2004-2009 Cadillac XLR
For years Cadillac eyed the exclusive-to-Chevrolet Corvette as the basis for a Cadillac roadster. In 1999 Cadillac finally got their chance unveiling the Evoq showcar to test the public’s reaction, but more importantly, to debut their new “Art and Science” design vocabulary. Art and Science would become the unique vertical headlight/taillight, knife edge styling, which they continue featuring today.
When Cadillac got the green light, they based what they called the “XLR” on a modified Corvette C-5 chassis, with some newer C-6 pieces. There are differences from the Y-body Corvette platform, however. The wheelbase is longer, and the XLR is two-inches shorter overall. Another difference is the higher seating position because the H-point is taller, giving the body more mass.
Of course the main deviation from a Corvette is the DOHC Northstar 4.6L V8 engine. A forged crank, drive-by-wire throttle, and variable valve timing produced 330hp, plenty of scoot for a 3600-pound roadster. Originally the only transmission available was the five-speed with sequential up- and downshifting.
In early 2006 the 443hp XLR-V was introduced, powered by the same supercharged Northstar engine as the STS-V sedan. XLR-Vs got Z51 Corvette disc brakes, 19-inch wheels, and a six-speed automatic. Top speed was electronically limited to 155mph with a list price topping $110,000.
Produced from late 2003 to 2009, Cadillac’s projected sales were 5000 units per year, but the XLR never got close to those numbers. Overall production totaled 15,460 units, including about 200 sold in 2010 and 2011 as 2009 XLRs.
Styling was the work of Cadillac Chief Designer Kip Wasenko, with the conversion to production handled by GM designer Tom Peters. Originally the XLR was to have aluminum body panels, but the cost and weight savings of plastic won. Plastic panel production and assembly were handled by the same sources as the Corvette, as was assembly side-by-side at the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
The retractable top is quite spectacular as it folds up and then stows in the trunk. Analog instrumentation and a combo of Eucalyptus and aluminum panels adorn the interior, which is covered in rich leather. A head-up display in the windshield shows an array of engine functions and speed. Other unique features, it’s very limited production, and $30,000 price over a same-year Corvette, make them rare and collectible today.
A last hurrah came in 2009 with new front and rear fascia, and vertical chrome vents ahead of the doors. Instrument changes and other interior detail changes mark the final year for the XLR. The last one was built on March 31, 2009.