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Cadillac XLR Roadster engines, drive and performance

2005 - 2006 (change model)
Performance rating: 4 out of 54.0

Written by Simon Harris Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 6 June 2019

Cadillac may conjure up images of large saloons for Mafia Dons, but the XLR is a showcase for the American firm’s engineering know-how and demonstrates this with a kerb weight that’s 180kg less than a Mercedes SL. Less weight means the 326bhp 4.6 V8 has no trouble getting the XLR from 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds and on to an electronically governed 155mph top speed.

The five-speed automatic gearbox melts easily from one ratio to the next, while the V8 is happy to rev hard when asked to overtake. It makes an all-American V8 growl when driven hard, but the V8 is also happy to keep quiet when cruising. The only problem is the XLR is almost too smooth and doesn’t feel as zesty as a Merc SL.

The Corvette-based underpinnings of the XLR give it excellent handling and superb cornering ability, though the car’s width can be a problem on British roads. There’s no shimmy or squirm from the body when the roof is lowered, which is a testament to how well engineered it is. This means the XLR challenges European preconceptions of how a Caddy is to drive.

In place of the expected softness, there’s firmly controlled suspension that deals admirably with most rut-addled roads, though in town bumps can be felt from the 18-inch alloys. However, it’s a match for the Mercedes SL’s comfort in and out of town. The steering is direct and accurate, though there’s very little feel at the wheel when driving on the motorway.

Strong brakes and standard ESP stability control round off an impressive driving package.