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Expert Reviews 1 of 11
By Kelsey Mays
November 30, 2009
Smaller and less expensive than its predecessor, Cadillac's redesigned SRX moves squarely into the entry-luxury crossover segment — a corner of the market that luxury carmakers are fast descending upon. The SRX is certainly worth a look, particularly if you're partial to its styling. In a lot of ways in which competitors go the distance, however, Cadillac merely makes the grade. These days, I'm not sure that cuts it.
A five-seater, the SRX is available with front-wheel drive in base, Luxury, Performance and Premium trim levels; click here to compare it with the 2009 SRX. All-wheel drive is optional on all but the base trim. A normally aspirated 3.0-liter V-6 is standard, with a turbocharged 2.8-liter V-6 available next year in all-wheel-drive Performance and Premium editions. We tested an all-wheel-drive, 3.0-liter SRX Performance. Sleeker, Smaller The new SRX shares the current, second-generation Cadillac CTS sedan's windswept style and friendlier face, just as the outgoing SRX emulated the sharp creases and upright angles of the first-generation CTS.
In an industry where redesigns typically add weight and size, Cadillac made the new SRX significantly smaller. It's slightly wider than before, but it's length drops 4.7 inches and it's 2.1 inches shorter. Gone are options like a third-row seat and a V-8 engine, moving the SRX out of the territory occupied by the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90. The Inside Like the second-generation CTS that introduced this era of Cadillac interiors, the SRX's cabin is logically arrayed and a handsome bit of work. The controls have decent quality, and the gauges offer a quick read, aided by an LCD screen that displays digital mph or other information. Get the optional navigation system, and it rises out of the dashboard, using theatrics similar to those of the CTS nav screen. It's a user-friendly setup, with decent graphics, a touch-screen interface and plenty of shortcut buttons.
I'm less enthusiastic about the cabin materials. Genuine wood trim and upholstery-stitched dashboard panels add an upscale touch, but the frosted silver plastic around the steering wheel and center controls drag the quality down — especially when a number of competitors gird their cabins with real aluminum.
The front seats are supportive and comfortable, with good adjustment range for drivers of varying sizes. However, some may find that the SRX's low roofline hurts the view through the windshield, and a combination of factors — narrowing back-door windows, tiny rear-quarter windows and large C-pillars — make for a hefty blind spot.
The backseat has adequate headroom and legroom, but I found the bottom cushions to be on the short side; the seat sat too low for my 5-foot-11-inch frame to get adequate thigh support. The seats fold down for 61.2 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume. That's down 8.3 cubic feet versus last year, but it's competitive for this price range.
Cargo Room Compared
Behind 2nd row (cu. ft.)
Behind 1st row (cu. ft.)
Land Rover LR2
Lexus RX 350
*Denotes models with standard AWD. Others have 2WD standard. Source: Automaker data
Going & Stopping Don't let its 265-horsepower rating fool you: The base V-6 left me wanting. Displacing 3.0 liters, it's in the same direct-injection family as the 3.6-liter V-6 that adeptly moves several GM products, from the Cadillac CTS to the Chevy Camaro. Alas, I'm less enthralled with this sibling. Here, like in other GM cars that use it, the 3.0-liter lacks the power to propel you with much authority. Our all-wheel-drive SRX felt modestly powered, and the six-speed automatic's hesitance to downshift quickly didn't help. At least there's no accelerator lag in normal conditions; the V-6 GMC Terrain we recently drove uses the same drivetrain, and it had a creeping case of lag.
Sticking with front-wheel drive shaves 163 pounds off the SRX's curb weight, which may prove enough to improve acceleration. What's more likely to hasten on-ramp sprints is the turbocharged V-6. Once we drive that, I'll add my impressions in this space. By the numbers, it looks promising — a modest 35 more hp, but, more important, another 72 pounds-feet of torque.
