The Cadillac XLR is a front-engine, rear-drive, two passenger roadster manufactured and marketed by Cadillac from 2003 to 2009 across a single generation — and noted for its power retractable hardtop, Bulgari designed interior instruments, head-up display, adaptive suspension, rear-mounted transmission and near 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution. As Cadillac's flagship model, the XLR was introduced at the 2003 North American International Auto Show and began production for the 2004 model year — foreshadowed by the 1999 Evoq concept.
The Cadillac XLR, although sometimes perceived as a badge-engineered variant of the Chevrolet Corvette – also manufactured at GM's Bowling Green assembly, and with the XLR sharing its GM Y platform, hydroformed perimeter frame and composite bodywork construction technology with the Corvette — each car has unique engines, exterior body panels, and their own interiors, suspension settings; and importantly, the XLR featured a power retractable hardtop. And the XLR arrived a year ahead of its platform sharing C6 Corvette sibling.
The XLR was the first production Cadillac with radar-based adaptive cruise control (ACC) and the first to offer both heated and cooled seats.
The XLR was nominated for the North American Car of the Year award for 2004.
The Cadillac XLR was marketed as a luxury roadster and offered numerous features either as standard equipment or as options, including a touchscreen GPS navigation radio with an AM/FM radio, CD changer, XM Satellite Radio, full voice control, and a full Bose premium amplified audio system, adaptive cruise control, Bulgari-branded instrument panel cluster, OnStar, High Intensity Discharge (HID) front headlamps, perforated luxury leather-trimmed seating surfaces with power-adjustable, heated and cooled bucket seats with a driver's memory system, luxury carpeted floor mats with embroidered 'XLR' logos, premium aluminum-alloy wheels, and wood interior trim.
The XLR's featured adaptive suspension with magneto-rheological shock absorber fluid for enhanced ride control. The system, marketed as Magnetic Ride Control, used four wheel-to-body displacement sensors to measure wheel motion over the road surface and responds by adjusting the shock damping almost instantly. The shock absorbers were filled with a fluid containing suspended iron particles responsive to magnetic signals. The system constantly monitored motion and changed the damping forces at all four corners of the vehicle — to modulate body motion for quick maneuvers or uneven road surfaces.
Where the Chevrolet Corvette (C6) was powered by a 6.0L LS2 V8 engine and offered a six-speed manual transmission, the XLR featured Cadillac's 4.6L Northstar V8 (supercharged in the XLR-V) and either a five-speed 5L50 automatic transmission, or a six-speed 6L80 automatic transmission. It produced 320 hp and 310 lb·ft of torque in the standard trim. Optional XLR equipment included polished aluminum-alloy wheels, exterior and interior color options, and different interior trim options.
The XLR featured the traditional Cadillac, silver-painted upper "Egg Crate" (XLR) or chrome wire mesh (XLR-V) front grille, which had a similar appearance to gravel shields commonly installed on cars during the 1930s. Other standard items included angular front High Intensity Discharge (HID) front head lamps, vertical rear tail lamps, and chrome exterior details. Inside, the XLR featured wood interior trim in addition to the C6 Corvette's aluminum trim, and different seats.
For model year 2009, the XLR added a new front fascia, new rear fascia, and chrome side fender vents. Inside, Alcantara - a suede-like microfiber material - was added for the headliner. The interior added new instrument cluster trim rings with revised graphics, (removal of the Bulgari logo) and new wood dashboard trims. XLR production ended on March 31, 2009.
The base price of the XLR in the United States went from $75,385 ($116,742 in 2022 dollars) at launch to $86,215 ($117,183 in 2022 dollars) by the end of its run in 2009.
The Cadillac XLR-V was a high-performance variant of the XLR and part of the first-generation V-Series, with a total 443 hp (330 kW). Cadillac gave the public its first glimpse of the supercharged XLR-V in its Super Bowl commercial, which aired February 6, 2005. Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch was also awarded an XLR. The car was formally introduced at the 2005 New York International Auto Show. Contrary to popular belief, it was not intended to compete with the BMW M6 or the Mercedes-Benz AMG SL-Class.
The XLR-V used the same supercharged Northstar V8 as the STS-V, though output was down somewhat. For the XLR-V, the engine was certified by the SAE to produce 443 hp (330 kW) and 414 lb⋅ft (561 N⋅m). The supercharger and four intercooler cores were built into the intake manifold. A six-speed automatic transmission, larger brakes from the Z51 Corvette, and 19-inch wheels were used.
The XLR-V could accelerate to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.6 seconds according to Car and Driver's tests. The magazine also timed it at 11.3 seconds to 100 mph (160 km/h) and recorded a 13.0 second quarter mile at 110 mph (180 km/h). Its top speed was electronically limited to 155 mph (249 km/h).
The base price of the XLR-V in the United States went from $97,485 ($141,513 in 2022 dollars) at launch to $104,215 ($141,649 in 2022 dollars) by the end of its run in 2009.
The XLR had sales projections of 5,000 to 7,000 per year.
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