Cadillac SRX – Style takes it to the forefront


By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The original Cadillac SRX mid-sized sport utility vehicle introduced in 2004, based on the rear-drive CTS platform, could be outfitted with a V-8 engine and a third-row seat. It remains a very useable, drivable crossover.

We took it over ice-covered roads — more like a skating rink — several years ago after one of eastern North Carolina’s infamous ice storms. The SRX, equipped with all-wheel drive, walked the walk and talked the talk. Using a load of caution in the driver’s seat, the Caddy handled the icy conditions without mishap.

But to us its styling was ungainly, not doing a good job of carrying Cadillac’s edgy design theme.

Now all-new for 2010 is a smaller SRX — five inches shorter and with a six-inch smaller wheelbase. It comes in front-wheel and all-wheel drive formats.

The new more compact SRX has lost nine cubic feet of cargo capacity and has maximum seating for five. Even if you preferred the larger size you will definitely like the new Art and Science Cadillac styling, which includes a big Escalade-like grille.

It’s a stunning design that should serve it well against its new perceived compact competition from Lexus, Audi, Infiniti, BMW, Acura, Mercedes and Volvo. The big looming question, however, is it good enough to sell big numbers in a segment loaded with excellent vehicles?

While the SRX is built on the same platform as the less expensive Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain and shares the same 3.0-liter V-6 powertrain and six-speed automatic transmission, it is loaded with a Cadillac-like interior that includes soft leather and real wood; and the design — inside and out — trumps the Chevy and GMC.

Cadillac’s big assignment is to take on the Lexus RX 350, the long-reigning king of the segment. And it’s with styling that the SRX does the best job against the firmly established Lexus, as well as other competitors. The new edgy look is more eye appealing than the soft, conservative exterior of the new RX. 

Likewise, the dashboard layout is more scintillating in the Cadillac, which borrows much from the CTS sedan. From the navigation/radio screen that rises from the dashboard with the push of the starter button to the well-done stylish center stack with its brushed metal accents and real wood to the stylish instrument cluster with a myriad of available information to the lush leather seating, the SRX can stand with any vehicle in the segment including the Lexus.

While we enjoyed the comfortable, quiet confines of the SRX, we couldn’t, help but feel a bit cheated. Perhaps a luxury vehicle with a luxury price should be endowed with a bit more horsepower in base trim than its lesser cousins.

The letdown with the base engine is that it struggles to keep the 4,224-pound SRX moving in a sprightly luxury-like fashion. The bigger 3.6-liter, 304-horsepower V-6 direct injection engine found in the CTS that the 3.0 is based on would have been the better choice. In addition to improved performance, there would have been very little if any fall-off in gas mileage.

The alternate solution for SRX buyers is the optional turbocharged 2.8-liter V-6 that churns out 300 horsepower; 36 more than the standard V-6. The extra performance comes with an extra price, however, measured at a couple thousand dollars and can top out north of 50 grand in well-optioned appointments.

On the flip side the SRX driving package lives up to the segment leaders. The SRX provided sharp steering and displayed excellent road manners for a heavy crossover.

The SRX proved entertaining on the winding stretches while offering a comfortable ride. The interior is hushed as one would expect from a vehicle that starts at $35,000.

The driving experience to us was better than that of the Lexus and on a par with such stalwarts as the BMW X5, Audi Q5 and the Volvo XC60.

We found the driving position good, the front seats comfortable, the switchgear easy to use and the gauges easy to read. We programmed a destination into the navigation system without fuss and it took us to the prescribed location with all the necessary audio prompts.

We like the large satellite radio readout in the navigation screen. And if navigation is not used the screen can be lowered to show just the radio readouts. Nice touch.

Back seat passengers found excellent stretch-out room. We had to sit three across for a 60-mile stretch, and like most vehicle this size the three adult passengers were a bit squeezed. But the biggest complaint from the center passenger was protruding center console which intruded on leg room.

All manufacturers claim five-passenger space from two rows, but very few make the center position attractive enough for comfortable habitation for more than a handful of miles. Add Cadillac to the list.

On the plus side, Cadillac has included a unique U-ring track in the cargo floor allowing a fence to be erected for containing cargo. And all but the base model get a power tailgate with two position settings so tailgates won’t strike low garage ceilings.

The SRX comes in four trim levels — base (starting at $34,155 including destination), Luxury Collection, Performance Collection and Premium Collection and can be purchased with the two engine choices or with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. All models come with a six-speed automatic transmission.

We applaud Cadillac for endowing even the base model with a high level of standard equipment. Included on all models are 18-inch alloy wheels, an electronic parking brake, leatherette upholstery, two-zone climate control, eight-way power driver’s seat, and an eight-speaker Bose sound system.

Standard safety is also noteworthy and includes antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, side-curtain airbags and the OnStar satellite tracking system.

Our top line Premium edition test vehicle came loaded with standard features for $44,720 including keyless entry and start, tri-zone climate control, heated rear seats, an upgraded 10-speaker Bose audio system, navigation, and 20-inch wheels.

The FWD test vehicle had one option, a $1,295 twin-screen rear entertainment system bringing the bottom line to $46,015. Our Premium AWD Turbo including the entertainment system option priced out at $53,980.

The SRX is a very attractive alternative in the rapidly growing luxury crossover segment and another example of Cadillac’s efforts to regain a place on the luxury buyers’ shopping lists.

Base price: $34,155; as driven, $46,015

Engine: 3.0-liter V-6
Horsepower: 265 @ 6,950 rpm
Torque: 223 foot-pounds @ 5,100 rpm
Drive: front wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 110.5 inches
Length: 190.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,224 pounds
Turning circle: 40.3 feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Luggage capacity: 29.8 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 61 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 21 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 25 mpg highway, 18 mpg city
0-60: 8.2 seconds (Edmunds)
Also consider: Lexus RX 350, BMW X5, Volvo XC60

 The Good:
• Excellent styling inside and out
• Long list of standard equipment
• Good driving demeanor

 The Bad:
• Cargo capacity not up to many competitors

 The Ugly:
• Needs stronger standard engine