Crossover SUVs are the hot ticket because they mix the best of both worlds. They blend the function of an SUV with the handling of a car in a package that is lighter and more fuel-efficient than larger truck-based SUVs.
Cadillac's SRX is an excellent example of the concept. It can function as a luxury sedan one minute and an SUV the next. Such flexibility is appealing, particularly when it comes in such a well-designed package.
The SRX is derived from the unibody platform of the CTS sedan, but the wheelbase has been stretched to 116 inches. The creased edges, angular shape and vertical headlights reflect what has become the design vocabulary for the Cadillac brand. The SRX is one of the best-looking models in the brand.
For 2006, the SRX gets a standard power liftgate, reduced step-over for easier exiting and different color and trim combinations.
Prices start at $36,990 for the V-6. All-wheel drive is a $1,900 option, and the test vehicle was so equipped. For most regions, all-wheel drive is worth the extra money because it adds safety and security in heavy rain and snow.
Although the SRX can be ordered with a Northstar 4.6-liter V-8, the 3.6-liter aluminum V-6 is a more cost-effective alternative. It produces 255 horsepower and has variable intake and exhaust valve timing, electronic throttle control and a dual-stage intake manifold.
The V-6-powered SRX feels so accommodating because the engine's power is spread across a wide range. It has strong low-speed response as well as good high-rpm power.
The five-speed automatic transmission downshifts automatically to help slow the vehicle when braking or descending a hill. The transmission can also be shifted manually when desired.
Inside, the SRX is comfortable and pleasant. The instrument panel is covered with a nubby black texture. The gauge package has white letters on a black background. Wood is used sparingly on the steering wheel, shift knob and door pulls.
The center stack, shaped to resemble a computer tower, looks better with new gauges, but conceptually it is rather dated. A new dash would be more than welcome.
The test car was equipped with a navigation system, XM satellite radio and optional Bose audio system. XM and Bose are a tough combination to top. Steering-wheel audio controls are great, especially the little thumb wheel for volume control.
The SRX has the kind of agility one expects to find in a midsize sedan. The tall roof doesn't make it feel top-heavy or bulky in turns. The ride is compliant and the handling crisp. The wishbone-type suspension uses aluminum components to save weight and enhance responsiveness.
The DVD-based navigation system has a clever 3-D viewing option.
One interesting option is the Ultraview power sunroof, which is about twice as large as a standard sunroof. This huge opening lets back-seat passengers enjoy open-air motoring, too.
The split-folding second-row seats have tons of legroom and fold flat when you need to carry a large or long load. The tailgate is hinged at the top.
The optional power third seat is terrific even if legroom is tight. Cars without the third-row seat can have a cargo system integrated into the rear floor.
The crossover SRX shows just how versatile Cadillac can be.
The base price of the test vehicle was $36,990. Options included the Bose premium audio system, third-row power seat, rear air conditioning, heavy-duty cooling system, navigation system and all-wheel drive. The sticker price was $42,990.
Four years or 50,000 miles.
Engine: 3.6-liter 255-hp V-6
Wheelbase: 116 inches
Curb weight: 4,438 lbs.
Base price: $36,990
As driven: $42,990
Mpg rating: 15 city, 22 hwy.
At A Glance
Point: The SRX combines luxury and practicality in a handsome package that drives like a car while having the room of an SUV. The interior is nicely appointed, the seats are comfortable, and the V-6 has more than enough power.
Counterpoint: The computer tower shape of the instrument panel's center stack looks a bit dated.