Cadillac XLR 2004

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The 2004 Cadillac XLR ($75,385) comes one way, with a convertible hard top. Its 4.6-liter V8 engine is mated to Cadillac’s newest five-speed automatic transmission. XM Satellite Radio is the only option ($325). The list of standard equipment is long: side-impact airbags, a nine-speaker Bose sound system, DVD navigation and video, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, radar-controlled adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and push-button start, a head-up display, and OnStar, the highway assistance service featuring the helpful voices of genuine human beings beamed to the car by satellite.cadillac-xlr-01-2004-1.jpg

THE first Cadillac XLR will not be delivered to its first customer until next month, but it is not too early to declare the two-seat luxury roadster a success, at least in some respects.

The 2004 XLR has contributed to a growing buzz for General Motors’ premium car division after a long lethargic period in which Cadillac seemed ready for the retirement home. In an audacious challenge that would have seemed unthinkable not long ago, the $76,200 XLR takes dead aim at one of the best cars from Mercedes-Benz, the SL500, after decades in which Cadillac essentially abandoned the high-end luxury market.

So if the XLR is a hit with customers as well as critics, it will send a signal that things have truly changed at stodgy old G.M. – that the giant company is capable of competing, when it puts its collective mind and money to the task, with the best efforts from overseas.

The initial signs are promising, and a test drive in the XLR convinced me that it compares well with the more expensive Mercedes. Some enthusiast magazines have even ranked the Cadillac higher. While I am not yet ready to go that far, at least until the technology-heavy XLR establishes a record for quality and reliability, I will concede that it is a credible alternative to luxury convertibles like the Lexus SC 430 and Jaguar XK8.

Inspired by the 1999 Evoq concept car that signaled a razor-sharp change in Cadillac’s design direction, the XLR plays on two themes from the division’s glory days of the 1930’s through the 1960’s: distinctive styling and futuristic technology.

Cadillac introduced its knife-edge “Art and Science” styling with the Escalade sport utility and CTS midsize sedan, and the XLR further refines the design. It is a confident, masculine look, and in my experience men like it more than women. (Personally, I prefer the sexy curves of the Mercedes and the Jaguar.)

But like it or not, you have to concede that the XLR is bold, distinctive and all-American. The car turned the heads of the well-dressed, well-heeled, middle-aged men who spotted a fleet of XLRs in the parking lot of an exclusive resort here.

The XLR shares its body structure with the sixth-generation Corvette that makes its debut next year, and is built in the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Ky. The XLR doesn’t look or feel like a ‘Vette inside or out, though there are hints of that car, like the plastic-composite body panels, the prominent drivetrain tunnel that bisects the low-set cabin (and that stiffens the chassis), as well as the long, low hood.

Under that hood is a new version of Cadillac’s Northstar V-8 engine, re-engineered for its first application in a rear-drive car. The 4.6-liter dual-cam engine delivers 320 horsepower. Despite the Northstar’s extensive modifications, its powerful but graceful acceleration seemed familiar, and the exhaust has been tuned to deliver a subtle, throaty growl that fits this sporty but elegant car. A five-speed automatic transmission includes a Tiptronic-style function that lets the driver change gears manually by tapping the shifter.

My only complaint about the drivetrain involved the software that adapts the automatic shifts to one’s driving style. On downhill curves in the mountains, the transmission seemed to delay its upshifts too long.

The XLR has the longest wheelbase in its competitive set, as well as the widest track and the lowest height; all these factors enhance stability and handling. The car is also quick, thanks to ample horsepower and the lightest weight in its class. The XLR’s rock-solid body structure kept the car buttoned down on mountain curves, but judicious suspension tuning kept occupants from bouncing on the rough roads of G.M.’s proving grounds in Mesa, where the track mimics road conditions from smooth California pavement to Michigan potholes. The XLR’s ride and handling are further enhanced with standard antilock brakes, a stability system and magnetic ride control, which continuously adjusts the suspension to road conditions and helps to keep the body level even during aggressive cornering or on uneven surfaces.

The XLR strikes me as a man’s car. Aside from styling that’s more Mars than Venus, the dead pedal in the footwell is positioned for long-legged guys. There are no door handles; from the outside, you poke your fingers into a recess alongside the door and push an electronic keypad. On the inside, a simple electric door-release button is set into the door pull. In either case, the procedure is fussy and likely to undo the manicures of the well-groomed women who use this showy and expensive car.

