For a very long period of time, the mention of a Cadillac convertible conjured up images of Elvis-era masterpieces of chrome and steel, elegantly stretched vehicles with razor-sharp tail-fins rising up from the rear fenders to slice through the air. These giant full-sized convertibles would be produced from the 1950s through to the end of the 60s, attracting attention not just for their impossible to ignore dimensions but also for their association with a well-heeled lifestyle that represented the pinnacle of American motoring desire.
In the 1970s, Cadillac was faced not only a difficult sales challenge thanks to increased fuel prices and the low efficiency of their entire product lineup, but also growing uncertainty over the future of convertibles themselves. Industry insiders were fearful that the new focus on automobile safety that had been sweeping the nation would quickly latch on to the fact that drop tops represented a serious hazard to their occupants in an accident. Not only were unbelted drivers more likely to be thrown clear of the car during a collision, but a rollover could be disastrous, for obvious reasons. In proactive move to head off a safety ruling that never came, Cadillac joined many other automakers in stopping the production of all convertibles.It would be nearly 20 years before an open vehicle would once again wear the Cadillac name. In an effort to secure a portion of the market that at the time was dominated by Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac introduced the 1987 Allante as a premium personal luxury convertible. The Allante had been a collaboration with Italian design powerhouse Pininfarina, but it failed to find an audience, and after 5 years of piddling sales, the Allante was mercifully put out of its misery. This left Cadillac without a halo car in its lineup, and seriously diminished the brand's reputation on the world stage.
By the end of the 1990s, the winds of change were in the air and every single vehicle produced by the company was targeted for improvement or replacement. With the memory of the Allante's failure fresh in their minds, Cadillac engineers vowed to come up with an upper echelon vehicle that the company could be proud of. Borrowing the platform used by the Chevrolet Corvette, they created full-size roadster that would be a beautiful centerpiece to the new Cadillac design language. Dubbed the XLR, this powerful convertible is without a doubt one of the strongest statements to have emerged from the Detroit automaker in years, and is the best used convertible produced by Cadillac.
2004 - 2007 Cadillac XLR
One of the first things to notice about the 2004 - 2007 Cadillac XLR is how deceiving its overall size can be. While the vehicle's long hood suggests the extended Cadillac styling of old, the reality is that the XLR is actually slightly shorter than the Corvette with whom it shares its frame. The overall effect of the vehicle's broad, muscular body panels is a projection of power and confidence, an automobile which commands immediate attention the second it appears in the rear-view mirror.
Underneath that expansive piece of steel covering the front real estate are one of two engines. The standard XLR is powered by a 320 horsepower edition of the same 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 found in Cadillac's sedan lineup. When matched with the only transmission available, a 6-speed automatic, the XLR will reach 60 miles per hour from a standing start in 5.8 seconds - not bad for a luxury roadster. Opting for the XLR-V model seriously ups the performance ante. Introduced in 2006, this version of the convertible makes use of bigger brakes, a lowered suspension and a 4.4-liter supercharged V-8 that explodes out of the gates with 443 horsepower and 414 lb-feet of torque.
The cockpit of the 2004 - 2007 Cadillac XLR is as well-finished as any other offering from the luxury car company. Leather and wood trim are abundant, and seats are more plush than supportive. However, even with the retractable hardtop raised, the XLR has more than enough space to accommodate all but the tallest drivers. A heads-up display projects information onto the windshield so that drivers can keep their eyes on the road while negotiating tricky corners, and a DVD navigation system keeps owners from getting lost on their way to the corporate retreat.
The 2004 - 2007 Cadillac XLR is the company's absolution when it comes to premium drop top vehicles. Both the XLR and the XLR-V are the best convertibles to have been released by Cadillac in over 30 years. There is no better way to wash away the bad taste that the Allante left in many people's mouths than to drive an XLR with the top down and the stereo blasting.