ack in 1999, at the NorthAmerican auto show in Detroit,Mich, Cadillac unveiledtheir Evoq, a 2-door, luxury roadster.The Evoq's overwhelming responseinspired Cadillac to enter a new erain styling and design. the2004 Cadillac XLR Roadster.
The XLR has a host of new technologies.As you walk toward theXLR with the key fob in your pocket,your doors will unlock within 1meter of the car. There's no key fobto press. Instead, it senses your proximityon entry to unlock and on exitto lock and set the security system.Inside the car, press the start buttonand the XLR comes to life.
The XLR's interior is sumptuous,with thick pile carpet and anatomicallysewn supple leather seats. Thethigh padding and side bolstering aremost comfortable, and provide easysupport. The design makes getting inand out of the car easy.
Within the comfortable seatsare thermo-electric ceramic discsthat can either heat or cool. Theyare so effective at cooling that theseat can actually be made 15degrees cooler than the ambient airtemperature. The seats work in tandemwith the climate control. So asthe interior temperature changes,the seats adjust accordingly.
Above the climate control systemis a slot for a 6-disc CD player.Above that slot is a 7-inch, colortouch screen that houses the car'sinfotainment system: a navigationsystem, an AM/FM/XM/CD player,and a DVD player. Both the infotainmentsystem and the navigationsettings can be controlled usingvoice command (although you caneasily use your hands if you prefer).
On the instrument panel are big,clear analog gauges, with the tachometerand speedometer right infront of you. You have full gauges onthis luxury roadster (ie, an electricgauge, an oil gauge, and a temperaturegauge), besides the usual arrayof warning lights. The Bvlgari designedinstrument panel is luxurious.The earth tone dashboard isdesigned to inhibit glare. The steeringwheel is leather wrapped.
Standard on the XLR is a heads-updisplay. This display allows you tokeep your eyes on the road and onyour gauges simultaneously by lookingthrough the windshield. The displayis easy to read, even in full sunlight.Directly above the center consoleand gearshift lever is therearview mirror, where you'll find 2lights that flood the interior and yourcontrols for the navigation system.
The driver's seat has a dual memorythat includes almost everything:the seat position, the steering columnposition, the mirrors, and even theinfotainment system, which are presetto your key fob. The cruise controlis one of the first to offer anadaptive feature that actually sensescars ahead. It adjusts the speed of thecar so that you don't have to brakeand adjust the cruise control.
STATE OF THE ART ENGINE
Underneath the hood of the XLRis an 8-cylinder Northstar engine,which is bristling with new technologies.The 4.6-liter Northstar has analuminum block and cylinder head.In each bank of the 4 cylinders are 2camshafts actuating 4 valves percylinder. This engine is quick torespond, making for spirited driving.
The variable valve timing (VVT)allows the engine computer to continuouslyvary the way the intake valvesand exhaust valve open. This controlsthe way the engine breathes. By controllingthe engine's breathing, youbasically control the combustion. Inshort, you're able to create a cleanerburning, powerful engine.
Another VVT benefit:
The exhaustvalves can actually be controlled separatelyfrom the intake valves. Thecompression ratio is a hefty 10.5 to1, but the adjustability of this engineis so good that regular fuel can beused (for peak performance, premiumfuel is recommended). At 6400rpm, this engine puts out 315 horsepower.At only 4000 rpm, it puts out310 ft/lbs of torque.
The XLR also gives you the optionof 2 transmission patterns. Onetransmission pattern is fully automatic.The other pattern allows you to domanual-like, clutchless shifting, onlyyou move the shift lever each timeyou want to go up or down in gear.Even though the engine is in front,the transmission is located by therear wheels, which gives a wonderfulweight balance to the car and makeshandling most predictable.
Like the engine, the suspensioncomponents are substantial aluminum.Of course, independent suspensionis at all 4 corners. Mostunusual, this suspension system isheld up by a transverse compositeleaf spring, which has worked flawlesslyin the Corvette.
The monotube shock absorbersoffer a unique feature called magneticride control, which reads theroad in front of the car, and thensends an electric signal to eachshock absorber, adjusting it for safety,performance, and comfort. Theelectronic signal actually changesthe character of the fluid suspensionwithin the shock absorbers, creatingmore or less resistance as needed.
The XLR's StabiliTrak integratesantilock braking, tractioncontrol, the power train, and magneticride control, giving youdynamic stability control as noother vehicle does. The patented,hydra-formed, steel structure is thebackbone of this impressively saferoadster. Side air bagsand head bags are standard.
The shape of the stealth jet fighterF-117 heavily influenced the styleof the XLR. Therefore, it's full ofsharp angles and soft lines. The rearvertical taillights on the XLR arereminiscent of the aircraft-inspiredtail fins. The center rear stoplightspans the width of the trunk lid andhas become a Cadillac trademark.
To top off this beautiful vehicle,a simple 1-button operated hardtopneatly folds within 30 seconds intothe trunk area. A hardtop convertibleoffers a number of advantages overthe soft top. For example, a hardtopprovides a substantially quieter interiorand a more pleasing look whenthe top is up.
If you weren't lucky enough topurchase the Neiman Marcus edition(which sold out Christmas2002), the 2004 model will go onsale later this year. Many are presold,so you may want to call yourCadillac dealer (www.cadillac.com)and get your order in now. The pricehas yet to be announced, but expectto pay over $70,000.
Jean Swensonand Ashly Knapp, one of the
nation's longest-running husband and wife
auto-writing teams, are principals of Auto
Advisor.com, the oldest consumer information
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