, which also reports that the Cadillac XLR-V has "side airbags inflate to protect both the head and torso." MyRide.com suggests "both [2008 Cadillac XLR-V] occupants will benefit from front and seat-mounted side airbags."

Cars.com notes that Cadillac XLR-V 2008 "seat belts have powered pretensioners," while "four-channel all-disc antilock brakes, traction control and a stability system" are standard.

Disturbingly, MyRide.com reports that this 2008 Cadillac has "high rear body line that results in limited visibility."


2008 Cadillac XLR


The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V is amply optioned for its $100,000 price tag.

The 2008 Cadillac XLR-V has no optional equipment, because as is the case with its smaller brother the XLR, all equipment is standard.

Kelley Blue Book reports, "Just about everything a luxury-performance fan could savor is included" in the list price of the 2008 Cadillac, though they note that "none of the features are unique or particularly dramatic."

Edmunds states "only one [Cadillac XLR-V 2008] 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."

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."

Because this 2008 Cadillac is fully loaded, the very term "optional equipment" is meaningless here. Edmunds adds that the Cadillac XLR-V 2008'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."

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