My test vehicle for the past week was the first Cadillac SRX I’d ever driven, and judging by the comments of automotive pundits gleaned hither and yon, the 2012 model is the one the General finally got right. Notably, the SRX now boasts a new 3.6-liter V-6 engine with 308 horses on tap, 16% more than the old 3.0-liter (a 2.8-liter V6 turbo was also available but much sneered at). It is, indeed, a superb engine, capable of hauling this beauty to 60 from a standstill in (per dependable Swiss chronometry) 6.8 seconds, with a nice satisfying snarl under the hood. I ascertained this important fact as early into my stewardship of the thing as possible. So far so good, I thought.
And so it went. In my week on board I found nothing to complain about and a great deal to praise. The week was particularly grueling, too, necessitating round-trip commutes in heavy rain to the southern suburbs of San Antonio and back (a good 120 miles roundtrip each time from my front door), as well as night driving, attempted maneuvering in reverse through a dark parking garage against an aural background of coarse swearing (mine), and other banal but hair-raising adventures that the SRX confronted with aplomb, coddling me in soft cowhide all the while, with the soothing strains of your man Mozart on the first-rate Bose 8-speaker audio system.
The Caddy didn’t exact too high a price at the pump, either: EPA estimates are 17 city, 24 highway, and 19 combined, all on regular. I covered a good 500 miles over the week, and had to top up the tank only once. According to the driver info center, I averaged 20.1 mpg, slightly higher than the EPA estimate, but it seems right to me, because Cadillac says that using the Eco(nomy) drive mode, which I did most of the time, will net you about 1 mpg savings. Not worth shouting from the rooftops, but not bad for a fairly hefty SUV.
Hefty but handsome. It’s a controversial design, ovoid but all swoops and jagged edges, like a Cubist potato, but I really liked it. Somehow the designers managed to endow a midsized vehicle with the charisma of a much bigger one, say Big Brother Escalade; it’s unmistakably Cadillac, with that aggressive prow and glittering grille, but with a restraint in the use of chrome so as not to cross the line into bling-bling vulgarity. There’s nothing shy or retiring about the SRX, but it manages to be decorous rather than off-putting, stolid rather than macho.
Inside is pure luxury, but again, not overdone. It’s luxury I, with my modest tastes, could happily live with. The chevron-shaped center console is cunningly designed to echo the car’s front end. The soft-touch dash is accented by very attractive top-stitching, and fairly user-friendly control buttons are clustered in two main areas of the center stack. The touch screen glides silently up from its recess when you turn on the engine and retreats just as silently at the other end of things, like the organ in a silent-movie theater. The on-board nav system, courtesy of OnStar, is good, if a little too obsessed, as nav systems tend to be, with finding you not just the best route from A to B but the Aristotelian ideal thereof, and on to C and D and beyond, and all in the stern monotone of a head librarian; but it can be turned off when not needed and sent off to sulk in cyberspace.
Other functions are logically displayed, and controls are arranged in an intelligent manner. The gauges are large and easy to read and pleasantly backlit in a bluish white. A clever touch is the imitation-crystal sconces between the gauges that discreetly reflect and enhance the green light of the turn signal, so that Gramps doesn’t drive fromAustin,TX, toAustin,MN, with his left blinker on.
As mentioned, acceleration is great, filtered through a super-smooth 6-speed automatic transmission. Of the various drive modes–Eco, Sport, Manual, and Normal—the Sport one is the most fun, but exacts the greatest price at the pump; as mentioned, I was quite happy with the Eco mode. Anyway, the SRX pumps out sufficient power in any mode. I found everything else on the road to be exemplary, too, especially the comfort of the front seats and solid feel of the cabin, into which very little noise percolates, even on rough surfaces. Sharp curves are easy to take, with little body roll, thanks to well-tuned suspension and unusually (for an SUV) responsive steering. Brakes are a tad soft-feeling at first, but ultimately efficient enough; I noticed no fade after a series of abrupt applications—and on a wet road at night, too, when I was very glad to have the traction control up and running. Other safety features on all 2012 SRX models include the afore-mentioned OnStar, six airbags (front, side and curtain), ABS, and stability control, resulting in a rating of Good, the highest, in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s frontal-offset, side- and roof-strength tests.
The SRX is more spacious inside than its external dimensions would suggest, although not as roomy as, say, the Lexus RX, a close competitor. With the rear seats up, the SRX has a cargo area of 29.2 cu. ft.; with the seats down, in excess of 61 cu. ft., compared to 40 cu. ft. and 80.3, respectively, in the RX. But the Lexus doesn’t have a cargo cage like the Caddy’s—actually, it’s a U-shaped metal bar that slides backward and forward, as needed. It’s a clever and effective innovation that corrals your scattered gear in one place, rather than using flimsy nets or rattling plastic storage boxes. When not in use, the bar can be stowed away in an under-floor storage area that can otherwise accommodate the odd duffel bag or grocery shopping. These design details imply a close attention to convenience; visibility, however, is somewhat compromised by the swooping roofline, an example of form trumping function.
The SRX is the bestselling Cadillac, but they’re not exactly giving them away. Mine was the top-of-the-line Premium Collection model, without the optional AWD system but with a whole lot of other enticements: leather upholstery, a panoramic sun- (or moon-) roof, front and rear parking sensors, power-folding mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic wipers, keyless entry, remote start, a nifty power tailgate with adjustable height, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, driver memory functions, power heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, that clever U-rail cargo cage, superbly fake-looking genuine wood trim, a rearview camera, and, behind the front headrests, rear seat audio controls plus DVD screens. All yours for a mere $48K. Mind you, you can drive off in a “base” model SRX, the one with wind-up windows and AM radio—just joking, although it does come with vinyl “leatherette” upholstery—for $35K. So, at either end of the pricing spectrum, it’s a nice chunk of change you’d be parting with. Is it worth it?
Hell, yeah, if you can afford one.