Best-in-class power; premium fuel not required; comfortable ride.
Poor visibility; limited backseat headroom.
Third Time's the Charm
The 2010 Cadillac SRX did not make a great first impression on us. At the time, we felt that the base engine was not powerful enough and the turbo engine could only be had in the highest trim levels. But regardless of what we thought, the second-generation Cadillac SRX went on to be a huge success for the automaker. It has quickly become Cadillac's best-selling vehicle and also the second best-selling luxury SUV in the market.
To its credit, General Motors listened to the feedback and made a number of improvements, even though strong sales might have persuaded the company otherwise. So now the 2012 Cadillac SRX receives another engine, which takes the place of the other two. It is not only more powerful than its discontinued predecessors but also standard equipment for all trim levels. This is great news for potential SRX buyers, who no longer have to pay top dollar to get the best engine.
There are a number of competitive vehicles in this segment. With a base price of $35,185 for the entry-level front-wheel-drive model, the SRX is the least expensive in its class, but it doesn't have as many standard features as its competitors. If you are willing to give up some cargo space for more refinement, you can get into a Mercedes-Benz GLK350 for about $700 more. The Acura MDX can carry seven passengers and has all-wheel drive standard, but it also has a higher base price. Finally, the Lexus RX 350 is a solid pick, but it has a softer suspension and isn't as fun to drive.
The most significant change to the 2012 Cadillac SRX is the direct-injection 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 308 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that features a Sport mode, and has a manual-shift capability that enables you to hold one of the intermediate ratios all the way to the engine's redline.
Despite the increase in power, the direct-injected V6 is actually more fuel-efficient than its predecessors. For the front-wheel-drive SRX, it delivers EPA-estimated fuel economy of 17 city/24 highway mpg and 19 mpg combined (subtract 1 mpg in all categories for the all-wheel-drive model), on par with most of its competitors. There is also an "Eco" mode, which Cadillac says is good for squeezing out an additional 1 mpg. This engine is now capable of running on E85 fuel. More important, it can now run on regular gasoline, as many of the SRX's competitors require premium fuel.
We attended a manufacturer's test-drive event, so we were not able to obtain performance or real-world fuel economy numbers. But we did get to drive the SRX on the highway and on the winding back roads near Santa Barbara, California. The new V6 accelerates briskly and has a broader torque curve than before, which makes it more responsive in a variety of driving conditions. The SRX's brakes engage with a firm, aggressive bite that might take some getting used to, but they proved resistant to fade during our driving loop.
It's easy to find a comfortable seating position in the 2012 Cadillac SRX. Our test model had a power-adjustable seat with thigh extenders. You can also adjust the steering wheel and the position of the pedals through a pair of switches on the steering column.
For 2012, Cadillac has made a number of changes to the SRX's suspension setup. New suspension mounts, bushings and dampers have been added to address the noticeable impact harshness we observed in past models. The retuned ride is now much smoother, yet the SRX maintains its agile reflexes. The Performance Collection and Premium Collection trim levels come with the "Sport Active" suspension, which monitors changes in the road surface and adjusts the suspension accordingly. These higher trim levels also get a power-assisted variable-effort and speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering system. We drove the SRX with both the standard 18-inch tires and the upgraded 20-inch tires and found both quite comfortable.
Additional acoustic insulation has been added for 2012, and it is impressive how quiet this vehicle can get, despite its size and boxy shape. With the windows up, the only thing you'll hear is the throaty sound of the new V6 and whatever is playing on the 10-speaker Bose audio system.
A panoramic sunroof is standard equipment for all but the base trim levels. Some of our taller editors have noted that this severely cuts into the rear-seat headroom, and they have to slouch in the seat to fit. The SRX's rear-seat legroom isn't the top of its class, but it is comparable to that of an Audi Q5, which is an impressive vehicle in its own right.
Outward visibility is a bit of an issue in the 2012 Cadillac SRX. In the front, the A-pillar widens substantially at its base where the side mirror attaches, and this can make it difficult to spot nearby objects at a glance. A small rear windshield and thick D-pillars also conspire to make backing out of a parking space something of a challenge.
In our real-world usability tests, we found that there was enough cargo space with the seats up to fit a golf bag widthwise and three or four small carry-on roller bags lengthwise. The maximum cargo capacity with the seats down is 61.2 cubic feet. If you still need to carry more, the Acura MDX or Lexus RX 350 might be a better fit.
Design/Fit and Finish
If you like Cadillac's current "art and science" design language with broad planes and creased edges, chances are you'll also like this SRX. Our opinions have been divided about the front end of the SRX, but we all agree that the design comes together nicely in the rear.
The SRX's interior is one of the better-looking ones in this class. There is a tasteful amount of wood and chrome accents that remind you of a classic Cadillac, while the full-color LCD display in the gauges and pop-up navigation screen bring you back to the modern age. A number of soft-touch materials are used, and the buttons have a solid feel and logical layout.
Who should consider this vehicle
The Cadillac SRX has become a rising star in this segment and now it has a better engine to round out the excellent all-around package. If you want a powerful, comfortable and fun-to-drive utility vehicle with carlike comfort and the right kind of luxury features, look no further. The 2012 Cadillac SRX offers all this, delivering not only a base model with a very competitive price but also a top trim with a sticker price under $50,000.
Others To Consider
Acura MDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Lexus RX 350.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.