The XLR-V is Cadillac’s most expensive model to date, costing some $23,000 more than the next priciest Cadillac, the STS-V, and it’s a huge risk for a division still in the midst of mustering a credible threat to the European luxury marques. But the focus cannot be on whether or not a $100,000 Caddy should exist—since one indisputably now does—but rather on whether it lives up to the lofty expectations created by its six-figure sticker price.
Ponying up all that dough secures the speediest Cadillac ever, thanks to a powerful, 443-hp, supercharged V-8, which accelerates the XLR-V from 0 to 60 mph in a claimed 4.6 seconds-an improvement of 1.2 seconds over the base XLR and just a tick behind the recently discontinued Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG. In order to handle the higher pressures and temperatures produced by the Roots-style blower, Cadillac engineers had to substantially revise the base car’s powerplant, a task that included decreasing displacement from 4.6 liters to 4.4 liters and adding beefier components, including a new block and heavy-duty pistons. It’s nearly the same setup found in the STS-V, but there the Northstar pumps out 469 hp due to freer-breathing intake and exhaust plumbing that won’t fit in the XLR-V, which requires a prominent hood bulge simply to make room for the supercharger.
Nearly as impressive is the Magnetic Ride Control, which processes wheel and road data once every millisecond. It’s been upgraded for V-spec duty to include two settings. The default setting is a more comfort-oriented program—identical to the sole setting on the base car—that goes too soft before shoring up the supports, but the second mode, a sportier calibration chosen by tipping the gear lever into the manu-matic slot, keeps the car flat on initial turn-in and nicely balanced during aggressive cornering.
The XLR-V’s gearbox, one of the General’s first six-speed automatics, is extremely smooth in both automatic and manumatic modes. But manual gearshifts are effected somewhat lazily, so it is imperative to plan shifts ahead of time in order that you don’t find yourself suddenly testing the seatbelt when you hit the rev limiter. We wish there were shift paddles, too.
The steering is like a late-in-life Marlon Brando having a root canal: weighty but numb. It gains some feel over the base XLR’s rack but still isn’t communicative enough, a shortcoming it shares with the SL. This is, we suppose, a function of those cars’ bizarre market niche, where hot-rod droptops must also serve as boulevardiers, able to cruise at parade speed as well as bomb down mountain passes.
Regular XLRs boast easily modulated brakes with short pedal travel, and the V’s binders are also plenty strong-and fade-free-with upsized rotors measuring 13.4 inches up front and 13.0 inches at the rear. But the pedal feels spongy, and as a result the brakes aren’t particularly confidence-inspiring.
Aesthetic changes are few. Besides the attractive V-series mesh grille and additional badging, the XLR-V gains exclusive eighteen-inch wheels, polished exhaust tips, and the hood bulge. The cabin has been gussied up with French seams and top-grade leather on the dash, door panels, and console, as well as on the protective roll hoops and their surrounding trim pieces. The fancier duds are unable, however, to disguise an interior that isn’t especially noteworthy to begin with.
But is the XLR-V worth $100,000? Cadillac has priced the car to say “Hey! Here we are!” as much as for profits. In terms of performance, the XLR-V merits its steep sticker price. Six figures is a tall order, however, for a car that lacks the cachet, history, and gorgeous interior of a Jaguar XK or a Mercedes-Benz SL. So, the answer is: Not quite. But drop in a more stylish cockpit and give it a few years—then ask us again.