Review: 2009 Cadillac XLR-V

2009 Cadillac XLR-V – Click above for high-res image gallery

It's not a good time to be any other car in Cadillac's lineup besides the CTS. While the brand's new sedan racks up accolades and fresh converts, the other vehicles wearing a wreath and crest badge stand around like the siblings that didn't grow up to be president.

Then there's the 556-hp CTS-V, Cadillac's brand new halo car, a role that used to be played by the XLR hardtop convertible. The XLR has a V version, too, but it has only 443 units of whoopass under its hood. It was, however, refreshed for the 2009 model year and can now be found resting comfortably in the shadow created by everyone crowding around the CTS-V. Let's see if the 2009 Cadillac XLR-V deserves its fate in the shade.

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All Photos © Copyright John Neff / Weblogs Inc.

The XLR-V doesn't deserve a day in the sun until Cadillac lowers the cost to get in one. It takes a big pair to play in the six-figure segment, and this domestic luxury brand has them on display by pricing the XLR-V at $100,690. It is the most expensive Cadillac of all time, and for that kind of money should leave flaming bags of poop on the doorsteps of its competition. It doesn't, but the XLR-V does have a few qualities that match the caliber of its price tag.

It may look like the business end of a spatula, but park the XLR-V anywhere and it will hold court like Emeril in the kitchen. There's just nothing around that looks like it, perhaps because most cars can't cut cheese with their fenders. That's Cadillac's "Art and Science" design ethos at work. Introduced on the 2003 CTS and since applied to the rest of the lineup, A&S refers to the sharp, slab-sided, anti-jelly bean appearance of modern Caddies.

Though the 2008 CTS sedan debuted wearing v2.0 of this design language, the refreshed 2009 XLR-V features an evolution of the original and is none the worse for it. Imagine the Corvette getting dressed up in a hand-tailored William Fioravanti suit and you're there. The 2009 XLR gets new front and rear fascias, though only aficionados will notice the difference. Since there are no XLR aficionados, the refreshed model's big tell is a pair of chrome fender vents that weren't there before.

Grandma and Grandpa shall know not to pit their XLR Platinum against your XLR-V – the only two trims available for 2009 – thanks to a few more tip offs. The V gets big 19-inch, many-spoked wheels, a mean set of centrally mounted quad tailpipes, a ground effects package that adds a couple dozen more sharp edges and the V division's trademark chain link grille. The whole package shouts to passersby that you both A) have money and B) can go fast enough to be jailed for the remainder of GM's five-year warranty if caught. Fortunately, if A) is true then you've got a good chance of avoiding B). God bless the USA.

The XLR-V actually sits atop a Corvette chassis and is assembled at that most holy of assembly plants in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The two cars share suspension components and other bits and pieces, which just so happens to infuriate some Corvette fanboys. Not to fret, though, as Cadillac has ensured that the XLR-V is a threat to no one.

To be threatening, the XLR-V would need to back up its scissor sharp styling with a big engine. Instead, Cadillac remains resolutely committed to its 15-year-old Northstar V8, a supercharged 4.4L version of which making 443 hp and 414 lb-ft of torque is used in the XLR-V. Two questions. Doesn't a cheaper LS3-powered XLR-V with 430 hp sound nice? And if the 556-hp LSA motor is good enough for the CTS-V, wouldn't it be great in the brand's range topping roadster? These questions deserve answers before you plunk down over a hundred thou on something that's instantly outgunned by a number of less expensive machines.

Though we're obviously coo coo for any LS engine's cocoa puffs, we have to admit this supercharged Northstar V8 is pretty sweet. It may not be the most impressive motor on the menu, but it makes a very delicious sound, especially just after the starter button (it's really kind of a rocker switch, actually) is pushed.

Accelerate away and the four exhaust tips broadcast a bass-rich rendition of AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck' in your wake. You might even give the car a quarter after the massaging vibrations of its well-sorted V8 subside. It's all very visceral, very un-Cadillac and very addicting to repeat over and over and over. And sure, the XLR-V is fast, just not as fast as it looks. It does have trick MagneRide shocks, which allow the firm suspension to vary its damping rate so those wide wheels don't communicate every pea under the mattress to the cockpit.

See video of hardtop in action below

There's only one thing left that could justify handing over 100,000 bills for the XLR-V: its folding hardtop. A lot of high-priced two-doors offer retracting hardtops so as to be all things to their high-rolling clients – both coupe and convertible with no compromises – but it still doesn't change the fact that a Pontiac G6 Convertible can do the same trick for $70,000 less.

It's a good thing that you don't have to pay the king's ransom Cadillac is requesting for the XLR-V if you don't want to, at least for one more day. General Motors' employee pricing offer ends September 30th, which means you can still get a $15,000 discount on a 2008 XLR-V if you stop reading right now and race to your local Cadillac dealer. Sorry, 2009 models aren't eligible... yet.

The truth is that the 2009 XLR-V survives on looks alone and is Cadillac's halo vehicle by virtue of its price rather than performance. There's just no way we can take it seriously after having driven the '09 CTS-V, which is a true supercar stuffed into a skin tight sedan bodysuit. The XLR-V, meanwhile, got a warned over refreshening for 2009 when it needed an injection of anabolic steroids. Until that happens, the CTS-V will attract all the crowds in Cadillac showrooms and cast long shadows on the XLR-V.

View 28 Photos

All Photos © Copyright John Neff / Weblogs Inc.

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