One Step Forward, One Step Back
Be careful what you ask for, because you might just get it.
The 2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo is the range-topper for the company's recently overhauled station wago- er, crossover. We've driven several examples of the base SRX with its torque-thin normally aspirated V6, and one of our biggest grumbles is its lack of any kind of urgency in day-to-day driving.
We're all for modern, all-aluminum direct-injected V6s, don't get us wrong. But when you plop one in a bloated 2-ton people mover, something's gotta give. And that something is acceleration.
Note we didn't say that the base SRX is underpowered. Really, it's under-torqued. It needs some sauce, some noogins to pop it around town. It needs grunt, and the SRX Turbo answers this call.
Boost. It's What's for Dinner
Enter the turbo. The 2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo trades the 265-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 for a 2.8-liter V6 that's equipped with a twin-scroll turbocharger. This heart transplant puffs the SRX Turbo's peak power to a nice round 300 hp while torque rises to 295 pound-feet, a figure that is, crucially, available from 2,000-5,000 rpm.
That latter bit is what we're talking about. It's a torque plateau that broadens the shoulders of the SRX Turbo. Though it hasn't turned this big crossover into a rocket, the turbocharged 2.8 delivers exactly the kind of meat the SRX needed. When you dip the throttle, the SRX Turbo responds with a linear shove that belies its artificial aspiration, as the turbo engine produces meaningful progress even at low-ish revs. You'll be hard-pressed to catch this engine off boost.
There's news elsewhere in the powertrain, too. The Aisin six-speed automatic gearbox found in Turbo models is less stingy about delivering downshifts than the SRX 3.0's Hydra-matic box, and so makes the whole powertrain a lot more agreeable in daily use, as long as that use doesn't include driving up hills.
Grade logic, which holds a lower gear when ascending hills, could be better — this gearbox hunts endlessly on long grades. That's when the transmission's manual gate comes in handy, as Sport mode didn't seem to help with the hunting. Eco mode is something that should be selected only if you want your soul sucked out.
A Difference You Can Feel
Pore over the acceleration results we measured at the test track and you might end up scratching your head. The 2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo's 0-60 time of 8.0 seconds (7.7 with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and quarter-mile performance of 15.9 seconds at 88.7 mph is just 0.2 second and 2 mph better than the SRX we tested last year. Keep in mind that the SRX 3.0 we tested was a FWD model that weighed nearly 330 pounds lighter than this 4,619-pound Turbo.
So just order the SRX Turbo without the heavier AWD stuff and call it a day, right? Unfortunately, Turbo models are only available with all-wheel drive, continuously variable dampers, 20-inch wheels and a variety of other accoutrements that plump up the Turbo's price of entry and introduce some compromises.
The Quandary of Fancy Dampers
The 2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo rides over most roads with grace, but the suspension is at times flummoxed by surface disruptions such as speed bumps and the seams of a repaired freeway. Blame lies with the compulsory continuously variable dampers that simply can't respond quickly enough to the inertia of its 20-inch wheels and 235/55 all-season Michelins in said conditions.
As a result, its ride can become clumsy and underdamped — one of our road trips included tarmac pocked with small high-frequency bumps, and the SRX Turbo skittered around and lurched within its lane in a way we've only experienced in an unladen pickup on this very stretch. Here, the SRX Turbo's suspension calibration feels unfinished, as if an early test build escaped the proving ground intact: unfortunate considering that the base SRX doesn't exhibit this nonsense.
Smooth pavement reveals the upside to the Turbo's rejiggered underpinnings. On the test track it comported itself well to the tune of 0.78g on the skid pad and a slalom performance of 63.7 mph. This is quicker through the cones than the SRX 3.0 despite the Turbo's additional avoirdupois and reduced grip. As in the SRX 3.0, the Turbo's firm brake pedal is a boon to confident braking, and it pulls itself down from 60 in 129 feet.
Its steering is quick and linear and body motions are kept in check more effectively than in non-turbo SRXs, lending more precision to its handling. It may not quite be Acura MDX sharp, but the SRX's reflexes are definitely quicker in Turbo guise than in base form. This remains true even when driving sedately — you don't have to wring out this tall wagon to reap the rewards.
All the Toys in a Fine Cabin
Our $53,980 2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo tester is a Premium trim level and sports just one option, a $1,295 Rear Seat Entertainment package. It's amply equipped in this trim level — one of just two offered in Turbo guise — complete with navigation, heated leather seats front and rear, three-zone climate control, a back-up camera, power liftgate, keyless entry and ignition, and parking alerts, plus one of those enormous sunroofs that's all the rage.
Even as its edgy sheet metal is in peril of becoming prematurely dated, the cabin's contemporary styling ought to hold up quite well over time. Center stack controls à la CTS look sharp and work well, and the satin-finish brightwork livens up the view forward. The front seats are spacious and comfortable and score points for their adjustable thigh bolster. Though the engine isn't exactly melodious when you lay into the loud pedal, motoring on the freeway is quite serene as the engine hushes away, and there's minimal road or wind noise.
Forward visibility is aided by a tall windshield and then hampered by colossally wide A-pillars, while the D-pillars promise to obscure entire subdivisions. This is one of those situations where the back-up camera is more than a luxury; it's a necessity. While we're griping, rear passengers enjoy good legroom, but is it so unreasonable for 6-footers to expect decent headroom in the backseat of a modern, 4,600-pound lux-oriented crossover?
Fuel economy on the sticker is 15 city/22 highway mpg. We managed 18.5 mpg in 1,800 miles of mixed driving. Premium fuel, of course, is required.
The Right Engine at a Price
The addition of the turbocharged 2.8-liter six provides the motivation needed by the SRX. However, the associated heaping-on of equipment results in an SRX that is simply too compromised to make the most of the situation. Acceleration and fuel economy suffer, and the entry price is hard to swallow. Our test vehicle came with a $53,980 sticker price. That's about the same as a BMW X5, and nearly $10K more than the Acura MDX, both of which deliver better handling.
For the formula to click, the 2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo needs to shed some weight or some digits off the sticker. The option to select the higher-horsepower engine with or without AWD would be nice, too, although funneling that much torque through the front wheels only might be a bit unruly.
In other words, the SRX Turbo needs to be more like a CTS Wagon. We know which one we would rather have.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.