The XLR also has keyless starting. If you approach the car with the key fob in your pocket or purse, the doors unlock automatically. Inside, there is no ignition switch, only a button that starts the car if the key fob is nearby.

The XLR’s most notable exterior feature is a retractable hardtop made of lightweight metals and plastics. (The glass rear window includes a defroster.) At the push of a button on the console, the top performs an intricate ballet of rising and folding parts as it opens or closes. (It takes about 30 seconds in either case, which is about twice as long as the SL’s similar apparatus.) And when the top is down, it eats up most of the trunk space.

Inside, the XLR environment is contemporary and classy, trimmed with inviting leather, light eucalyptus wood and woven-look aluminum. The gauges were designed by Bulgari, the Italian jeweler, and appear suspended in space, yet I had to wonder if they added much to the ambience.

A heads-up display projects the speedometer and other crucial information onto the windshield, though I found the readouts weren’t clear through my heavily polarized sunglasses. This seemed odd, since the car is likely to be driven most in sunny climates. Otherwise, operating the dazzling array of technology is mostly logical and easy.

A touch screen on the dashboard controls the DVD-based navigation system, the nine-speaker Bose audio system and even a DVD video player of the sort that usually entertains children in a minivan. This entertainment system operates only when the car is parked and, I was told, may help a driver pass the time as he (or she) waits for a companion who is shopping.

The XLR also comes with adaptive cruise control, parking-proximity sensors, seats that are both heated and cooled and the OnStar communications system. The only option, in fact, is XM Satellite Radio ($325 plus a monthly subscription of about $10), a nifty service but one whose deck-mounted antenna detracts a bit from the design.

My biggest problem with the XLR is its space shortage. The seatbacks buttress against the back of the passenger compartment with not a sliver of space behind them for even a purse (which I tossed next to my passenger’s feet) or a slim briefcase (which I had to stash in the tiny trunk). The SL500 has a bit of space behind the seats for such items, and the SC 430 and XK8 have back seats that are impossibly small for most passengers but are handy for small objects.

The XLR comes with run-flat tires, fortunately, for the presence of a spare would eliminate the meager trunk space altogether.

Cadillac’s pricing for the XLR is every bit as bold as the car’s design: at $76,200, including the destination charge, the car is $13,400 more than the SC 430, a bit more than the XK8 and $11,000 less than the SL500. G.M. notes, however, that many of the Cadillac’s standard features are options on the SL, and pegs the difference in comparably equipped cars at about $30,000.

In any case, Cadillac should have no problem selling the 5,000 XLR’s it plans to produce in the 2004 model year. Mercedes sells three times that many SL’s.

Cadillac’s general manager, Mark LeNeve, says the XLR “represents the embodiment of Cadillac’s renaissance.” The next chapter of the division’s turnaround story will be, he promised, more high-caliber vehicles like the XLR.

