The wrapper was lifted and out popped a 2004 Cadillac SRX, the luxury "crossover."

Crossover refers to the fact that SRX is built on a car-based platform so it's a two-in-one vehicle with the suspension and stability control system from the Seville STS sedan and the people/cargo capacity plus all-wheel-drive capability from the Escalade sport-utility vehicle.

The SRX goes on sale in mid-2003 as an early '04 model, but Cadillac previewed it here to generate media interest and capture the attention of those who might hold off on buying a Lexus RX300 or BMW X5.

Though a hand-built prototype minus interior furnishings, SRX looked great, with the same face as the new CTS and Escalade.

"Four years ago this was a high-risk roll of the dice," said Jim Taylor, vehicle line executive for Cadillac.

"We don't think it's a big risk anymore," he added, noting that Escalade and CTS have helped contribute to a 24 percent sales increase at Cadillac in the first four months of '02.

SRX is built on a 116-inch wheelbase and is 195 inches long, versus a 113.4-inch wheelbase and 190.1-inch length for the midsize CTS sedan from which SRX derived and a 103-inch wheelbase and 180-inch overall length on the top-selling luxury sport-ute/crossover, the RX300.

SRX also will offer a choice of new higher-output V-6 and V-8 with 5-speed automatic. The V-6 will be the same "high feature" engine slated for the CTS in June 2003, with about 250 horsepower, up from 220 h.p. in the current 3.2-liter V-6. The 4.6-liter V-8 will develop about 315 h.p., versus 300 h.p. from the engine in DeVille and Seville.

A choice of RWD/AWD and V-6/V-8 allows Cadillac to offer SRX at about $40,000 to compete with the RX300 ($35,000-$40,000) to about $50,000 to compete with the X5 ($40,000-$60,000), according to Taylor.

SRX will come with two rows of seats as standard and an optional power third row that folds flat into the floor. It also will offer a power glass sunroof over first- and second-row seats and pop-open glass over the third.

SRX stands 5 inches higher than CTS, 5 inches lower than Escalade, to give it "the performance and sophistication of a sports sedan," said Mark LaNeve, who became Cadillac general manager in '01.

The SRX will be followed by the XLR roadster next fall as an '04, the redesigned STS (Seville) for '05 and an all-new DeVille for '06.

In a few weeks, Cadillac reportedly will confirm a larger Escalade ESV built off the Chevrolet Suburban platform (Chevy Tahoe platform now) for '04, but is mum on a date for a V-12 roadster based on the concept Cien.

Though SRX was the star, LaNeve lauded the CTS, whose sales may reach 40,000 from the projected 30,000. And 50 percent of CTS buyers didn't own a GM vehicle.

With the $35,000 CTS doing so well, might Cadillac bring out a less-expensive model, like Mercedes did with its new $25,000 C230 sport coupe?

"That's make- believe luxury. You could lose your luxury image equity. Is Mercedes as exclusive as it had been without a $25,000 car?" LaNeve said.

It was also noted that:

- Cadillac plans performance versions of all its vehicles, similar to the M-Series at BMW or AMG at Mercedes.

- GM alliance partner Saab had wanted a version of SRX but decided against it.

- Cadillac doesn't want a version of the midsize GM sport-ute (TrailBlazer) as a companion to SRX because "the SRX is a car, TrailBlazer an SUV, and a lot of people want something that's not just another SUV," LaNeve said.