2008 Cadillac XLR

2008 Cadillac XLR

The Basics:

TheCarConnection.com’s convertible experts studied the latest reviews on the new 2008 Cadillac XLR to produce this conclusive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the Cadillac XLR and its supercharged V-Series edition to add opinions and information that help you make the best shopping decision.

The 2008 Cadillac XLR has aged well since its 2004 introduction, although it's due for a light exterior refresh for the 2009 model year. If you didn't know, Cadillac's sporty two-seat retractable hardtop roadster is based on the Chevrolet Corvette, but is defined by its own sharp-edged styling and exclusive 4.6-liter, 320-horsepower Northstar V-8 engine in standard trim.

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

For 2008, Cadillac has updated the XLR with 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. A new Alpine White Limited Edition sports a chrome grille and 18-inch chrome wheels. The returning Platinum edition wears handcrafted leather in its cabin.

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. (TheCarConnection.com has a separate review of the 2008 Cadillac XLR-V.) As impressive as the V-Series XLR is, most drivers won't be disappointed with the standard 2008 Cadillac XLR.

This Cadillac roadster handles well, but it's not a Corvette. The XLR is a bit slower and also 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.

From the driver's seat, the 2008 XLR is comfortable, and the space feels especially airy if you specify the lighter interior tone--but GM is even better at making interiors than it was in 2004 when the XLR was new. Still, 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.

The 2008 Cadillac XLR is a sporty two-seat retractable hardtop roadster. If you didn’t know, it’s based on the current Chevrolet Corvette, but is defined by its own sharp-edged styling.

The look is crisp and unique, with "vivid styling,” Car and Driver says; it’s “an edgy package that looks like nothing else," they assert. Appealing to machismo, Cars.com points out that "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 contends the "edgy styling stands out from the crowd, a bonus for those who like to be noticed." The XLR driver can apparently feel good when tossing his keys to the parking attendant, as "its styling and Cadillac badge will appeal to those looking to roll up to the valet in something different from the status quo," according to Edmunds. “With chiseled exterior styling highlighted by a forceful front grille,” ForbesAutos points out, “the XLR comes with a power retractable hardtop that enables it to transform from closed coupe to open roadster in less than 30 seconds.”

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

From the driver's seat, the 2008 XLR is comfortable, and the space feels especially airy if you specify the lighter interior tone. Cars.com remarks on the Cadillac XLR 2008's "luxurious interior, which can feature light or dark eucalyptus wood and aluminum accents." Edmund's observation is virtually the same: this 2008 Cadillac features "an upscale cabin complete with rich eucalyptus wood trim and aluminum accents in addition to comfortable leather seating -- altogether clean-looking, modern and warm." Kelley Blue Book attributes the 2008 Cadillac XLR interior's appeal to "a carefully placed combination of real wood, leather and brushed aluminum."

The 2008 Cadillac XLR delivers good all-around performance, but it’s “not as sporty as its Corvette underpinnings would suggest,” Edmunds says.

Car and Driver comments the XLR’s sole engine is "a 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 with variable valve timing produces 320 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 310 pounds-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm." This makes the Cadillac XLR 2008's "acceleration for passing...close to stunning." Kelley Blue Book reports that the Northstar engine installed in this 2008 Cadillac "makes the XLR plenty quick and returns surprisingly good fuel economy," with "an inexhaustible supply of low-end torque, always on tap when you need to pass, merge or dart across a busy intersection." Edmunds calls the engine “muscular and refined” and “spirited” and notes that accelerating from 0-60 mph takes “less than six seconds.”

A six-speed automatic is the XLR’s only available gearbox. Cars.com says the "six-speed automatic transmission incorporates Performance Algorithm Shifting and Performance Algorithm Liftfoot systems, along with Driver Shift Control for manually selected gear changes." It's also mounted in the rear, which "makes the weight distribution close to 50/50." Kelley Blue Book declares, "slip the transmission into gear and the XLR pulls away from stop signs with relentless authority. The XLR accelerates smoothly, with a nice, linear progression that continues to build well past any legal speed limit."

Of course, all this power comes at a cost, which is probably of no consequence to those who can afford this vehicle. Nonetheless, fuel mileage is better than one might expect; the bigger Northstar V-8 gets 15 mpg in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway, according to EPA estimates. Cars.com reports that "premium fuel is recommended."

Based on the Chevy Corvette, this 2008 Cadillac offers "first-rate structural solidity [and a] forgiving ride," according to Car and Driver, which adds that with "the exception of its artificial steering feel, the XLR's back-road manners and performance is on par with top European GT convertibles." Edmunds disagrees; the XLR "comes up short in terms of maximum performance when compared to its similarly priced rivals from Germany and Great Britain...those expecting a true Cadillac sports car will be disappointed." Edmunds adds "the XLR's softer suspension tuning results in noticeable body roll during hard cornering and plenty of nosedive under heavy braking."

