Two weeks ago, my wife and I walked into a local Cadillac dealer and much later left with a CTS-v + and XLR-v. We went in virtually certain we'd buy the CTS-v as our 4-door, but I wasn't at all sure about an XLR as I had not driven one up to that day. But with the availability of the -v, I was intrigued. We were replacing a small fleet of Ford SVT vehicles and a '96 LT4 Corvette. I'm no stranger to powerful, fast cars. Our objective was to move to fewer cars and move up into a performance luxury class. We have a strong preference for American-made cars, manufactured by US companies that capture the profits. However, we had purchased many cars over the last 15 years and I had enough punches in my "Buy American" ticket to consider an exception this time. As a "personal" performance car, I was intending to buy a Maserati Grand Sport Coupe or possibly the Aston V8 Vantage. I ended the debate in my mind with a decision in favor of the XLR-v, and frankly, even considering the German offerings, it won on the merits.
First, I want to say something about the dealership. I am in Los Angeles, and bought our cars from Martin Cadillac in West Los Angeles, on Olympic Blvd. at Bundy. This was the single best new car-shopping & buying experience I've ever had. I've been buying new vehicles since 1980, in multiple cities around the country. Martin is an old-school urban dealership in a beautifully-maintained 2-story building. Everything is super-clean and organized. Further, the staff was confident, competent, non-pressuring, gracious, helpful and service-oriented. I very quickly felt I was inside a well-run business and more important, with a dealer who understood it must represent Cadillac competitively with commensurate global offerings. They serviced me as a customer they could lose to Maserati, Mercedes or Aston-Martin, not someone they would lose to Lincoln. By the way, Martin is a GMC-Pontiac-Cadillac dealership and as far as I could see, they represented GMC and Pontiac in the same way. When we arrived at Martin, in fact, all the Cadillac salespeople were busy and we were approached by a polite new salesman who was assigned to Pontiac & GMC. Nevertheless, he knew a fair amount about the Caddies, and what he didn't know, he promptly asked someone who did. We made our decision on the CTS-v very quickly. There really was nothing else to consider. Tight exterior dimensions, room for 4 real-size adults, large trunk, solid platform, serious dynamics and a smooth but pugnacious Corvette 6.0L drivetrain routing power through the 6 speed Tremec! Perfect.
But this isn't about the CTS-v. That's for another forum.
I am exceedingly busy professionally and the thing about Martin was that if I were going to buy six figures' worth of cars on one day, I wanted someone else to move the 5 vehicles I already owned, not me. No eBay shenanigans or craigslist. The other dealers I visited for the prestige marques didn't want to do the work for me. They all had suggestions for how I could use my time to move my Ford specialty cars and LT4 Corvette, but they weren't interested in doing any real work for their 4 figure commission. Wrong answer!! Martin on the other hand said, "We're here to help you get into the cars you want. Let's see what you have and figure out how we can be of service." RIGHT answer!! Once I decided to make it a 2 Cadillacs deal, the negotiation was straightforward, free of rancor, altogether pleasant. Martin got my business and if you are in Southern California or willing to buy a car remotely, call Noble or Nasir at Martin Cadillac in L.A. They also have a broker's license and will even work to find you specialty cars they don't represent, if you're already their customer.
The car. Martin had one XLR-v, black on black. It was on the floor for 3 days when I saw it, and there was real-time interest in the car. It looked magnificent. They weren't allowing test drives for casual interest. So I drove an XLR to check for fit, general dynamic characterstics, comfort, etc. It is about the power of my former 32 valve SVT Cobra and felt familar but smoother and much more refined. I could feel the GT ride, compared to the more hard core Corvette, and the lack of bar in back. But the car fit, I felt good in it, and I could feel the essential goodness of the architecture and structure. I decided to get serious about the -v.
One note. I had read many reviews knocking the XLR's interior. People say it's not up to Euro standards, that the plastic buttons are low-rent, that the Bulgari gauge cluster looks like it came from an Impala. I did not share this reaction to it. I found the XLR interior to have excellent soft-touch materials, and the functional layout is clean and uncluttered, with more organic technology integration than anything German or Japanese. The flat plastic buttons don't bother me. This is a retractable hardtop. Those plastic buttons will stay cool to the touch on a hot sunny SoCal summer day if the top is down, compared to metal. Otherwise the surfaces were fine, the data displays highly readable, and the seats were excellent. In every way, I knew the -v is an upgrade from that.