That should be a welcome addition. The Infiniti EX35 leaps from stoplights, and the BMW X3, Mercedes GLK, Audi Q5 and turbo Volvo XC60 aren't far behind. Anyone stepping up from a four-cylinder crossover will think the 3.0-liter SRX moves swiftly enough, but drive the competition before making up your mind. Like the lukewarm Land Rover LR2, the SRX can't beat merging semitrailers as well as some of its competitors can.
There's a bit of redemption in fuel costs: At an EPA-rated 18/25 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive and 17/23 mpg with all-wheel drive, the 3.0-liter SRX ranks midpack, but it runs fine on regular fuel, which is something few in this class can boast. Most competitors recommend premium; the GLK and X3 require it.
EPA Gas Mileage (Combined City/Highway, MPG)
Lexus RX 350
Cadillac SRX (3.0L)
Land Rover LR2
Source: EPA and automaker data
Although final EPA estimates are pending for the turbocharged SRX, Cadillac estimates it will get 15/21 mpg; it comes standard with all-wheel drive. That's disappointing — made more so because the turbo recommends premium fuel.
Four-wheel-discantilock brakes are standard, but the brake pedal feels mushy and trucklike, making it difficult to smooth out stops. At 3,500 pounds, maximum towing capacity is down versus the outgoing SRX's 4,250-pound capacity, but it's competitive for this class. Noise, Ride & Handling Road and wind noise are low, but you'll hear more adjacent traffic than I'd expect in a luxury crossover. The Lincoln MKX and GLK, to name a couple competitors, are superior in this regard.
With the 20-inch wheels on Performance and Premium trim levels, the SRX rides on the firmer side. All-wheel-drive Performance and Premium trims, including our test car, get a sport-tuned adaptive suspension. It soaks up stretches of uneven pavement well enough, but major disruptions — expansion joints, potholes — make for a lot of noise and movement. The RDX has similar characteristics, and the X3 and EX35 are firmer still. Other competitors, particularly the LR2 and MKX, ride smoother.
The front-wheel-drive SRX adopts softer suspension tuning — albeit with a fixed rather than adaptive setup. The base and Luxury SRX could be cushier still, thanks to their normal suspension tuning and 18-inch wheels with higher-series tires. If ride comfort is paramount, be sure to sample all three setups.
The steering wheel turns with light effort, but its sloppy turn-in precision doesn't encourage spirited cornering. Body roll, at least, seems contained. No matter the configuration, though, the SRX's 40.3-foot turning circle will have you making a lot of three- and four-point turns. It's one of the widest in this group. Safety & Features In front-, side- and rear-impact tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the SRX earned the top score of Good. It hasn't been subjected to IIHS' roof-crush tests, so it's not eligible for the organization's 2010 Top Safety Pick status. Of this group, the XC60 is the only contender to earn that title.
The base SRX starts at $33,330 and includes vinyl upholstery — or leatherette, as it's often marketed — plus a Bose CD stereo with an MP3 jack, dual-zone automatic climate control and a power driver's seat. Move up the chain, and you can get a power passenger seat, a USB/iPod-compatible stereo with surround-sound technology, a navigation system, a panoramic moonroof, a third climate zone for rear passengers, heated rear seats, and heated and ventilated front seats.
Base trims come only with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive runs an extra $2,495 on the Luxury trim and $3,645 on Luxury and Premium trims. The sport-tuned adaptive suspension, included on all-wheel-drive Luxury and Premium models, accounts for the $1,150 difference. On all-wheel-drive Luxury and Premium models, the turbo V-6 adds $3,820.
Load up an all-wheel-drive, turbocharged SRX Premium, and the sticker runs just shy of $55,000. SRX in the Market Compared with its competitors, there are few attributes that make the SRX stand out. Its driving experience is unexceptional, in terms of both excitement and refinement. Interior quality is worlds beyond what GM used to send to the plate, but you still won't revel in the cabin's luxury or marvel at its utility.
If the box office were full of snoozers, I might recommend — reluctantly — a two-and-a-half-star sequel. But this season, the class is brimming with hits. The SRX will charm its share of shoppers, but I'm not sure Cadillac has the makings of a blockbuster.