Between the Lines: Automobile on the Cadillac XLR-V

You may not believe this, but my mother always told me to be polite. I just never saw the point. Honest, yes, absolutely. But polite is so boring. Being snide, flip and nasty is so much more entertaining. (Why should drag queens have all the fun?) I guess that s the biggest problem with US automotive buff books: they re perfectly polite and deadly dull. This failing is easiest to see when magazines like Automobile review a real stinker like the new Cadillac XLR-V. How do you tear a substandard car a new asshole while, at the same time, kissing its ass? Over to you Mr. Johnson

The XLR-V is Cadillac s most expensive model to date, costing some $23,000 more that the next priciest Cadillac, the STS-V, and it s a huge risk for a division still in the midst of mustering a credible threat to the European luxury marques. But the focus cannot be on whether or not a $100,000 Caddy should exist- since one indisputably now does- but rather on whether it lives up to the lofty expectations created by its six-figure sticker price.

It must be annoying when the headline writer sums-up your entire lead in a single, pithy line: Is the world ready for the first $100,000 Cadillac? Although redundant, Erik Johnson s opening salvo reveals some important info.

For one thing, Caddy s highly-trumpeted comeback has been reduced to a muted clarinet solo. (I reckon being in the midst of mustering a credible threat is a fancy way of saying you re about to be shot dead by the good guy before you can unholster your gun.) We also learn that Automobile is employing drop-outs from Zen dojos. We can t question the XLR-V s existence because it already exists? Hang on; is that the sound of one page turning?

Readers who bail miss the next two graphs, which fill the time/space continuum with the usual techno-blather. There s an interesting aside buried within the usual rivet counter s laundry list: the XLR-V s zero to sixty sprint time is just a tick behind the recently discontinued Mercedes Benz SL55 AMG.

And so it starts: the carefully couching and sly obfuscation signaling the fact that a buff book s critical facilities have hit the buffers. Pray tell; how fast is just a tick ? And how many ticks might that be when comparing the new Caddy to the new SL55? Of course, this is where the fun starts for BTL devotees. The next howler comes courtesy of the XLR-V s cog swapper:

But manual gearshifts are effected somewhat lazily, so it is imperative to plan shifts ahead of time in order that you don t find yourself suddenly testing the seatbelt when you hit the rev limiter.

There s some debate in Jalopnikland regarding the appropriate use of affect and effect. Either way, it s clear that the XLR-V s new six-speed gearbox is ineffective. I assume Johnson is trying to tell us that the top Caddy's manu-matic shifter doesn t give you the next gear quickly enough — which is a deeply worrying prospect for those of us who consider quick shifts a mission critical part of overtaking.

Remember what I said about being bitchy being so much more fun than minding your P s and Q s? Like any pro car hack, Johnson can t resist making a colorful snarky comment about his newfound friend. Like the vast majority of buff book reviewers, he immediately pulls the punch before it s even landed (it s a wonder these guys don t give themselves a black eye).

The steering is late-in-life Marlon Brando have a root canal: weighty but numb. It gains some feel over the base XLR s rack but still isn t communicative enough, a shortcoming it shares with the SL. This is, we suppose, a function of these cars bizarre market niche, where hot-rod droptops must also serve as boulevardiers, able to cruise at parade speed as well as bomb down mountain passes.

Oh, so that s alright then. Actually, it isn t. Johnson s desire to lump the XLR-V s numb steering in with the SL55 s helmistry may be kind to Caddy, but it s also wildly inaccurate. The SL55 AMG s steering is light, but it s also laser-like and perfectly tactile. There s nothing numb about it.

Johnson s use of vague qualifiers is, however, numbing to any concept of good journalism. The XLR-V s steering gains some feel ; isn t communicative enough ; which the Royal we suppose is a function of its niche. Obviously, spade calling is a noble art to which Mr. Johnson is unaccustomed. The best example of this unconscionable wafflage arrives at the end of paragraph six, using similarly verbose construction.

The cabin has been gussied-up with French seams and top-grade leather on the dash, door panels, and console, as well as on the protective roll hops and their surrounding trim pieces. The fancier duds are unable, however, to disguise an interior that isn t especially noteworthy to begin with.

Ending with a preposition is apparently something up with which Mr. Johnson will put. But c mon: especially noteworthy? On a scale of one to ten- one being a GM Sierra s interior and ten being a Bentley Flying Spur s carcoon- where does the XLR-V rate? Why do I get the idea that Johnson Sierra missed?

Heading for home, Johnson faces The Big Question (which he restates just in case we missed the headline). This you ve got to read.

But is the XLR-V worth $100,000? Cadillac has priced the car to say Hey! Here we are! as much as for profits. In terms of performance, the XLR-V merits its steep sticker price. Six figures is a tall order, however, for a car that lack the cachet, history and gorgeous interior of a Jaguar XK or a Mercered-Benz SL [sic]. So, the answer is: Not quite. But drop in a more stylish cockpit and give it a few years- then ask us again.

Forgive us if we don t.

RF

[Jalopnik s Between the Lines column parses the rhetoric of the automotive industry, and the media that covers it, from the point of view of that kid at the back of the class with ADD, a genius IQ and a thirst for mayhem.]

Related:
Between the Lines: The Car Connection on the Jaguar XK [internal]