During my week of driving a Cadillac XLR-V, a lot of people were surprised that Cadillac makes a two-seat, retractable-top roadster. They were even more surprised when they learned that the V-series has a supercharged engine that puts out 443 horsepower.
This high-performance roadster is relatively new for Cadillac, and it competes with the Mercedes-Benz SL 55 AMG, Jaguar XK-R and the Lexus SC.
The XLR comes in two models: XLR and XLR-V. The standard XLR is fast and luxurious, but refinement and comfort are emphasized over outright performance.
The supercharged XLR-V, however, is for buyers who want a sports car that will knock their socks off. It can hit 60 miles per hour in less than five seconds, according to Cadillac
The XLR starts at $78,760 and the XLR-V is priced at $100,000. That guarantees that you won't see one on every block, or even in every town.
The XLR-V is essentially Cadillac's version of the Corvette, and it is built on the Corvette assembly line in Bowling Green, Ky. The fiberglass body sits on a frame that is nearly the same one as that of the Chevy's legendary sports car.
Each supercharged Northstar V-8 is hand-built by a single person in GM's Performance Build Center in Wixom, Mich.
The 4.4-liter engine is strong and smooth. The supercharger pastes you back in the driver's seat when you nail the throttle, but the engine is quite docile when you want to drive moderately. This engine produces 90 percent of its torque between 2,200 and 6,000 rpm, and that means it doesn't have to be driven hard to be satisfying.
GM's six-speed automatic transmission is the perfect companion.
The XLR-V has subtle styling that makes it discreet. It moves quickly without getting flustered. The ride is supple and the brakes are excellent. This is not a hard-core sports car, but a very fast touring machine.
The suspension swallows bad pavement, sharp turns and flat roads. One key to its stability is the Magnetic Ride Control. This system electronically controls the magnetic fluid in the shock absorbers, making adjustments in one millisecond. The ride is smooth over little bumps one instant and firm for bigger dips the next instant.
The folding hardtop turns the XLR-V into an al fresco cruiser at the touch of a button. The occupants sit fairly low in the vehicle. Wind buffeting is not severe at reasonable speeds. A wind blocker behind the front seat would be welcome. The folded top consumes almost all of the trunk space, so you have to travel light if you're going to enjoy the fresh air.
The Caddy's interior is modern and understated. Soft leather and real wood are accented with touches of satin metallic trim. The seats are generally good, but longer thigh cushions would offer better support.
The XLR-V has a radar-controlled adaptive cruise control that automatically slows the vehicle when you close in on a car in front.
The XLR-V competes against an elite group of sports cars, and it does so quite well.
Price The XLR-V's base price is $97,460. Destination charges and a $1,700 gas-guzzler tax bring the sticker price to $100,000.
Warranty Four years or 50,000 miles with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.