They let me take out the XLR-v. Same car? Nooooooooo. No knock on the XLR. It's excellent and I like it. But the -v feels much more pinned to the planet, having that in-the-road feel (rather than on-the-road) of the substantial contenders in the 6-figures class of cars. Steering feel and feedback is elevated over the standard XLR, probably a function of some tuning to the Magnasteer, the bushings and bar, and the 19" Pirelli run-flats. Sticky, communicative, responsive. The materials in the cabin environment are clean, lean, supple and masculine. Leather in the right places, technology accessible or transparent to the user, ergonomics put operating controls exactly where you need them. And then there's the power. Apart from its 4 cam willingness to rev, the 4.4L Northstar SC bears little in common feel to the 4.6L naturally aspirated N*. The supercharged mill pours out loads of creamy locomotive power and the new GM 6L80 transmission upgrades more than just an extra gear ratio. Shifts are nearly seamless, the manual mode reacts in real time, and shifter position feels right. I went back and made our deal for 2 cars, and a few hours later we had an empty driveway and 2 Cadillacs inside the garage!
I started out with the Corvette Z06, the Ford Shelby GT500, the Maserati Grand Sport, the Aston V8 Vantage as my primary prospects for a personal car. The Cadillac XLR-v was an intriguing dark horse candidate. But the car won me over and the dealership sealed the deal. I've had a hundred thousand dollars worth of cars at one time before, but this is my first hundred thousand dollar car. Is any car worth a $100 Grand? Hard to say. My first house cost less. But in a world where a Boxster is deemed worth $50+K this XLR-v is easily worth its sticker.
So, in a bid to reduce confusion about the XLR-v among audiences on the Web, here's a little FAQ on the car:
1/ Is the XLR-v worth its $25,000 increase over the base XLR?
On the web, there are many bench racers describing the -v as an XLR with a supercharger bolted on. Au contraire. The engine is a hand-built 4.4L variant with many upgraded internals to boost reliability and improve power delivery. It alone is probably worth nearly the difference in price. But the package includes larger / better wheels/tires; revisions to the suspension governance and physical tweaks, plus a rear bar. The interior is more sumptuously appointed. And you get the 6L80 six speed transmission. Exmine the -v closely and you can see the obvious depth of engineering in the car, and driving it will viscerally communicate the worth of the difference between the XLR & XLR-v. Anyone who thinks the -v is just a bolt-on SC hasn't researched, understood or experienced the two cars. It could not be brought to market for $85K retail, as some people have "demanded."
2/ A Forbes.com reviewer said I should not buy an XLR-v if I'd "feel inferior driving anything less than a Mercedes-Benz or BMW." What do you think?
Hahahahaha.....feel inferior because my car has a different badge! Clearly, such people have no business driving 400+hp cars. Can you imagine? Feeling inferior about driving your ultra-modern Cadillac because some other sheep bought a Benz or Bimmer. Yeah, I'd feel especially inferior to the dozens of discriminating BMW drivers over the years who have told me at gas stations how glad they were to have front-wheel drive in a rainstorm. Such knowledgable owners to feel inferior to! Yes, in fact you should not buy an XLR-v if you'd feel inferior driving anything other than a BMW or Benz, for the Cadillac is certainly way too much car for you!
3/ Isn't the M-B SL55 better in every way?
Well, it certainly is less fun. The SL55 and SL600 and SL500 all share the nuevo-bloat that has become the new overriding feature of German cars. Only Audi, for instance, could craft a "lightweight aluminum" unibody car and have it turn out a porker of nearly 4400 pounds! Compared to the weighty SL, the XLR-v shaves about 400 pounds of excess tonnage. Oh, the SL55 makes up for its lardbutt with an extra 50 hp, but you can't escape the ponderousness of the car. The XLRs are flingable and entertaining, yet controlled and sharp, comfortable and serene. The Benz is more expensive, so that must impress somebody. It's also less reliable on average, which must be a good thing, given how many SLs I see while driving any street in L.A.
4/ But you don't see many of these Cadillacs, do you?
5/ Why buy an XLR-v when a Corvette Z06 is quicker, faster, cheaper and more powerful?
