Sexy Cedes to Sensible
Driving the 2010 Cadillac SRX reminds us that crossover SUVs are for sane and sensible people.
Don't let the overly Art-and-Scienced front fascia of this Cadillac fool you, because this front-wheel-drive 2010 Cadillac SRX with the Luxury Collection package represents the premium-brand crossover SUV experience distilled to its sane-and-sensible essence. To that end, it has a composed yet compliant ride quality, a well-insulated cabin and a rearward view unobstructed by a third-row seat you'd never use anyway. It sounds so simple, but this is all a crossover SUV really needs to do, no matter what the price.
It's quite a different approach from the original Cadillac SRX, which arrived for 2004, back when no one really knew what a luxury crossover SUV should be. This SRX tried to do everything well. It used General Motors' Sigma rear-drive architecture and offered an optional Northstar V8, so that it would feel sporty like a BMW X5. It had a third-row seat option, so it could move people about in Acura MDX quantities.
But not many of you wanted to pay for all this engineering. A decently equipped 2009 Cadillac SRX with rear-wheel drive and the base V6 engine came in at $44,855. Compare that with the $37,735 price tag on our front-drive 2010 Cadillac SRX Luxury Collection and you're looking at a sensible $7,120 savings.
What Am I Missing?
Seven grand isn't a casual amount of money, so you might think the 2010 Cadillac SRX is a lot less vehicle than its predecessor. In reality, though, the Audi Q5, Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz GLK350 and Volvo XC60 all start out in this price range. However, except for the Volvo, they all break into the $40Ks when you option them up to the level of our 2010 SRX Luxury Collection.
The Luxury Collection is the second tier in the 2010 SRX trim structure, which also includes base, Performance Collection and Premium Collection models. Base SRXs are aimed at fleet customers, while the Performance and Premium are aimed at those of you who want stuff like a sport suspension (with adaptive dampers), 20-inch wheels, adaptive headlights and ventilated seats.
Our SRX Luxury Collection has standard luxury fare like leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, real wood trim, dual-zone climate control, and a basic Bose audio system with satellite radio and auxiliary and USB inputs. The only obvious omission here is the slick, hard-drive-based navigation unit shared with the CTS; it's a $2,395 option on the Luxury Collection SRX. If we also wanted the slick Haldex all-wheel-drive system, we'd need to fork over another $2,495.
If you want to know how big the 2010 Cadillac SRX feels, go stand next to your neighbor's RX 350. These five-passenger crossovers have nearly the same footprint, along with just under 101 cubic feet of passenger volume. In addition, the 2010 SRX's total interior volume (129.8 cubic feet) is close to that of last year's SRX (132 cubes).
Seating is ample for adults of any size up front, and Cadillac even provides a manually extendable seat-bottom cushion for the driver. Legroom remains plentiful in the second row, but headroom is in such short supply that 6-footers refuse to ride back here. The SRX's standard panoramic sunroof shaves a couple inches, but the XC60 and Q5 have big glass roofs, too, and still manage to offer more headroom. Also not helping passenger morale is our test car's weak-sauce air-conditioner, which can't keep the cabin cool on 100-degree-F days.
Cargo bay dimensions are average for this class, but with 29.2 cubic feet, the 2010 SRX has a bit less capacity than the old SRX (32.4 cubic feet) and a lot less than the RX 350 (40 cubes). Cadillac provides an under-floor storage box, but it comes at the expense of a temporary-size spare tire — not a trade we'd be making in an SUV that doesn't come with run-flat tires.
Torque and Transmissions
Our 2010 Cadillac SRX has a normally aspirated, direct-injected 3.0-liter V6, which is the entry-level engine in the 2010 SRX line. Based on the architecture of GM's 3.6-liter V6, the 3.0-liter V6 makes 265 horsepower at 6,950 rpm and 223 pound-feet of torque at 5,100 rpm. Starting in October, Cadillac will offer an optional 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 rated at a cool 300 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.
There's a stark difference in torque output between the two SRX engines, and torque is never far from mind as we drive our 2010 Cadillac SRX Luxury Collection. Not only does the 3.0-liter V6 have the lowest torque rating of any six-cylinder crossover in this class, those 223 lb-ft hit at a much higher rpm. As such, you need to work the Cadillac's 3.0-liter quite a bit during passing maneuvers, and it's not the freest-revving V6 you'll ever meet.
This problem is compounded by the 6T70 version of GM's Hydra-matic six-speed automatic transmission, which, like the 6T75 version in the Lambda crossovers (Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia), is calibrated to conserve fuel at the expense of driver sanity. Its eagerness to settle into 6th gear and reluctance to downshift are particularly bothersome in this SRX with its normally aspirated V6, which often needs to drop down three gears when cutting through city traffic.
Numbers Don't Lie, or Do They?
Under full throttle, though, the transmission does wait until the engine's 7,000-rpm redline to upshift (though the tachometer lags behind reality), so the SRX manages a respectable 8.2-second 0-60-mph time (7.9 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip) and a 16.3-second quarter-mile at 86.7 mph.
