An all-new 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 went into the XLR. Cadillac promotes the "harmonious blend of technologies and materials meant to add pleasure, not complexity, to the driving experience." A long list of technical features includes a head-up display, radar-operated adaptive cruise control and General Motors' StabiliTrak electronic stability system.
Adaptive forward lighting, which improves nighttime illumination, is available on 2006 models. Wood treatment on the center console has been revised, and XM Satellite Radio with a hidden antenna is standard.
Magnetic Ride Control provides magnetic-fluid-based real-time damping. Keyless Access with push-button start permits true no-key operation. 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.
Cadillac says stealth fighters inspired the XLR, which serves as "a contemporary expression of Cadillac's heritage of landmark design and advanced technology." Linear lines display hints of the marque's history. The strong grille also suggests the past, but with a modern expression. The XLR's vertical headlights are part of Cadillac's current design philosophy.
The roadster's weight distribution is virtually 50/50, helped by the rear-mounted transmission. Cadillac says the XLR's steel hydroformed frame rails couple with an aluminum cockpit structure and balsa-cored composite flooring to provide "rigidity without bulk." Run-flat tires eliminate the need for a spare tire.
Built on a 105.7-inch wheelbase, the XLR is 177.7 inches long overall. Retracting the hardtop takes less than 30 seconds. Made of aluminum and magnesium, the top structure features composite exterior panels, a heated glass back window and glass rear-quarter windows.
Two occupants fit inside the XLR's luxurious interior, which features eucalyptus wood and aluminum accents. The seatbacks and cushions are heated and cooled. The DVD navigation/entertainment system has a 7-inch screen in the upper center console, but the entertainment system operates only when the gear selector is in Park.
A nine-speaker Bose audio system includes an in-dash six-CD changer. XM Satellite Radio and GM's OnStar communication system are standard. Trunk capacity is 11.6 cubic feet with the top up, but space dips to 4.4 cubic feet when the roof is retracted.
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. Premium fuel is recommended. The five-speed-automatic transmission incorporates Driver Shift Control.
Side-impact airbags are installed in the seats. The seat belts have powered pretensioners. Four-channel all-disc antilock brakes, traction control and a stability system are standard.
With a low driving position like Chevrolet's Corvette, the XLR is one sweet road machine. Acceleration for passing is close to stunning, and the XLR is also quick from a standstill, helped by prompt transmission responses. Ride comfort beats most sports cars by a mile, and steering is tight and impressively precise. High sills demand some twisting to get inside.