Mother's Little Helper
This is about the 2010 Cadillac SRX 2.8 Turbo, not the 2010 Cadillac SRX 3.0 that we drove, oh, just last week? That was the new Caddy two-row crossover with a 3.0-liter V6. This is something different.
Of course, we were too classy to explicitly say that the 3.0-liter V6 is gutless, bloodless or carries smaller-than-average huevos. Instead, we simply pointed out, "Not only does the 3.0-liter V6 have the lowest torque rating of any six-cylinder crossover in this class, those 223 pound-feet hit at a much higher rpm."
Now we've driven the 2010 Cadillac SRX 2.8T with its optional turbocharged 2.8-liter V6, an engine borrowed from the Saab Turbo X and the upcoming Saab 9-4X. And we can happily report that our one major reservation about the standard SRX has been pretty well addressed with a heaping helping of our old twisty-turny friend, torque.
Of Buttes and Bunny Hills
We call them torque curves, but we don't really want them to be very curvy. The shape we want is not a dome or a slope or anything else that curves. What we want is what the turbo 2.8-liter V6 in the 2010 Cadillac SRX 2.8T lays down, which is more like a rectangle. We want the torque output to rise quickly from zero to its maximum and then just stay there for as long as possible. We want the torque curve to look like one of those tabletop buttes or mesas you see in Monument Valley near the Four Corners. That's pretty much what the 2.8-liter turbo's torque delivery looks like, as its peak output of 295 lb-ft of torque extends from 2,000 rpm to as far as the eye can see (or to 5,000 rpm anyway).
By comparison, the 3.0-liter V6's torque delivery looks like a bunny hill, a ski slope that's low and gentle enough to have a rope tow instead of a proper chairlift. Its torque peak of 223 lb-ft doesn't even arrive until 5,100 rpm. Most buyers in the luxury crossover market that we know personally seem to be convinced that any engine speed above 3,000 rpm will result in immediate and catastrophic engine failure and/or the creation of black holes. So let's just say they might not be getting the full effect of the 3.0-liter V6's output in any case.
This turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 leads the class of midsize luxury utes in terms of ultimate torque and horsepower output. Its estimated output of 300 horsepower is 40 hp more than the BMW X3's 3.0-liter inline-6, 32 hp more than the Mercedes-Benz GLK's 3.5-liter V6, 30 hp more than the Audi Q5's 3.2-liter V6, 25 hp more than the Lexus RX 350's 3.5-liter V6 and 19 hp more than the Volvo XC60's turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6. Not too shabby.
Cadillac reckons that the new turbo motor will chop a full second off the run of the 3.0-liter SRX to 60 mph. We have clocked the SRX 3.0 to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds (7.9 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip). So given the same testing regimen, the turbo should easily break under the 8-second mark and hit the low 15s in the quarter-mile. And that will make it competitive with the best in the class.
Mini-Mall Heat Races
More important than track numbers in this market is the way a vehicle feels while squirting around town on errand day or when it's prodded down an on-ramp on the way to the office. In these circumstances, the difference between the normally aspirated 3.0-liter and the turbo 2.8-liter with its single twin-scroll turbocharger is even more obvious. It's our pal torque talking again. The turbo motor seems to never be caught on its heels. It's ready to provide a squirt of thrust under almost all conditions.
This is mostly due to the aforementioned mesa of torque. But it's also partly due to the Aisin six-speed automatic that replaces the Hydra-matic six-speed of the SRX 3.0. This transmission came as a package deal with the turbo motor from the Saab powertrain, and it's nice. It feels a bit more eager to downshift than the GM-built gearbox. Flop the shifter to the left and you activate the Sport program for both the suspension and the gearbox. We don't see a whole lot to dissuade us from simply leaving it in the Sport gate, since you still get smooth, well-timed downshifts.
Of course we accept that the typical buyer of a luxury crossover vehicle might not put the same priority on outright performance that, well, we typically do. Yet we still firmly believe that performance is critical to even the most somnolent crossover driver. Have you ever seen one of these folks jockey for position in hopes of nabbing a prime parking spot? Of course you have. An alert transmission and engine are critical here. Let's face it; the Cadillac SRX buyer is paying for luxury. And waiting for a couple of downshifts to access a reed-thin torque delivery so you can get around some dawdler in front of you is not luxury. Luxury is being able to dispatch annoying drivers with a twitch of your right foot. Luxury is having more than what's necessary, even if you never use it.
Lest we forget, there is also an "Eco" button on the center console, which puts the transmission in a fuel-sipping mode, effectively trying to undo the improvements in throttle response that the turbo motor brings to the table.
Turbo V6 Smackdown
How does this turbo 2.8-liter V6 compare to the much-ballyhooed turbo V6 from a carmaker based in Dearborn, Michigan, which we won't mention is Ford?
Well, the EcoBoost V6 as fitted to the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT has a 0.7-liter displacement advantage over the GM piece. And the EcoBoost motor brings with it direct injection, something that could not easily or cheaply be added to this GM turbo 2.8-liter V6, as it's based on an older engine family. As a result, the Ford engine has an advantage of 50 hp and 55 lb-ft of torque. And even while pulling the much larger Flex, the engine still returns 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway, which betters the Caddy.
We're going to call that a win for Ford.
The Price To Be Paid
As we send this story off into your work cubicles and home offices, Cadillac has not yet announced a final price premium for the 2010 Cadillac SRX 2.8T with the turbo 2.8-liter V6 over the standard SRX 3.0. But we're told to expect about a $3,000 bump in price compared to a comparably equipped 3.0-liter model.
And by "comparably equipped," we mean very well equipped. The turbo motor is available only with all-wheel drive, which is a $2,495 option for the SRX 3.0. The turbo brings with it 20-inch wheels in place of the 18s on the FWD SRX 3.0 we drove. It also comes with automatically adjusting shocks. We figure the 2010 Cadillac SRX 2.8T we drove, loaded with cooled seats and a nav system and whatnot, would probably list for about $50,000.
This puts the Caddy at the steep end of pricing for the medium-small luxury utes including the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK and Volvo XC60, and not far from a heavily optioned six-cylinder version of the slightly larger Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes ML-Class and Volvo XC90.
And the SRX 2.8 Turbo will deliver fuel economy at the weak end of its primary competitors with an estimated 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway.
But It Has Tail Fins!
The 2010 Cadillac SRX 2.8T will be available midway through the 2010 model year, which is why things like its engine output and pricing are still a bit in flux.
Except for the powertrain, the 2010 Cadillac SRX 2.8 Turbo is identical to the 2010 Cadillac SRX 3.0. It carries the same suspension tune as the normally aspirated model with the FE3 suspension. It uses the same tires. It carries the same generally good packaging (although more rear-seat headroom would be nice). It has the same mini tail fins as all SRXs. The same chromed cow-catcher nose. The same great seats and intuitive touchscreen-based information and entertainment interface. The same precise steering and firm brake pedal.
And with this motor, the SRX has the, um, virility it was missing. But as virility invariably does, it's going to cost you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.