I approached the Cadillac XLR with high expectations, imagining that the engineers on GM’s most prestigious project would have gone to great lengths to deliver a car capable of competing with some very stiff competition: the Mercedes-Benz SL, the Jaguar XK, and the Lexus SC. It surpasses each on a number of counts. The XLR, estimated to sell at $75,000, is easily the best-handling car of the four—it is 400 pounds lighter than the SL, for example—with a perfect 50/50 weight distribution thanks to a Ferrari Maranello–style rear-mounted transmission. Acceleration and braking are superb, as is the novel Magnetic Ride Control suspension.
The Evoq-inspired body design—controversial to be sure—should be applauded in a world of me-too retromobiles. And as with the best convertibles, a fully retractable hard top obviates the vulnerable canvas of yore.
Ultimately, convincing an SL owner to take a serious look at the XLR is Cadillac’s biggest challenge, but this car can certainly stand on its own merits. The XLR’s design, performance, fit, and finish are equal or superior to its competition.