Does the top go down on a Z06? Nope. Can you have a sustained conversation with your Sweetie at 90mph in the Z06? Not really. Can you feel fresh after a ten hour drive in a Z06? Come on, be honest. Truth is, they are different purpose cars built on the same architectural platform, flavored vastly differently by their engines alone. Consider buying both!
6/ Isn't it true GM interiors don't measure up to the competition?
Well, everyone has their spikes of high competence. If you are buying a car in this class on interior appointments alone, get the Maserati and be done with it. Everybody else's interior looks like a Mattel product by comparison. Let's not pretend that an SL or Aston or BMW interior is in the same class as the Maserati Coupe's. Also, M-B and BMW have brilliantly obscured device functionality from users, in their top market automotive interiors. Cadillac and GM can't hope to play at their level of technology obfuscation anytime soon. That takes decades of practiced overengineering that Cadillac can't hope to accumulate in this decade. It's a shame but that's the way it is. However, short of the full Italian treatment no one else can duplicate, if you like clean, functional, uncluttered, ergonomic interiors, the XLR-v is just fine and undistracting the way it is.
7/ My (pick one) SL55/M6/ can beat your XLR-v.
Hmmm....you better get started, then. These cars are close enough in performance that driver superiority alone can prevail in any over the others. Besides, do you have any idea what you look like peeling out like a common 'Stang Banger in your six figure car?
8/ Isn't it true that the people who buy XLR-vs can't afford SL55s?
Does anyone really think that $137K is out of reach for someone who can afford a $100K car, in this modern world of finance?
9/ But they've been building SLs for 50 years!
Yes, and it feels like it.
10/ Is the XLR-v pretty enough compared to its competition? Do you think you can really live with all those angles, flat surfaces and lines?
Good question. Ever notice how old and dated the long overhangs of the current SL look when juxtaposed with the wheels-in-the-corners XLR-v? Which do I like better, the XLR's modern futurism or the corpulent curves of the SL/M6? Let me see....... Now, Maserati vs Cadillac -- there's a real aesthetic choice!
For the most part, I've noticed that people who refuse to believe the XLR-v can win a buyer on the merits have never actually driven the car. Hey folks -- if you merely test-drove an XLR, you still don't know what an XLR-v feels like! Meanwhile, it's interesting to watch SL drivers have to wait for their iron at the valet line while my XLR-v is up front with the Bentleys, Astons and Ferraris.
OK, there must be something not to like about the XLR-v. Yes, two things. First, I wish the roof liner were leather, even as an extra-cost option. And I get some glass/rubber seal chatter from the driver's side window on rough pavement, especially in sport mode. Maybe that old tube of BMW ragtop gasket lubricant will help.
By any measure, this V-series XLR is a seriously satisfying machine that puts Cadillac and GM squarely in the luxury performance roadster market, with both feet! Don't hand-wring. Get focused on how you're going to own one.
PS: The adaptive lighting for XLRs in 2006 is no gimmick. It's sensationally effective on twisty mountain canyon roads in the dark.
congrats on the rides and I like the way you put the way the xlr-v compared to the others. I do know for a fact the cts-v is alot more fun to drive then it's comp and if the xlr-v is that fun to it should have no problem competeing as well.
As someone who works on all the Cadis everyday, and drives them all every day I can tell you the difference between the XLR and the V is staggering.
It is a truly amazing difference that you have to feel to believe.
I can't even describe how much smoother the drive is on the V series.
I only drove it about 20 miles, but man, it was the most enjoyable 20 miles I have driven in years.
I agree, anybody who says the negative things you quoted apparently hasn't driven this car.
I know you'll enjoy it.
I didn't take the time to finish my intended evaluation of the Aston V8 Vantage before buying the XLR-v. When I drove the V, I made a decision on the spot that for this car purchase, a retractable hardtop was the right move. I've been a long-time convertible driver, roadsters and muscle cars and decided that the coupe-convertible concept was too good to pass up and the Caddy is the best product in the category.
Now, the Aston V8 is beautiful in every way. It's down on power compared to the V, but it does offer a manual transmission. Early reviews indicate it is softer and slower than the XLR-v, but nevertheless thoroughly an Aston experience. I am going to go drive one soon, however, because while it's not the most responsible thing financially, I might consider adding one next year if we like it well enough. It would give my British wife something made under the Union Jack to drive and the CTS-v would still keep its place as the 4 door. We'll see. I'll wait for the market to settle and the dealer markups to disappear before considering it, however.