The styling of the Cadillac XLR is distinctive and controversial. Some people like the sharp styling, some people hate it. Most people like it. We like it. It's unique with a cause, which is difficult to achieve and reason enough to like it. It's an in-your-face kind of grace.
We especially like how it looks when the hard top is up. Very cool, chopped and suggesting a hot rod, with a steeply raked rear window and lots of angles like the rest of the car. The top is made of aluminum and magnesium with composite panels and contributes to the structural rigidity of the car. The Mercedes SL roadster has a similar top but it's rounded at the edges and doesn't do for the Benz what this top does for the XLR. It adds power to the aura of the car, erases the top-down gentrification.
Four wide exhaust tips, pointing out from under the center of the rear bumper like the tips of two big double-barreled shotguns, add to the statement of power. We think they could and should have done something different with the wheels, though: 18-inch, mirror-polished alloy, a seven-spoke wagon-wheel design. They are the same wheels available on the CTS sedan and SRX crossover SUV. The XLR ought to have its own wheels. Actually, the special wheels on the V8 CTS-V are what the XLR needs.
The shape and silhouette of the XLR works, but if you take it apart the elements suggest it was designed by two people with clashing ideas because the details seem incongruous if you study the shapes for a while. The bright and bold egg-crate grille announces the flow of the styling, and the headlamps wrap around the corners; they touch front, top and sides. The front bumper/airdam is massive, and extends like an underbite but not conspicuously. The rectangular foglights don't seem to take part in the styling, and the long horizontal opening in the air dam is just big and just there.
The sides are blessedly smooth, and the wheel cutouts are full with the fenders flared just enough. The XLR is low and wide, and the wheels are a big 18 inches, so this looks hot. The rocker panel bodywork, a composite plastic, like the rest of the body, is sharp but tidy, while the mirrors are bulky.
The high angularity of the tail perfectly complements the shape, but the big pseudo carbon-fiber box around the license plate, also containing the backup lights, mostly messes it up. But the four cool exhaust pipes almost redeem it. They draw the eye, at least.
There are no door handles, instead a deep notch behind the top trailing edge of the door where there is a button that opens the door. You don't need the key to unlock or start the XLR. With the keyfob in your pocket or purse, the door will unlock as you stand before it, and you can fire or kill the engine with the push of a button on the instrument panel. When you walk away from the car it unlocks itself.
If (when) the keyfob transmitter technology is KO'd by sunspots or reluctant space-traveling electrons, there's a little hole in the rear bumper with a plug covering a slot for the keyfob. So you'll be granted entrance to your $76,000 car if you get down on your hands and knees in the dirt. Play Indiana Jones entering a protected temple. Don't look over your shoulder; the ghost of Henry Ford will be laughing at you.