The Overlooked Performance Car – The Cadillac XLR

I was looking at some older pictures of cars that I took and one car caught my eye as an overlooked performance car – the Cadillac XLR.  This was a two-seat sports car based on a Chevrolet Corvette.  The car had a retractable hard top which turned it into a stylish convertible.  The standard engine is Cadillac’s 4.6 litre Northstar V8 tuned for 320 hp with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Cadillac XLR-V

The Cadillac XLR-V is the high performance version of the Cadillac XLR.  I saw the Cadillac XLR-V at the Mosport track in 2007 and I was very impressed with the car, but unfortunately I have never had the opportunity to drive this car.

The Cadillac XLR was essentially available from 2004 to 2009, but sales were never high.  I can only recall ever seeing one of these cars on the street.  The annual sales figures for the Cadillac XLR are shown below:

2003 – 875
2004 – 3,665
2005 – 3,730
2006 – 3,203
2007 – 1,750
2008 – 1,250
2009 – 787
2010 – 188

If you look carefully, I am sitting in this Cadillac XLR-V

The Cadillac XLR-V, introduced in 2005, has a 4.4 litre supercharged V8 engine producing 443 horsepower.  The supercharger and four intercoolers are built into the intake manifold. The Cadillac XLR-V has a six-speed automatic transmission, larger brakes from the Z51 Corvette, and 19-inch wheels.

The XLR-V can accelerate to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds.  The Cadillac XLR-V has been timed it at 11.3 seconds to 100 mph and recorded a 13.0 second quarter mile at 110 mph. Its top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.  So the car can go.

The Cadillac XLR Appears to be a Very Comfortable Car

These very expensive cars which obviously hurt the sales of this car.  The initial selling price of these cars was $80,000 to $100,000.  At this time, low mileage used Cadillacs XLR and XLR-V are available for $30,000 to $50,000.  Also I think that people who are intersted in a two-seat North American car would probably be more attracted to the more well known and storied Corvette.

For these reasons, the Cadillac XLR seems to have been overlooked by many car people.  It is what I would call a “gentleman’s rocketship”.   I like the performance of this car and the idea that not many of these cars are seen on the road.  And because these cars appear to have been overlooked, it might be possible to buy a lightly used, exclusive car at a good price.

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17 Responses to The Overlooked Performance Car – The Cadillac XLR

  1. Pingback: Learn How To Properly Inspect A Used Car

    • I don’t believe that the Cadillac XLR cars came with a manual transmission. Perhaps another General Motors manual tranmission could be swapped in. Your question reminds me of some statistics that I saw a few years ago that indicated that only a small percentage of Corvettes (I recall less than 10%) were sold with manual transmissions.


      • El Ronbo says:

        Unfortunately a transmission swap is not possible. While this was built on the Corvette platform, they used the Northstar (Cadillac) engine, and so the bell housings and other parts for the Chevy manuals won’t fit. Also, since there was no factory Northstar manual, there is no existing computer tune to leverage.

        The only attempt at doing this swap that I’ve heard of was by a company called Mallet, that did one for a GM executive. They never posted pictures or other results, and the company went out of business not long after.

        I think the only way you could make the swap work would be to swap both the engine and the transmission, using either a Corvette motor or some Chevy engine that is set up for a manual. That would be hugely expensive, and when you’re done there’s no guarantee that there wouldn’t be strange vibrations or other harshness from repackaging a drivetrain in to a car not designed for it.

        That said, they are great cars. I just saw an XLR-V on eBay, 38K miles, with the bidding at $28K. If you buy one in an out of the way place you can find a real bargain. I’ve been considering one, but for the same price I can get a brand new 420 hp Mustang GT, with a warranty, and a warranty is a wonderful thing on a car.

  2. Greg says:

    While the XLR doesn’t have a manual transmission, it does have a shift-tronic transmission to allow driver shifting. Yes, not a real manual transmission, but better than nothing(?).

