– Unique exterior styling
– Decent ride and handling
– Nice premium-trimmed cabin
– Needs more power
– Average rear-seat space
– No low-range gearing
It is always odd when a particular car model undergoes a complete about-turn on what it started out as. The Mini started life as a poor man’s commuter and has now become a rich man’s toy. The VW Beetle started life as a rear-engined runabout and has now become a front-engined gay icon. The Cadillac SRX started life as a V8-powered RWD-biased midsize crossover and has now become a V6-powered FWD-biased smaller crossover. Ironically, the Mini and the VW went on to become sales successes in their new iterations. And we believe the new SRX will likely sell better than the old SRX ever did.
The problem with the old SRX was that, even if mechanically competent, it looked more like a lifted wagon than a proper 4×4. When fickle people buy a 4×4, they want their 4×4 to look like a 4×4. The new-for-2010 SRX certainly looks more like a 4×4, but General Motors’ new crop of exceptional designers have managed to integrate some stunning styling cues, such as the massive grille-and-headlights face, the swoopy roofline and, of all things, pointy tail-finned rear LED lamps harking back to traditional Cadillac designs. Of course, there are chrome window surrounds, chrome fake fender vents, chrome roof rails, chrome fog-lamps, chrome door handles, chrome 20-inch alloys and even chrome cup-holders to violently force-feed you that, at the end of the day, this is a genuine Cadillac, even if it is vaguely derived from a Chevrolet platform.
The interior is as razor-sharp as the exterior, though suitably padded so you don’t cut yourself. There is enough soft-touch padding to rival a Lexus, or maybe even better, because no competing Lexus has a leatherette-lined dashboard and upper door-sills like this Cadillac does. Some wood, chrome and metal-look plastics also line the cabin. All in all, the SRX has the fanciest-looking dashboard in a segment dominated by boring specimens from Mercedes-Benz and Audi, although a cover for the exposed front cup-holders would’ve completed the premium ambience.
In keeping with high-tech appearances, the navigation-multimedia touchscreen pops up from the dash when in use, and can go halfway down when not needed, while still displaying some basic radio info. Redundant stereo and a/c controls are stacked below the screen, but for the sake of style, the buttons are annoyingly small. A cool feature is the full-colour animated circular display within the gauges, flanked by “crystals” that blink with the indicators. Other features in our loaded tester included the usual power accessories, full keyless entry and start, electronic parking brake, rear a/c controls with vents, dual flip-up DVD screens on the seatbacks, power-adjustable front seats with ventilation fans, power-adjustable pedals, tyre-pressure monitor, powered rear tailgate, front and side-curtain airbags, turning HID headlights, a Bluetooth phone feature that works, rear camera with sensors, and a full-length panoramic glass roof that can still open like a sunroof. The stereo is pretty good, with iPod support and what not, while the three-zone automatic a/c was unstressed during our February testing.
Up front, the moderately-bolstered leather seats offer good space. While the limited rear view is taken care of with a camera, the view out the front is hampered by thick A-pillars. Space in the back quickly reminded us that this is a compact vehicle, with only average legroom, and headroom that could cause issues for very tall people. Still, it easily has more rear space than the pricier Infiniti EX. Cargo room is very good in terms of floor space, although that sloping rear window severely cuts down height. But a split-folding rear seat allows room for massive items, while there are at least four cup-holders and numerous door pockets spread about the cabin.
Our all-wheel-drive tester is powered by a 3.0-litre V6, good for 265 hp at 6950 rpm and 302 Nm of torque at a ridiculously high 5100 rpm. Considering the not-slim 1994 kg weight of the SRX, our as-tested 0-100 kph time of 9.9 seconds isn’t entirely surprising, but we’d expect better performance to compete in a segment where the likes of BMW and even Volvo play. The 6-speed automatic is smooth enough, with paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel that aren’t quick enough to be sporting, but holds gears well enough. We managed a reasonable fuel economy of 13.1 litres per 100 km during our test.
The new SRX rides a bit firmly, so there is no floatiness over dips on the highway, but neither does it crash over potholes, even with 20-inch wheels. Those low-profile 235/55 tyres do allow slight jitteriness over some rough surfaces, but overall the ride is no better or worse than any BMW. The cruise is largely quiet at sane speeds, but there is a noticeable amount of road and wind noise closer to 120 kph. The engine is gruff, but thankfully muffled by sound insulation.
Handling is acceptably agile, but by no means a physics-bender like those BMW trucklets. It is easy to explore the limits of grip safely, with the aid of all-wheel-drive and the redundant stability control system. Body roll is present up to moderate levels, and kept when under control, with no bouncy rebounds after sharp turns, and no top-heavy feeling on long high-speed curves. The SRX simply understeers with squealing front tyres when it starts to run out of grip in the middle of corners, and it is very easy to back off without loosening the rear. The good ABS-assisted disc brakes and the weighted steering feel are bonuses.
As usual with crossovers, we’ll go ahead and mention that this is not an offroader, despite the tallish ground clearance and all-wheel-drive. Those features are good for gravel tracks and rainy weather, but not for venturing onto deep beach sand, let alone desert dunes. There is no 4×4 lock or low-range gearing.
The new Cadillac SRX is a step in the right direction for this historical-yet-emerging brand. Innovations such as the fancy gauges and features such as standard leathery dash trims leapfrog over what most others in this segment offer. It is a bit low on space, but so are most of its competitors. If it came with a better engine, it’d be as good as the class-leaders. And considering the optional turbo motor offered in the States, that might not be too long.
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