Nonetheless, ConsumerGuide says "Magnetic Ride Control helps provide reassuring high-speed discipline." Cars.com observes, “Ride comfort beats most sports cars by a mile, and steering is tight and impressively precise.”

The 2008 Cadillac XLR is as comfortable as a two-seat roadster can get, though it makes do with less storage space.

According to Cars.com, "two occupants fit inside the XLR's luxurious interior.” Kelley Blue Book says its "seats are supportive, with a multitude of possible positions. Mounting the transmission in the rear provides abundant room in the footwell areas, an uncommon feature in a rear-wheel-drive roadster of this size." ConsumerGuide tempers its praise of this 2008 Cadillac somewhat: "not expansive, but as roomy as any rival," noting 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.”

As is the case with so many two-seat roadsters, there is "limited interior stowage" and "[little] trunk space with top down," according to Car and Driver, due mainly to the retractable hardtop. Kelley Blue Book notes that in the XLR, "storage space is reserved to a small storage console between the seats, the glovebox and two flip-out map pockets in the doors." Even if it "fails to impress in terms of cargo capacity,” MyRide.com asks, “who buys a $100,000 performance convertible for weekly runs to the local megastore in search of provisions for a family of eight?"

While the interior may look nice, TheCarConnection.com notes some problems with the Cadillac XLR 2008; Car and Driver reports "shoddy materials inside," while Edmunds comments that "compared to similarly priced offerings from European luxury brands, the XLR doesn't come close to matching materials quality and overall design." Damning with faint praise, Kelley Blue Book says "the XLR's interior is somewhat reserved, lacking the polish found in Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz cars."

For a convertible, however, the 2008 Cadillac XLR is amazingly quiet; ConsumerGuide reports a "tightly sealed hardtop, plenty of insulation keep wind, tire noise well within reason," noting that "normal conversation [is] possible with top down, even at highway speeds," although "rapid acceleration brings spirited V8 growl."

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

Edmunds notes this 2008 Cadillac "does feature its fair share of state-of-the-art technologies," some of which include "antilock disc brakes, run-flat tires and stability control," along with "side airbags that offer head as well as thorax protection." In addition, this Cadillac XLR 2008 model has "rear parking sensors...also included" as standard equipment.

Cars.com reports more Cadillac XLR 2008 safety features: "for safety's sake, the engine will not start unless the remote fob is in the car and the driver is depressing the brake pedal." This source also notes that Cadillac XLR 2008 "side-impact airbags are installed in the seats."

ConsumerGuide notes "visibility [is] slightly compromised, especially with top up."

The 2008 Cadillac XLR has no real options--because virtually everything comes standard.

Cars.com reports that the present 2008 Cadillac's "long list of technical features includes a head-up display, radar-operated adaptive cruise control and an electronic stability system."

Edmunds notes that the standard Cadillac XLR 2008 "comes with just about all of the luxury features you'd expect, including 18-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tires, adaptive xenon HID headlights, heated leather seats with plenty of power adjustments, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless startup, a head-up display, a navigation system and a Bose audio system with satellite radio and a CD changer."

In fact, when it comes to Cadillac XLR 2008 options, Kelley Blue Book simply says "the only options are the Platinum and Alpine White Editions and chrome wheels." ForbesAutos sums it up quite nicely under its "2008 Cadillac XLR Options" heading: "N/A."

Buying Tips:

The 2008 Cadillac XLR hasn't been a strong seller of late, and residual value is below that of the Mercedes-Benz SL. If you're smitten with the shape, be prepared to play hardball at the showroom and to hang on to the XLR for years to come.

Other Choices:

  • 2009 Mercedes-Benz SL Class
  • 2008 Lexus SC 430
  • 2008 Jaguar XK
  • 2008 BMW 6-Series

Reason Why:

The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is the benchmark for this class of vehicle. It may not be the fastest, the smoothest riding, or the most engaging, but it does many things well. Plus, Mercedes-Benz earned its stripes along the way, and the current SL-Class cars prove it. The retractable hardtop operates quickly. The SL is dynamically engaging, although not quite to the level of the 2008 Cadillac XLR-V, but clearly more so than the Lexus SC 430. The Jaguar XK, BMW 6-Series, and Porsche 911 all offer 2+2 seating if this is important to you, as well as canvas convertible tops.

The Bottom Line:

The 2008 Cadillac XLR still manages to turn heads with its style.

Research Other Topics

on a scale of 1 to 10
Expert Rating
Expert Rating
Comfort & Quality
Expert Rating
Expert Rating
Expert Rating
Looking for other models of the Cadillac XLR?
Read reviews & get prices
Compare the 2008 Cadillac XLR against the competition
  • 2008 BMW 6-Series

    Compare Cars