Premium sporty/performance car; Built in USA
  • 2-door convertible
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $17,500 – $50,000*

2004 Cadillac XLR

2005 Cadillac XLR

2005 Cadillac XLR

2005 Cadillac XLR

  • Acceleration
  • Steering/handling
  • Cargo room
  • Rear visibility

Priced between less-expensive Lexus and costlier Mercedes-Benz SL500 and Jaguar XK rivals when new, XLR need make no apology in terms of features and performance. Cadillac’s challenge has been to convince well-heeled shoppers that it’s in the same league as those prestige brands. Adding the high-powered, high-dollar XLR-V helps send this two-seater into another realm, challenging the likes of the Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG.


For 2004, a retractable-hardtop two-seater was Cadillac’s new entry in the luxury-roadster field. Cadillac’s last previous two-passenger convertible had been the 1989-93 Allante. The new rear-wheel-drive XLR competed with such open-roofed cars as the Lexus SC 430, Jaguar XK8, and Mercedes-Benz SL500.

Though greater in wheelbase and width than those rivals, the XLR was shorter overall, lower, and slightly lighter. Its chassis structure and composite plastic body panels were similar to those used by the Chevrolet Corvette. However, XLR had its own styling inside and out, a power-retractable hardtop instead of a cloth convertible top, a suspension tuned for luxury-grade ride and handling, and a different V8 engine. That engine was Cadillac’s 4.6-liter Northstar, here tuned for 320 horsepower. The sole transmission was a five-speed automatic with manual shift gate.

A traction/antiskid control was standard. So was GM’s Magnetic Ride Control, which automatically adjusted suspension firmness based on the road surface. Also included was adaptive cruise control, designed to maintain a set following distance. Tires were 18-inch run-flats; no spare was included.

Every XLR came with heated and cooled leather seats, wood interior trim, and front side airbags designed to protect the torso and head. A 7-inch dashboard screen projected navigation and audio functions, and played entertainment DVDs (only with the transmission in Park). Also standard was Cadillac’s Keyless Access, which let the driver start the car and operate the locks and trunklid without removing the keyfob from pocket or purse. Satellite radio was the only option.

Yearly Updates

2005 XLR
Except for exterior and interior trim colors, nothing changed for 2005.
2006 XLR
Steering-linked xenon high-intensity-discharged headlights became standard this year. Satellite radio also was standard. Cadillac introduced a new high-performance supercharged XLR-V model with a 443-horsepower V8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and 19-inch run-flat tires. The 2006 XLR-V stickered for an even $100,000.
2007 XLR
All versions of Cadillac’s two-seat V8 convertible got a 6-speed automatic transmission for 2007.
2008 XLR
The 2008 Cadillac XLR got revised suspension tuning and a new Platinum Edition option package. The new Platinum Edition option package for base models included unique interior and exterior trim.
2009 XLR
The base model was replaced by the Platinum, and the XLR got freshened exterior styling and a few new available features for its final model year. A wireless cell-phone link was newly standard.


longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

Only one powertrain is available in regular XLR coupes: a 320-horsepower 4.6-liter V8 engine, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. For 2006, Cadillac launched an XLR-V edition with a supercharged 443-horsepower V8 and six-speed automatic. All versions of Cadillac’s two-seat V8 convertible have a 6-speed automatic transmission for 2007.

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.6/279
Engine HP 320
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 310
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic
6-speed automatic

Supercharged dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.4/267
Engine HP 443
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 414
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed automatic


Road Test

Impressive thrust supports Cadillac’s claim of 5.9-second 0-60 mph acceleration. Thrilling response is also the rule for merging and highway passing. Crisp, almost seamless shifts rank the five-speed transmission among the best. Acceleration with the high-performance XLR-V is simply breathtaking, as well as utterly smooth.

Expect 15 to 19 mpg overall from a regular XLR. A test example averaged 15.9 mpg, and the more potent XLR-V is sure to consume even more gasoline. Cadillac recommends premium-grade fuel.

Ride quality is refined and stable. Tar strips and surface blemishes are noticed, but translate mostly as road feel, not intrusions. Magnetic Ride Control helps provide reassuring high-speed discipline. Despite its muscular energy, the XLR-V rides just about as comfortably as a regular model, even through somewhat harsh surfaces, transmitting no punishment to occupants. Structural rigidity is good, even top-down, though one test XLR suffered a creaking cowl over bumps.

