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Clearly relying on the styling the Mercedes-Benz SLK, the brand new Cadillac XLR shares the squared off look of other recent Cadillacs. It won't look bad at all, even though headlamps look as though they've been squeezed to match alongside the wide grille. The performance puts it up in the supercar class.

Top speed is fixed to 155 mph, therefore it may get to 60 mph in approximately 5.7 seconds - that's slightly quicker compared to Jaguar XK, due to the larger engine. Other competitors range from the Mercedes-Benz SL and Porsche 911.

Looks could be deceiving. The automobile is wide and occasional, and appears big. In fact, it's very compact, just 177.5 inches long and 72.2 inches wide. The vehicle looks very good, particularly from your side. And you also get yourself a very practical SLK-lookalike opening roof. I suppose most convertibles will probably be 'metal' convertibles soon, and the rag tops decreased - perhaps not on all supercars. To save lots of weight, the roof with the XLR is aluminum and magnesium.

Good output

Also, the XLR has lots of power: 326 bhp at 6,500 rpm and 312 lb ft (423 Nm)at 4,400 rpm from GM's Northstar 4.6 liter V-8, which may work a bit harder - 350-360 bhp, which may not be difficult to get using this engine, would make things more interesting.

As it is, it is enough to give the car a serious shove, and because the Northstar has an aluminum block and head with dohc and four valves per cylinder, it revs well. Variable valve timing increases the spread of power, too.

The engine is coupled to a rear mounted five-speed automatic transmission - 5 speeds input it in a disadvantage from the European supercars which mostly have six-speed automatics, but it's designed to give sporty shifts. As the box is rear-mounted as well as the engine is pretty well back, front/rear weight distribution is 50/50.

New frame concept

Depending on GM's new platform for sporty cars shared with the Corvette, the XLR features a fairly light frame of hydro-formed steel tubes. Hydroforming changes the design quite dramatically, putting in bends, changing the section to a rectangle and so on, building a lightweight frame. The passenger compartment is aluminum, along with the panels are composite plastics. This can be a structure that will contend with many a supercar.

This is a fairly light structure, and inspite of the advanced level of equipment, the vehicle weighs a proper 3,643 lb (1,654 kg) that is just 130 lb a lot more than the new lightweight Jaguar XK, not to mention a lot greater than the Corvette which has a lower spec but bigger engine.

Double wishbone suspension

Suspension will be the familiar Corvette kind of double wishbones back and front with transverse leaf springs. The result is a simple, lightweight system that provides more roll stiffness - resistance to roll - than coil springs. Also, the spring rates are progressive, therefore it irons out big bumps within the road nearly as easily as little ones. There is also a front anti-roll bar.

To save lots of weight, the double wishbones front and rear are aluminum; needless to say, the composite leaf springs are light, too. Leaf springs with this type - just one single leaf - are in fact quite advanced technology because they don't locate the wheels, and possess some clever manufacturing techniques.

The dampers are the new continuously variable electro-magnetic type, as well as the steering is speed sensitive, which means you have more assistance at low speed.

Because a Cadillac, they come in a higher specification. For Europe, navigation, and heated/cooled seats are standard as are adaptive speed control plus a head-up display. The interior, using its wood, leather and aluminum trim is fairly pleasant

On the highway

Built-in the same plant and also to exactly the same concept since the Corvette, the Cadillac XLR is best looked at a softened up Corvette designed for people who want a better ride.

Visibility is great thanks to slim pillars in the opening roof, and also the almost flat hood. Like the Corvette both instruments and driving position are good. Additionally there is a head-up display which shows just the speed and which gear you are in, and also you are not appearing capable of switch off. Pity. I didnrrrt find it useful.

The steering isn't bad whatsoever, and also the XLR turns in well, as you'd expect with this weight distribution, but when you begin pressing, you start to feel just a little understeer arriving, that isn't bad for that market this can be aimed at - more the posh sports car the hard charging supercar driver. Nevertheless the car will not corner as quickly as you might with more neutral steering.

The automatic is nice. In D, the performance isn't bad at all, and the kick-down is very aggressive. There's also a manual mode. Push the lever across on the left, and then nudge it forward for up, and back for down. This works extremely well, and also is really a manual. I am talking about, some of these actually shift up whenever you hit peak revs. Not this; it really lets you live there till you're all set.

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