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2004 Cadillac XLR Road Test

Big League Caddy Measures Up

I knew Cadillac could do it. In most ways the XLR is as good as any imported roadster. In some ways it's even better.

This gorgeous attention-getter proves that Cadillac can deliver a roadster that warrants stratospheric pricing. (Photo: Shawn Pisio, Canadian Auto Press)
Whoa is it gorgeous. Everyone who sees it loves it, even those that don't like Cadillac's new art & science approach to styling. Somehow all the sharp edges come together to form a certain grace of presence its angular sedan and SUV siblings don't pull off quite as effortlessly.

I'm all for Cadillac pushing the pricing stratosphere as long as it can deliver. Its new models have come so far in driving dynamics in the past few years that the crested wreath brand is now being considered as sporting as Audi, BMW and Infiniti, while surpassing more luxurious brands such as Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, at least in public perception.

The XLR's throaty Northstar V8 produces a formidable 320-hp at 6,400 rpm and 310 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. (Photo: Shawn Pisio, Canadian Auto Press)
Part of that perception is Cadillac's racy styling. A car has to look fast standing still, and not many roadsters look faster than the XLR. But really, how racy is it? Plenty! Not only is its throaty Northstar V8 packed with a raucous punch anytime the right foot presses into the throttle, producing a formidable 320-hp at 6,400 rpm and 310 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm, but at 1,636 kg (3,607 lbs) it's considerably lighter than any of its competition.

This makes the XLR feel sportier than either the 1,742 kg (3,840 lb) Lexus SC 430 or 1,844 kg (4,065 lb) Mercedes-Benz SL500. But is it really? Acceleration tests show the Cadillac and Lexus in a dead heat to 100 km/h, arriving in 6.5 seconds. The M-B eclipses both by 0.2 seconds for a 6.3 second run, despite weighing 208 kg (458 lbs) more.