Balance and road grip are reminiscent of Corvettes, with a bit more body lean. The rear-mounted transmission helps provide near 50/50 weight distribution, teaming with well-calibrated steering for a precision feel. Traction/antiskid control lends a welcome margin of security. Here too, the XLR-V reaches further yet, behaving with practically astounding flatness and mannerly responses through rapid curves.

Quietness reigns in both the XLR and XLR-V. In addition to a tightly sealed hardtop, these cars contain plenty of insulation to keep wind and tire noise well within reason. Normal conversation is possible up to 75 mph with the top down. Rapid acceleration brings a spirited V8 growl. The XLR-V’s subdued exhaust gurgle is heard only occasionally.

A clear array of analog gauges is supplemented by head-up windshield display. Switchgear is logically placed and numerous enough to control myriad functions, but not cluttered. However, navigation-screen access is required to change some audio settings. Gear selection shows in the head-up display only in manual-shift mode; otherwise, the driver must look to the floor console to determine transmission position. Ignition occurs with a dashboard “start” button rather than a key, and getting out means reorienting oneself from a traditional handle to a small button release on the door panel. The old-fashioned foot parking brake clutters the driver footwell. A mixture of top-quality leather, wood, and aluminum gives the cabin fresh, upscale ambience.

Though not expansive, the cockpit is as roomy as any rival’s. Comfortable, supportive seats are set low, so entry/exit requires minor effort. Especially with the top up, low-positioned occupants get an uncommanding view of surroundings.

A power-operated trunklid opens to 11.6 cubic feet of cargo space–enough for two golf bags. The roof and rear glass lower into the trunk, shrinking that volume to 4.4 cubic feet. Interior storage is tight.


Model Tested: 2005 Cadillac XLR

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 8
Fuel Economy - 4
Ride Quality - 6
Steering/Handling - 8
Quietness - 6


Controls/Materials - 7
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - --
Cargo Room - 2


Value - 5

Total: 53


2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
105.7 177.7 72.3 50.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
11.6 18.0 2
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.6 42.6
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Description: The airbag warning light may no go off due to a faulty seat belt tension sensor in the right front seat belt retractor assembly. (2006-07)
Dashboard lights
Description: A “service stability system” warning may be displayed on vehicles with tilt/telescopic steering because an electrical connector is damaged over time when the telescopic function is used. (2004-06)
Fuel gauge
Description: The engine may not start or may stall because the tank is empty yet the gauge shows fuel remaining, or the fuel gauge will not show full after refilling due to sulfur corrosion of the fuel level sender and if after treating with Fuel System Cleaner PLUS the problem remains, the sender may need to be replaced. (2004-06)
Oil leak
Description: Oil leaks at the timing cover on 4.6L engines may require a gasket or a new timing cover. (2004-05)
Oil leak
Description: Oil leaks develop on the lower area of 4.6L V8 in the area of the oil distribution plate. (2006-08)
Electrical problem
Description: When using a portable music player (e.g. iPod) there may be noise in the car’s speakers whenever the vehicle’s power adapter is used and a ground loop isolator (from Radio Shack) is required between the device and the power outlet to prevent the noise. (2004-07)
Description: Scraping or tapping noises from the rear wheel may be due to a loose axle nut and new nuts must be installed using a thread-locking compound. (2005-08)

Recall History

2004 XLR
Description: If one of the two accelerator-pedal return springs fails and temperature is -22 to -40 degrees (F), engine may not return to idle within the required three seconds, and greater brake-pedal force would be needed to stop the vehicle.
2004 XLR
Description: Washers for ball stud assemblies on lower control arm of some cars could fracture; separation of control arm from its knuckle will cause a corner of the vehicle to drop, and control arm may contact the wheel, resulting in dragging action and unwanted tendency to turn.
2004-05 XLR
Description: One or both rear brake hydraulic lines could contact or be affected by heat from left engine exhaust manifold and left exhaust pipe; if brake fluid boils, effectiveness of rear brake system would be reduced and leakage might occur.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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