Like many forthcoming General Motors products, the all-new 2010 Cadillac SRX was in development well before the company's recent financial fiasco and corporate shake-up. Perhaps that's why so much about this Cadillac is all too familiar from GM's checkered past. The SRX's overtaxed 3.0-liter V6 powertrain, for example, is shared with the new Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain.
What's more, its "Premium Crossover" platform, like the Equinox/Terrain's long-wheelbase Theta Platform, is derived from a vehicle that the Caddy faintly resembles in profile: the plebeian Saturn Vue. In other words, badge engineering is alive and well at GM. What Cadillac needed was a distinctive and desirable luxury crossover — and what it's given us is a really nice "Vue-quinox."
Cadillac's engineers are at pains to emphasize the myriad differences between the platforms, but at the end of the day, the SRX just doesn't look or feel different enough from its lesser relatives to justify its price premium. Competitively priced rivals like the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK350 and Volvo XC60 T6 AWD do not have similar associations with workaday people haulers.
These European models are also considerably quicker and more engaging to drive, and their people- and cargo-hauling credentials stack up well despite the SRX's longer and slightly wider dimensions. The Caddy's attractive and well-equipped interior impresses, but that's about the highest praise we can offer.
The previous SRX was an intriguing segment-straddling proposition with its rear-drive CTS underpinnings, available third-row seat and optional V8. Alas, "intriguing" is hardly the word for the new SRX's front-drive architecture, downsized two-row layout and anemic V6. A more capable turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 can be specified on higher trims, but SRXs so equipped start at nearly $50,000 and still can't quite keep up with the far less expensive competitors mentioned above. New GM, meet Old GM — that's the 2010 Cadillac SRX in five words or less.
Our front-wheel-drive 2010 Cadillac SRX Luxury Collection test vehicle was powered by a direct-injected 3.0-liter V6 with a solid 265 horsepower but just 223 pound-feet of torque, much less than rival engines. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission.
At the test track, our SRX cantered from zero to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds, which is about a second off the pace for this segment — the 270-hp Q5 Quattro, for instance, does the job in 7.2 seconds, while the 281-hp XC60 T6 AWD and 268-hp GLK350 4Matic require 7.3 seconds. Braking performance was also below average, with our SRX requiring 128 feet to stop from 60 mph, 5-10 feet longer than the Europeans. Pedal feel was good, though, and on our slalom course the SRX turned in a competitive 63.2-mph pass.
In the real world, there are no two ways about it: This SRX is sluggish. Cadillac is proud of the fact that the new 3.0-liter V6 is derived from the excellent direct-injected 3.6-liter V6 in the CTS sport sedan and base Camaro coupe, but that just makes us wonder why the SRX didn't get the 3.6 as well. The Caddy is no lightweight — 4,292 as-tested pounds without all-wheel drive — so what it needs is torque, and the 3.6 cranks out a full 50 lb-ft more than the 3.0, not to mention an extra 39 hp.
The 3.0's output is simply overmatched by the SRX's mass, and while the six-speed automatic's eager upshifts and reluctant downshifts may be EPA estimate-friendly (our 17.7-mpg average notwithstanding), they only exacerbate the power problem. Also, on a couple occasions the transmission downshifted itself into the rev limiter with the pedal to the floor, cutting the power delivery and producing an "Engine Overspeed" message on the trip computer — hopefully an early-production quirk.
On the bright side, enthusiastic SRX drivers will find that the standard suspension (as opposed to the sport-tuned setup with continuously variable damping on all-wheel-drive Performance and Premium Collection models) is quite capable in tight corners. The SRX's compromised sight lines and considerable heft give it an ungainly feel in ordinary driving, but its responsive steering and respectable body control make it one of the better handlers in this class. It's unlikely this will be a selling point for the typical SRX shopper — a torque-deprived luxury crossover that corners surprisingly well is hardly a recipe for success.
The SRX Luxury Collection rides quietly at highway speeds, but the suspension sometimes jiggles unbecomingly over broken pavement, and there's more impact harshness than we expect to feel at this price point. Visibility is a sore spot, as the high beltline and extraordinarily thick roof pillars can turn even routine parking-lot maneuvers into nerve-wracking affairs.
That said, the front seats are nicely shaped and offer a wide array of power adjustments, and shorter drivers will appreciate the standard power-adjustable pedals. We also appreciated that our elbows found thickly cushioned landing pads wherever they fell. However, the backseat is notably lacking in headroom compared to rival rear compartments. We'd give the SRX a below-average rating for overall comfort — not quite what you'd expect from a Cadillac.
The SRX comes standard with an electronic parking brake, but it doesn't immediately lock the car in place when activated, so you'll lurch around slightly when parking on hills. Our tester lacked the optional navigation system, and the standard dot-matrix information display atop the center stack clashes with the trip computer's nifty high-resolution graphics.
The audio and climate buttons are adrift in a sea of sameness, but we like the two big knobs for volume and tuning, as well as the peripherally located dual-zone temperature controls. In our real-world functionality tests, the SRX's healthy 29.8-cubic-foot cargo bay swallowed our standard suitcase and golf bag with room to spare, though the narrow opening made loading the golf bag a bit trickier than we expected.
The Luxury Collection trim includes two special hauling features of note: a "U-rail" containment system on the loading floor that allows for the installation of a cargo fence, and a power tailgate with two height-adjustable settings to accommodate low garage ceilings. Our rear-facing child safety seat fit in the passenger-side rear outboard position with plenty of legroom left over for the front passenger.
Design/Fit and Finish
The SRX's exterior styling left most of our staffers cold, but fans of Cadillac's current design language may be drawn to this crossover's tailfin-style taillights and or locomotivelike front fascia. The interior is undeniably attractive, with a sleek dashboard that flows organically into the door panels. The materials are even nicer than what you'll find in the current CTS sedan, which donated some switchgear to the SRX's cause.
Fit and finish on our test car was mostly solid, but we noted an intermittent squeak from the driver-side B-pillar.
Who should consider this vehicle
The SRX that we tested is competitive with the base version of Volvo's XC60, which comes with front-wheel drive and a naturally aspirated inline-6. If you're looking for an SRX that competes with top luxury crossovers like the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK350 and Volvo XC60 T6 AWD, try the turbocharged model instead — but be prepared to pay for it.
† Edmunds.com received the highest numerical score in the proprietary J.D. Power 2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study℠. Results based on responses from 3,381 responses, measuring 14 companies and measures third-party automotive website usefulness among new and used vehicle shoppers. Proprietary study results are based on experiences and perceptions of owners surveyed from January 2014. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com.