I have, albeit it was a short drive I got from a friend who worked at a Cadillac dealership. While I got my seat time in it back in 2004, I remember it quite well, and not because it was something that stirred my soul.
No, it was memorable because it was quite the opposite. The XLR was suppose to the flagship car for General Motors flagship brand, and to give this car a sporting chance to be… umm sporting, it shared its platform with the Chevrolet Corvette.
Under its strikingly sculpted body, lied a 4.6-liter, V8 motor that was called Northstar. This motor produced 320-hp and 310-lb/ft of torque. Power was sent only to the rear wheels. Earlier cars, like the one I drove, had a 5-speed automatic gearbox, in 2007 it was upgraded to a 6-speed auto.
For the 2006 model year, Cadillac introduced an XLR-V version which had a supercharged 4.4-liter, V8 that produced 443-hp and 414-lb/ft of torque. The “V” versions all came with the 6-speed auto and also just rear-wheel drive.
However, back to the car I drove, the early example. I wanted to drive it because I thought it looked very cool and thought that since it was based on the underpinnings of a Corvette, it will be wild and exciting to drive.
It wasn’t. For a car with 320-hp, it felt like it had less than half that. The steering felt numb and far too light for a sports convertible, and the noise factor one seeks when driving a V8-powered roadster was just not there. I’m sure the “V” version addressed a few of these concerns, but since I never drove one, I cannot comment on that.
I also didn’t mind the interior. Sure it wasn’t as well built as a Bentley Continental GT, but it did the job, and the seats felt nice and comfy.
One of its few, neat features was its power retractable top, which had a very unusual mechanism to put it up or down. It was best to do it under the clear blue sky, rather than in a garage, because it required a lot of space, but the roof theatrics were part of its appeal.
However, the price was not very appealing. Back in the day, a base XLR would set you back over $100,000. Nowadays, you can find a good one with decent mileage for about $30,000. However, because it was very expensive when new, not many people in Canada bought one, so it has that rarity appeal also.
Cadillac stopped making the XLR in 2009 and has not done a convertible since. In 2011, Cadillac showed a concept convertible called the CIEL, which is stunning and it harks back to the kind of cars Cadillac was making in its glory days of the 1950’s.
Will the CIEL ever go into production and will it look like the concept is not yet known.
Cadillac has recently hinted that it is working on a new flagship, so let’s hope this time, their flagship is as good to drive as it can look.