Journalists the world over scratch their head in wonderment as to why the public continues to gobble up crossovers and SUVs, while ignoring wagons/estates/avants. Yes, even in Europe the trend is more towards CUVs and away from wagons.
Several months ago we tested the Cadillac CTS SportWagon, and declared it fabulous. In the interim, Cadillac has gone and one upped itself with a CTS-V version of the SportWagon, and while we haven’t had a chance to drive that one yet, we could imagine it taking care of 99% of all of our vehicle needs going forward. The thing is, Cadillac will sell maybe 500 of the CTS-V wagons and not more than 5000 of the standard SportWagon over the course of a year. So, the question is, what does the SRX crossover do that the SportWagon cannot? Why does the public prefer the CUV to the wagon? That’s what we planned to find out.
From the exterior, the SRX carries the Cadillac design language nicely. The “art and science” theme is the grill, the side window lines, and the multiple angles in the bodywork break up the profile of this CUV nicely.
The grill is unmistakable Cadillac. