To perfectly pigeonhole the XLR, think of GM’s new premium roadster as Cadillac’s SL500.
Like its Mercedes rival, the XLR’s a flip-top, two-seat V8-powered convertible that’s so well equipped there are no options… beyond choosing the colour.
Cadillac’s second attempt at dethroning the SL – remember the late ’80s Pininfarina-styled Allante? – begins with look-at-me edgy styling, largely taken from Brit designer Simon Cox’s 1999 Evoq concept.
The plastic body, with folding steel hard-top, slots over the very rigid C6 Corvette platform and gets the excellent 4.6-litre 326bhp Northstar V8, much modified for this longitudinal application, driving through a new five-speed automatic.
Double wishbone suspension and the quickest-acting adaptive dampers ever prove that Cadillac has put some serious engineering muscle into the car. According to Cadillac’s figures, the XLR’s 1653kg undercuts the SL500 by an impressive 180kg.
Here are all the ingredients to take on the SL, and Jag XK and Lexus SC430. And so it proves on the road. The Caddy is quick, effortless and surprisingly agile, with a deep American V8 burble from the exhaust as the engine sings to the 6500rpm red line. You need to listen for the gear changes, because you won’t feel them.