It's interesting that these numbers are almost identical to those of our rear-wheel-drive 2007 Cadillac SRX V6 long-termer, which of course had a conventionally injected, 255-hp, north-south version of the 3.6-liter V6. But numbers only tell you so much here. Our old SRX was a more drivable vehicle, thanks to its more accessible torque curve (254 lb-ft at 2,800 rpm) and more responsive five-speed automatic transmission.
Most of the 2010 SRX's competitors are much quicker, including the all-wheel-drive 268-hp GLK350, which hits 60 mph in 7.2 seconds (6.9 seconds with 1 foot of rollout) and goes through the quarter-mile in 15.3 seconds at 90.3 mph, and the all-wheel-drive 270-hp Q5, which takes 6.8 seconds for zero to 60 (6.5 with 1 foot of rollout) and 14.9 seconds at 93.1 mph for the quarter-mile.
Fuel economy is kind of a sore spot, too. During our extensive test-drive we didn't do any better than an average of 17.7 mpg (with a high of 18.6 mpg) against the 2010 Cadillac SRX's 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway rating. For comparison, our long-term 2007 SRX averaged 17 mpg. Our front-drive 2008 Buick Enclave long-termer, which had a 275-hp version of the 3.6-liter V6 and outweighed the 2010 SRX by over 500 pounds, averaged 17.5 mpg.
So we'll hold out for that turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 and its Aisin six-speed automatic, which Cadillac apparently plans to offer only in the Premium Collection trim level, on which all-wheel drive is standard. Cadillac estimates the Premium turbo will come in "around $48-$50K."
Handling, Braking: Better Than You Think
Although our 2010 Cadillac SRX Luxury Collection lacks the overtly sporty feel of our long-term 2007 SRX, it actually posts better handling numbers. In fact, our front-drive 2010 test car's 63.2-mph slalom speed and 0.87g on the skid pad are some of the best numbers you'll find in this class. Undoubtedly, the SRX's P235/65R18 104H Michelin Latitude Tour HP all-season tires are a help in these tests — along with a stability control system that you can fully disengage if need be.
On public roads, the 2010 SRX is not the sort of vehicle that inspires rapid cornering. Steering is precise, but you never forget that you're transitioning 4,300 pounds of SRX through each turn and there's a good deal of body roll. Still, the front-drive Cadillac is a far better choice for a back-roads detour than an RX 350.
Braking is also better than you might expect. The SRX's 128-foot 60-mph-to-zero stopping distance is a bit long for a premium crossover SUV, but we like this crossover's firm brake pedal feel.
No New Ground for Cadillac
Although our front-drive 2010 Cadillac SRX Luxury Collection shows unexpected ability in the braking and handling departments, it's not the perfectly packaged entry that a small-time player like Cadillac should be offering in this class.
The 2010 SRX's 3.0-liter DI V6 and six-speed automatic simply aren't in the same league as the refined, torque-rich six-cylinders and responsive transmissions offered by the competition. (The turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 may prove to be a better match, but it's likely to veer into uncomfortable price territory.) In addition, Cadillac's Art-and-Science design language looks dated in a class populated by fresh-out-of-the-box entries.
A smooth, serene ride is certainly a point in the SRX's favor, but the RX 350 and GLK350 are equally compliant. The Lexus and the Benz are also quite a bit more expensive than the 2010 Cadillac SRX, but we'd hate to see Cadillac try to win favor solely on the basis of rock-bottom pricing. In the short-term, such a strategy might draw more sales, but in the long-term, it will do little to improve Cadillac's image and even less to ensure its future.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Executive Editor Michael Jordan says:
We'll all miss the old CTS-based SRX, even though it never achieved much in the way of sales success. It really was a fine piece and sent a strong message about Cadillac. But now that a CTS wagon is on the way, the SRX is free to become sane and sensible just like all those other crossovers.
And a fine crossover it turns out to be. It's a real miracle of packaging, full of the thoughtful storage solutions that we've previously associated with the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX. If you've got stuff, there's a place for it, notably in the door pockets. And the concept of a programmable rear hatch is a real breakthrough. No more leaping into the air for the height-challenged in order to pull the thing closed, not to mention no more worries about banging the thing against something when you open it in the garage.
The SRX is really a little wonder except for the Cadillac part. The angry Art-and-Science motif doesn't work very well on this package, and a high beltline and small windows make it seem like the designers have a fundamental misunderstanding of the crossover's need for functional visibility in crowded parking lots and panoramic views in national parks. And there's also nothing special about the way the SRX drives, aside from the fact that it is particularly quiet in a carlike, sane and sensible way. You can put the transmission in Sport mode if you like, but then you're just more aware of the drivetrain's limitations.
Cadillac tells us that 70 percent of SRX sales are likely to come from the top 20 markets in the U.S. (indeed just 4 percent of U.S. ZIP codes are responsible for 42 percent of the sales bottom line), and it's pretty clear that the Lexus RX has been Cadillac's standard of measure as a consequence. As for me, I'm hoping the SRX with the forthcoming turbo V6 will drive like the Saturn Vue Red Line, which stirs up basically the same hardware into a more interesting result.