Editor's note: This review was written in March 2014 about the 2014 Cadillac SRX. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2015, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
The Cadillac SRX isn't the newest luxury crossover on the market, but what it lacks in freshness it makes up for with impressive technology, a comfortable ride and a well-appointed interior.
Cadillac's compact luxury crossover is now one of the oldest models in the brand's lineup, but the SRX also continues to be one of the more popular ones. Completely redesigned for the 2010 model year to better compete with segment leaders like the Lexus RX and Acura MDX, it's due for a makeover in the not-too-distant future, though Cadillac has done a good job keeping it up to date with the latest electronics and features. Barely anything changes between the 2013 and 2014 models; you can compare the two here. I tested a fully loaded, top-of-the-line SRX all-wheel drive Premium model for a week, putting the luxury crossover through rigorous suburban duties (groceries, airport shuttling) to see if a model nearly five years into its current generation is still a contender.
Exterior & Styling
The SRX's shape hasn't changed since its 2010-model-year redesign, and it's an attractive figure. Cadillac's overall styling is still a development of the "art and science" theme that started with the original CTS sedan in 2002. The SRX hasn't received the latest version of this theme, but it still looks like it belongs next to updated models like the latest CTS and ATS sedans. The large chrome grille up front and upright-towel-dispenser side flourishes will need an update soon, yet the vestigial tail-fin taillights are still cool and a fun way for Cadillac to recall its heritage while presenting a fully modern design.
For 2014, the only styling change is the late availability of 18-inch chrome-plated wheels on the Luxury Collection trim, plus three new paint colors: Graphite Metallic, Terra Mocha Metallic and Sapphire Blue Metallic. My tester came with 20-inch painted aluminum wheels, part of the Premium trim level, which filled out the wheel wells quite nicely.
How It Drives
Only one powertrain is available for the SRX these days: the 3.6-liter V-6 engine that GM uses in dozens of its cars across its brands. In the SRX, it makes 308 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, powering the front wheels on base trims or all of them with the optional all-wheel-drive system. The engine provides plenty of power for all conditions; whether moving out from a stoplight, aggressively merging onto a highway or attempting a passing maneuver, the SRX never lacked oomph. The six-speed transmission is smooth and quiet, and it's geared to allow for a quiet and comfortable level of noise at highway cruising speeds. That noise level is helped by an active noise cancellation program that counters road noise via the audio system's speakers. You never hear it working, but the quiet is noticeable.
Handling is fairly numb and inoffensive, with considerable boost from the electric power steering keeping things predictable, if not exactly sporting. Given the competition, however, and the SRX's mission in life, it should tackle suburban duties and family-shuttling without any issue, coming across as confident and easy to drive at any speed. The brakes are a little soft, lacking the immediate grab one expects in a luxury vehicle. This, combined with soft and ponderous body control, makes the vehicle seem rather heavy — which at more than 4,400 pounds with all-wheel drive, it is. (That's anywhere from 100 to 300 pounds heavier than its competitors).
That weight issue shows in the SRX's fuel economy numbers, which are below those of major competitors. The all-wheel-drive SRX is rated 16/23/18 mpg city/highway/combined — not the greatest performance of the group. My week of driving netted about 20 mpg in what turned out to be heavier-than-normal highway use. By comparison, the Lexus RX 350 all-wheel drive is rated 18/24/20 mpg with its six-speed transmission and 18/26/21 mpg with its optional eight-speed automatic in the F-Sport model, while the Acura MDX all-wheel drive nets an estimated 18/27/21 mpg with a six-speed. The MDX does, however, require premium fuel, while the Caddy and Lexus make do with regular unleaded. The front-wheel-drive SRX comes in at 17/24/19 mpg.
The Cadillac is quite nice inside, as this was one of the first models in the brand's lineup to receive significant attention to detail, electronic upgrades and high-quality materials. Despite being a few years old, the SRX still looks up to date, featuring modern shapes and high-quality leather on most surfaces. Most controls are located on touch-sensitive panels in the center console that go dark when the car is switched off. It's a clean look; nobody would accuse the SRX interior of being too busy or ostentatious. It's luxurious and interesting in a way that many competitors are not. The Cadillac User Experience (CUE) multimedia system, standard on the SRX, is front and center, though our opinion of it remains mixed. It's one of the better systems for ease of use and function, but the voice command can be finicky and inconsistent in terms of operational speed.
Comfort level is high in the SRX, with big seats up front and in the second row, yet legroom for the rear passengers isn't as much as one might hope. This is one of the smaller luxury SUVs on the market — strictly a two-row setup with seating for five only — but dimensionally it offers competitive room for those five occupants. The front seats are the preferred place to be, with low windowsills and a low hood making for good outward visibility. Thanks to the fairly tall roofline, headroom is plentiful, front or rear, and it wasn't diminished by the optional moonroof in my test car.
