Wheels - Cadillac’s stunning XLR roadster

Caddy's Back - America's preeminent luxury brand retools with impressive power, design, and technology.



As the world changes, so does our concept of luxury. And so do the icons we choose to express it. This is especially apparent in the automotive industry. And to no company in the late 1990s was this fact more painfully obvious than to Cadillac.

For decades the darling of the rich and famous, Cadillac, the definitive U.S. luxury auto brand — the creator of near-fantasy cars with wings so big you had to have a pilot’s license to drive them — had turned into an also-ran producer of stodgy, unexceptional motorized furniture.

Sure, they had great engines and powertrains. They were alive with fascinating and valuable new technology and were definitively comfortable. But they looked dull. And, as occasionally boring as any decade can be, that wasn’t what many people wanted to say about themselves, then or now.

It didn’t take a visionary to see that something had to be done if Caddy wasn’t to be buried with its aging owners. Equally, it wasn’t the work of a rocket scientist to realize that the times Cadillac was most successful were those when it was most daring in design.

So, using the 1959 Eldorado — with 4-foot-high tail fins as a starting point and drawing on inspirations as diverse as the Stealth fighter plane and Bang & Olufsen audio equipment — the design team came up with a new direction they called “art and science.”

The most resolute depiction of this new direction is Cadillac’s stunning XLR roadster. Boldly modern, stylish, and confident, this car challenges your senses and demands your attention like a Cadillac should. Its knife-edge styling slashes a space for itself among the smooth curves of the competition and shreds preconceptions of what the brand stands for.

And that’s with the top up. With the metal lid down — a 30-second, push-button process — and tucked away in the trunk, the skyward-jutting windshield exaggerates the XLR’s extreme angularity.

The interior is as beautifully simple and uncluttered as the exterior. Trimmed in eucalyptus wood and textured aluminum, the cabin understates its many talents — most of which the driver controls via central LCD panel. This screen, controlled by touch or voice, tells everything — from where you are to how much air is in the tires.

Nothing as archaic as a key is required to start the engine. As long as the Bulgari key fob is in your pocket, you need only press a dash-mounted button for the 4.6-liter 320 bhp Northstar V8 to growl into life. No need to swap your gaze from road to dial to check the XLR’s speed; the numbers appear in thin air right in front of you via a jet-fighter-inspired head-up display.

Impressive as the design is, it would be of little value if the car didn’t handle as sharply as it looks. Cut the roof off some cars and they handle like a shopping cart, but not the XLR. It shares the “performance-car architecture” chassis of the upcoming C6 Corvette, which in everyday terms means it handles like a sports car should: fast.

The extensive use of aluminum and plastic in the car’s structure minimizes the XLR’s weight, giving it more than enough speed to keep you endlessly entertained. If you must have more power, a 400 bhp+ V-Spec version of the XLR will come later.

Meanwhile, if you want more space in a similarly angular package, the new Cadillac SRX is ready to serve. The company calls it a Performance Utility Vehicle, but that’s lifestyle marketing speak. You will be better served thinking of it as the sporty wagon version of the CTS sedan that sits somewhere between the XLR and the Escalade and competes with the BMW X5.  

It uses the same 320 bhp Northstar V8 powertrain as the XLR — but can also be had with a 260 bhp V6 — tuned to give the same power but a tad more torque. And it can be thrown around with a surprising amount of abandon, certainly more than you’d expect from anything that carries up to seven adults.

It shares a few other features with its slick roadster cousin, including the do-everything touch screen, but has plenty unique features, too — the UltraView Plus sunroof that almost turns the SRX into a wagon cabriolet, the three rows of seats with an electrically folding third row, the arcade-range of entertainment options, and that seven-second 0 to 60 mph performance. All-wheel drive is also an option.

As hybrids go, the SRX is one of the more convincing we have driven. If you have an occasional need to carry more than five people or loads of luggage but don’t want to sacrifice handling, performance, or luxury, this could be the vehicle for you. It has great ability on and off road and doesn’t make you pay a huge penalty at the pumps for enjoying both.

So, the XLR and SRX are everything modern luxury cars should be — distinctive, high-quality, high-performance vehicles. But, importantly, they are clearly Cadillacs, too, with the trademark world-beating engines and powertrains, fascinating and valuable new technology, and excellent comfort. And they look fabulous.

Cadillac XLR from $76,200; SRX from $38,690. Available at Jessup Auto Plaza, 68-111 Highway 111 in Cathedral City, and Champion Cadillac, 78-611 Highway 111 in La Quinta.

Edit Module
Palm Springs Life
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Michael Childers Will Tell the Stories Behind his Hollywood Star Photos

Michael Childers built a career photographing portraits of Hollywood stars, but it was the stories behind the photos that audiences will have privy to when the Rancho Mirage resident speaks Jan. 25 at the Annenberg Theater.

Dave Wakeling, The English Beat Ready to Conquer The Hood Bar

As a famous British Two Tone SKA musician in The English Beat and later as half of the popular duo General Public, David Wakeling has had his share of the limelight.

Saxony Group Fashion Week El Paseo Marks 10th Anniversary

Fashion Week El Paseo™ 2015, set for March 21-28, marks its 10th anniversary with Saxony Group as the title sponsor and a host of runway shows and events.

Variety Fetes Steve Carell, Chris Rock, and Rob Marshall

Variety's Sunday Brunch has become the hottest event of the entire Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The Theory of Everything Delicious

Chef Brad Toles and his team have been working non-stop for the last four weeks in order to deliver another impeccable dining experience to the 2,400 guests that will attend the Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala on Jan. 3.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions + Contests

Fashionista Friends

Fashionista Friends

Experience the glitz and glamour of Fashion Week El Paseo 2015.
2014/15 Best of the Best

2014/15 Best of the Best

Palm Springs Life’s annual Best of the Best. Readers tell us who their choice is for the “Best of the Best” of the Coachella Valley in over 40 categories.
GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

Food + Wine Festival Grand Experience

Food + Wine Festival Grand Experience

Enter for a Chance to Win a Food + Wine Festival Palm Desert 2015 Grand Experience
Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.