Cadillac XLR's power, performance and polish are stunning. As media types continue to remind you about how much you're paying for a gallon of gas, some are going further by pointing out that a gallon of milk costs even more. So what? Pour a gallon of bovine juice into your car's tank and it will only get you a repair bill. But pour a gallon of gas in something like the 2004 Cadillac XLR roadster and you're going to have a lot more fun. Besides, only kids drink milk. (Except for when they're drinking soda, which is most of the time.) Of course, both gas and milk are easy to find at any gas station. But finding a Cadillac XLR will be more difficult, even if you go to a Cadillac dealer. That's because Cadillac isn't building as many as it could sell. That is by design, according to Mark LaNeve, Cadillac general manager. By limiting its production, Cadillac makes the car desirable and rare. Right on both counts. It is also stunning and certainly more fun to look at than most modern cars, which are little more than molded blobs. The XLR looks like nothing else on the road. Its edges appear to be carved by a Ginsu knife. This sharp-edged style lends the car a certain dangerous allure, but then too, so do the 18-inch wheels and long, low hood. It is dangerous all right, to your drivers license. Under the hood lurks a reworked version of Cadillac's 4.6-liter, double-overhead-cam V-8. In the XLR, it produces 320 horsepower and 310 foot-pounds of torque. Mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, this bad boy honks out the 0 to 60 mph sprints in just 5.8 seconds. And 0 to 100 mph takes only a little longer, about as long as it takes to say, ''Excuse me officer, was I speeding?'' You'd expect the driving experience to be powerful yet smooth, quiet and refined. It is. The brakes are great. Body lean is only slightly greater than in a Corvette, yet the XLR's ride is much better than that of a 'Vette. Take it on your favorite twisted back road. It'll surprise you. There's even a nicely muted growl. It's enough to make any enthusiast as giddy as an enraptured school girl who doesn't know what to do with her hands. (I didn't have a school girl in the front seat, but rather my friend Dana, whose behavior was enough to confirm this car's appeal to the fairer sex.) But then, the polished performance and pleasing audio are just part of the XLR's allure. Walk up to the car and you won't have to take the key fob out of your pocket. Within one meter of the car (that's about three feet for the metric challenged), the car recognizes that it should unlock the car. That's probably more than your spouse would do. Open the door by using the touchpad. Climb into the bucket seats and buckle up. But leave that key fob in your pocket. Instead, just hit the starter button . Of course, you may want to take the key fob out of your pocket and stare at it. Like this car's sublime gauges, the fob was designed by the world-renowned Italian jeweler Bulgari. Other gosh-wow features include magnetic ride control, which uses magnetically-charged fluid to adjust the shock absorbers. There's also adaptive cruise control, which uses a radar to ensure proper following distance, and can be set by the driver. There's also a heads-up display, which projects the speed and other vital bits of information onto the windshield, directly in the driver's line of sight. But that's just part of this car's charm. The other is its exquisite aesthetics meant to please even the most demanding robber baron. The interior is modern, tasteful and sinfully welcoming. Accented in eucalyptus wood, leather and metallic trim, the interior appears rich. The automatic climate control also turns on the heated and cooled seats. A six-CD in-dash changer provides awe ome sound. For the truly music-starved, XM Satellite Radio is the lone option. A DVD-based navigation system is standard and can be used to watch a movie when the car is parked. Of course, I haven't mentioned the car's best feature, the retractable hardtop. Push a button and the top disappears in less than half a minute. Put it back up and it's quieter than a teenager being asked how his or her day has been. Top down behavior is exemplary, with good wind management allowing for civil conversation, yet also allowing for some wind in your hair. Cowl shake is non-existent. Of course, putting the top down ensures that the trunk space is reduced from a decent 11.6 cubic feet to a ''bring-only-toothpaste-and-toothbrush'' 4.4 cubic feet. Price is a CEO-friendly $75,385. That's more than the blobby Lexus SC430, but less than the ubiquitous Mercedes-Benz SL500. Oh, and about the fuel economy. It hovered right around 16 mpg. And please, no whining. Some things in life are just worth paying for.
- Service & Repair