Ergonomics & Electronics
The controls and gauges are modern and look great, but they're something of a mixed bag to operate. While CUE works very well most of the time, it sometimes lags and gets confused on voice commands or when asked to do things immediately after startup. Likewise, the controls for everything from climate control to seat heaters are also flat, blank-plastic, touch-sensitive panels. While they work reliably, they require you to remove your eyes from the road in order to confirm that the function has been selected. Most touch-sensitive controls provide no tactile feedback, but an essential quality of a luxury vehicle is that it feel luxurious; the tactile operation of its buttons and switches is part of that feel. With touch-sensitive panels, that luxurious feel is absent. Cadillac tries to make up for it with a vibrating console that "bumps" when you touch a control, but the sensation just doesn't work the same. Touch-sensitive controls don't work for Lincoln, and they don't work here, either.
Cargo & Storage
The SRX may offer competitive passenger room, but it comes up a bit short on cargo space versus its competition. With the seats up, the SRX features 29.8 cubic feet of cargo space, climbing to a more respectable 61.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. By comparison, the more spacious Lexus RX has 40.0 cubic feet of room behind the second row of seats, or 80.3 with its second row folded. The Acura MDX manages to squeeze a third row into the cargo space, but when it's folded offers up 38.4 cubic feet behind the second row. That number grows to 68.4 cubic feet with everything laid down. My test vehicle featured a track-and-groove cargo management system, which included tubular metal dividers that could be set at different positions to secure cargo. Its usefulness is questionable, however, and I found myself folding it out of the way or removing it entirely most of the time.
The SRX received a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and it scored a rating of good in most Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests. See all of the SRX's safety equipment here.
Cadillac has packed quite a lot of its newest safety technology into the SRX, including optional radar-based adaptive cruise control with automatic front and rear braking; that latter addition is a less common system that prevents the car from backing into something at low speeds. Also available are a backup camera, blind spot and cross-traffic alert, and Cadillac's exclusive Safety Alert Seat, which rumbles the driver's seat instead of sounding a chime whenever a warning is needed.
Value in Its Class
The SRX is Cadillac's only crossover-style SUV, meant to go head-to-head with similar vehicles from Lexus, Acura and Infiniti. It covers a wide range of pricing, as well, starting at $38,430, including destination charge, for a base front-wheel-drive model. Three higher trim levels offer increasing levels of equipment (labeled Luxury, Performance and Premium). My tester was an all-wheel-drive Premium model, which rings up at $51,880; add in a Blu-ray-compatible rear-seat entertainment system for $1,595, the Driver Assist Package (with adaptive cruise control and automatic braking) for $2,395, and 20-inch polished wheels for $595, and you get an as-tested price of $56,465. That's a lot of money for a smallish five-seater, regardless of brand, but at this price the SRX does come equipped with some very impressive technology. Configure one how you'd like it here.
The market is tough, however, with the perennial best-selling Lexus RX 350 considered to be the SRX's nemesis. An RX 350 F-Sport all-wheel drive starts at $48,360 but doesn't include things like navigation, a blind spot monitor or a premium sound system. Its optional rear-seat entertainment system is also twice as pricey as the Cadillac's. It does have an advantage in fuel economy, however, thanks to the F-Sport's eight-speed transmission. Tagging all the boxes on an RX 350 brings it up to $54,775, but it still doesn't feature some of the SRX's more advanced safety technologies. Acura's MDX is another worthy competitor. It was recently redesigned and features three rows of seats at a starting price of $43,185 for a base front-wheel-drive version, climbing to $57,400 for a fully loaded, all-wheel-drive Advance trim level. Acura has no options at that level, however, preferring to bundle options into trim levels. It, too, features better fuel economy than the SRX and almost as much technology, including a follow function for the automatic distance-keeping cruise control that can brake and accelerate the car in stop-and-go traffic. If you want to stick with domestic brands, Lincoln's MKX crossover is built with similar intentions. It starts at $39,470 for a front-wheel-drive base model and climbs to more than $54,500 if you add big wheels, all-wheel drive, technology packages and more. It features Ford's advanced MyLincoln Touch system, which has improved in recent years but still comes with flat plastic touch panels in the center console. Compare the four competitors for yourself here.
The SRX is likely due for a full redesign in the near future, but Cadillac has kept the current version relevant and competitive thanks to some technology updates. Here's hoping the next one loses the touch-sensitive controls, gains a bit of fuel economy and keeps its upscale looks.