  3. tom says:

    A total piece of garbage that depreciated by 50% the second it drove off the dealer lot. Bought a new 2010 and within 5000 miles squeaks and creaks developed up in the dash area and also in the door panels. Back to the dealership it went where they supposedly fixed the problems. On the drive home from the dealership the noises began again. Turned around and back to the dealership it went a second time. 2 days later a phone call informed me the car was ready to go. Within a day the noises were back again!!! Back to the dealership a 3rd time where the service manager told me there was nothing wrong with the car with an annoyed tone in his voice. Guess at 46 I’m already starting to hear noises in my head I guess along with my wife who heard the noises also. Within 8000 miles the motor for the hardtop went out and had to be replaced (under warranty) and within 13000 miles the engine developed a oil leak at the front main seal. Back to the dealership yet once again where that was supposedly fixed but yet drips still developed underneath it on my garage floor. Didn’t bother with another trip to the dealership as I attributed the drips to just my imagination like the noises the dealership told me had been fixed and no longer existed. At 17000 miles 2 speakers went out and had to be replaced under warranty and at 22000 miles the tranny developed a noise and began to leak also. It was at this time that I decided to cut my loses and trade the POS for a Nissan Maxima, that to this day has given me or my wife not one once of trouble.

    • Mike says:

      Nice story since they stopped making them in 2009 🙂

    • Peter says:

      Since your story indicates you bought a new “2010” XLR-V, your story is suspected of not being true because NO XLR-V WERE MADE IN 2010. Production of the XLR-V terminated at the end of 2009 and no 2010 models were ever made!

  4. Chris L. says:

    My 2004 XLR with 47K does not have a squeak, rattle or bump (knock on wood). Squeaky clean still and runs like a champ.

    • Peter says:

      Mine XLR-V was bought new in 2006 and now have 72,000 miles on it. It has no squeaks, rattles or leaks anywhere. Other than replacement on normal wear items (brakes, rotors, tires, wipers, etc.) only a few small issues had to be repaired under warranty.

  5. richard says:

    hello I bought a used c5 corvette cleanest 03 around.I was frustrated trying to find a clean XLR base car.

    .Vs were out of my price point. I traveled to Ohio west Virginia Iowa and Illinois couldn’t find a nice one .So I bought the C5 convertible and as fate would have it 6 weeks later I found a one owner 2006 XLR 45k for the most part a perfect car!
    I had told the small dealer that i bought the C5 from to find me a Black XLR ( Black only )and when he did I I would trade the C5 back to him ,He agreed ( I dont think he though I would be back in 6 week I actually found the car for him to buy for me)

    Well what I want to say is owning the C5 gave me a better appreciation of the XLR..As far as ride looks and drivebility not to mention it gets more attention from the general public. I debadge the XLR side emblems and deck lid..There is a crest in the grill and deck lid thats it.

    Most people have never seen one.I guess because there were only 15 k of them made.

    As for the corvette Ive had a bunch but nothing in the last 10 years
    Well keep your covettes .Im 56 year old and I just laugh at q tips driving corvette.Like there trying to relive there childhood.But I guess there isent enough XLR to go around anyway So lets keep it a secret Ha!

  6. Mike Murphy says:

    Found a 2006 XLRV last summer with 22,000 miles that had the right frame rail crushed and the front fenders and bumper assembly damaged. It was a early build pilot production car assigned to a Cadillac Executive. The frame rail has ben repaired and the reassembly and repaint is in progress but this is 1 of 2,188 V’s built and it was well worth saving. Not even a salvage title either but the previous owner’s 17 year old son is responsible for the car’s misfortune but my good luck. Previously owned a Corvette but I think I’m going to keep this car till they take the key fob from my cold dead hands.


  7. Charles Coldren says:

    Hi Steve, Just bought a one owner 2005 XLR with 19,000+ miles on it for $22,000. Black with all the bells and whistles. Still has the original tires, which will be the first thing to change because of age.

  8. Mario Filice says:

    i am in Ontario, Canada, i bought a 2004 XLR a few months ago black on black with 12,000 original miles, car is absolutely immaculate inside and out including original tires which i do not need to change. I have loved this car since its debut, it’s a real head turner, i cant erase the smile on my face

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