Gadgets, unique design make XLR stand out
August 11, 2005
August 11, 2005
BY JILL CIMINILLO Auto Reporter

In my marathon training, we are currently up to 13 miles on the weekend long runs. At the slow Jill-pace, that translates into more than 2 hours of running.

That leaves a lot of time to get to know the people in my training group. A lot of time. Invariably the talk turns to cars, beginning with "What are you driving this week?"

Thus far, the car that has received the most buzz -- as well as a post-run check-it-out -- is the Cadillac XLR.

A two-seat hardtop convertible with gadgets galore, the XLR is a justifiably intriguing vehicle.

Like a kid in a candy store, when I received the test car, I had to push all the buttons, play with the navigation, set all my audio preferences, put the top down, put the top back up and then push all the buttons again.

As the XLR comes equipped with a push-button start, a power retractable hardtop, heated and cooled seats, a six-disc CD changer, eight-way power seat adjustments, dual-zone climate control, steering wheel controls and a DVD navigation system, there were quite a few buttons to push.

Some of the gadgetry does get to be a bit overwhelming, however, and I did have to consult the owner's manual to figure out the audio controls and voice recognition commands. While a bit difficult to learn in a three-day crash course, the owner of an XLR would eventually get used to all the buttons and commands as well as what they activate.

Based on the GM "performance" archcture, the rear-wheel drive XLR shares underpinnings with the Chevrolet Corvette. But where the Corvette is about sport and performance, the XLR is all luxury.

The XLR's Northstar 4.6-liter V-8 engine delivers 320 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, so it's no slouch in the performance arena. But the overall acceleration isn't as swift and immediate, transmission is automatic only, and the ride itself is more cush than road-connecting stiff.

The interior is attractive with eucalyptus wood trim, aluminum accents and gauges that are designed in conjunction with Bvlgari. The key fob is also Bvlgari, and I felt quite posh sporting such an elegant accent during my 13-mile run.

All angles and planes, the XLR is equally stunning on the outside. I've not been a particular fan of the new "edgy" Cadillac design, but I have to say it works on the XLR. Top up or top down, the XLR not only looks great, but it also looks like nothing else out on the roads.

Because I only had the test car for a weekend, I had to schedule some long drives on both Saturday and Sunday. Since I didn't have the time to take a serious road trip, I did the next best thing: I trekked out to the outlet malls in Aurora and Michigan City.

The only problem with my brilliant game plan: Limited trunk space with the top down. Luckily my co-pilot and I didn't over shop, and the 4.4 cubic-feet of top-down cargo room was just able to contain our purchases. Granted, we could have driven home with the top up and utilized the full 11.6 cubic-feet of trunk space, but it was such a nice night for top-down driving that I'm glad we didn't have to.

Since the trips out to the suburbs and back were traffic laden, I spent a solid 8 hours behind the wheel. So, it is with utter confidence that I can say the seats are comfortable.

I was able to find a good far-forward driving position, but I had to be careful with the sun visors. If the driver's visor was flipped toward me, I had the tendency to smack my forehead into it when I leaned forward to check my blind spots or look over the long front end while making a tight turn.

My favorite thing about this car was the heads-up display. It posts your current vehicle speed on the windshield in red glowing numbers. Rather than being a distraction, I found it to be very helpful, and when I turned the car in, I found I missed it in the next vehicle I was driving. As you switch radio stations or set your cruise control, these items also appear on the heads-up.

Other great features on the XLR include magnetic ride control that keeps the car glued to the road on curves and hills, adaptive cruise control and keyless access.

Since the XLR comes loaded with pretty much everything you'd want standard (Did I mention that you can watch DVD's through the navigation screen while in park?), there really aren't any options to be had. The test vehicle rang in at $76,650 with destination.