All new 2004 Cadillac XLR specifications include engine specs, transmission, drivetrain, bodystyle, color choices, standard features and options, and more. These vehicle specs will arm you with the knowledge you will need to shop for or compare cars.
EPA Ratings
City 17/hwy 25(4.6L engine/5-speed auto trans)
Exterior
Daytime running lamps
Fog lamps, front, integral
Glass, Solar-Ray light tinted
Hardtop, retractable, power
Headlamps, bi-functional high-intensity discharge with headlamp washers and Twilight Sentinel automatic lamp control
Mirrors, outside rearview, power heated, memory, manual folding, driver side electrochromic (light sensitive, automatic dimming)
Tail lamps, LED illumination
Wipers, intermittent, front, with Rainsense feature
Interior
Accents, interior, aluminum on center console, left-hand and right-hand door armrest, left-hand and right-hand door switch bezel, center air outlet, climate control, radio and steering wheel
Air filtration system, includes pollen filter
Antenna, integral
Cargo convenience net, trunk
Climate control, dual-zone, automatic, includes individual climate settings for driver and right front passenger
Console, floor, includes ashtray with cigar lighter, auxiliary power outlet, 2 cupholders, coin holder and accessible storage compartments in console and between seat backs
Cruise control, adaptive, sophisticated radar transceiver automatically adjusts speed to maintain preset following distance, includes telltale in head-up display
Decklid, power, push button, open and close
Defogger, rear-window, electric, front and side window outlets, driver and right front passenger
Door locks, power programmable, includes lockout protection
Driver Information Center, 20 character display including tire pressure, 5 language capability (English, French, German, Japanese, Spanish)
Floormats, carpeted
Fuel filler door release, power
Glovebox, lockable, passenger side, illuminated
Head-Up Display, includes digital readouts for vehicle speed, selected gear, adaptive cruise indicator, radio information, high-beam indicator, fuel level, six languages available (English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish)
Instrumentation, electronic, analog BVLGARI-designed
Keyless Access, includes 2 BVLGARI remote transmitters which enable automatic door unlock and open by touching door switch,
Lighting, illuminated entry and exit, includes courtesy lamps and entrance lamps in base of door
Map pockets, door storage
Memory Personalization, memory presets for two drivers, includes power driver seat, outside mirrors with parallel park assist, steering column, climate control, sound system and driver information center
Mirror, inside rearview, electrochromic (light-sensitive auto dimming), includes OnStar controls
OnStar, 1-year Directions & Connections Service, includes Automatic Notification of Air Bag Deployment, Emergency Services, Roadside Assistance, Stolen-Vehicle Tracking, AccidentAssist, Remote Door Unlock, Remote Diagnostics, Online Concierge, Remote Horn, Parking brake release, automatic,
Rear Parking Assist, Ultrasonic, includes rearview LED light bar and audible warning
Seats, front bucket, leather seating surfaces, adjustable upper and lower lumbar support, 8-way power adjuster driver and passenger, easy exit seat position, cooled and heated seat cushions and seat backs and integrated audio system
Sound system, ETR AM/FM stereo with 6-disc in dash CD changer, Bose premium 9-speaker system, DVD navigation, 6.5″ LCD color display touch screen, voice recognition (5 languages: English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish) Radio Data System, weather bar , Steering column, power tilt and telescopic,
Steering wheel accessory controls, cruise control, voice recognition and audio system,
Steering wheel, eucalyptus wood and leather-wrapped rim,
Theft-deterrent system, audible,
Tire pressure monitor system, air pressure sensors in each tire. Pressure display in Driver Information Center,
Trim, eucalyptus wood accents, includes door handles, shift knob and center console,
Universal transmitter, HomeLink, includes garage door opener, 3-channel programmable,
Visors, illuminated vanity mirrors, driver and right front passenger,
Windows, integrated automatic indexing seal system,
Windows, power, includes express up/down driver and passenger,
Alternator, 150 amps,
Battery, maintenance free, includes rundown protection,
Brakes, 4-wheel antilock, 4-wheel disc,
Engine, 4.6L DOHC V8, SFI variable valve timing, Northstar (320 HP [ 238.7 kW] @ 6400 rpm, 310 lb.-ft [418.5 N-m] @4400 rpm)
Exhaust outlets, dual chrome-plated tips
Fuel capacity, approximate, 18 gallon (69 liters)
Ignition, keyless, engaged with push button start
Rear axle, 2.93 ratio
Rear wheel drive
StabiliTrak, four-channel electronic vehicle stability enhancement system
Steering, power, Magnasteer, speed-sensitive, rack and pinion
Suspension, 4-wheel independent, with Magnetic Ride Control
Tires, P235/50R18 extended mobility, W-rated blackwall
Traction control, all-speed, electronic
Transmission, 5-speed automatic, electronically controlled with overdrive and Driver Shift Control
Wheels, 18″ (45.7 cm) aluminum, polished
Air bags, frontal, dual-stage, driver and right front passenger, side impact with head and thorax protection, driver and right front passenger (Always use safety belts and proper child restraints, even with air bags. Children are safer when properly secur
Brakes, 4-wheel antilock, 4-wheel disc
Daytime running lamps
Safety belts, 3-point, driver and right front passenger with pretensioners and child restraint provisions
Traction control, all-speed, electronic

Recall :
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 05V046000 Recall Date: FEB 04, 2005
Component: VEHICLE SPEED CONTROL:ACCELERATOR PEDAL
Potential Number Of Units Affected: 19924
Summary:

Passenger VEHICLES FAIL TO COMPLY WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARD NO. 124, `ACCELERATOR CONTROL SYSTEMS.` IF ONE OF THE TWO ACCELERATOR PEDAL RETURN SPRINGS FAILS AND THE TEMPERATURE IS -22 DEGREES F TO -40 DEGREES F, THE ENGINE MAY NOT RETURN TO IDLE WITHIN THREE SECONDS, AS REQUIRED.
Consequence:
Warranty
Basic: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Corrosion: 6 Years/100,000 Miles

Scribbled on March 28th 2008 in Cadillac
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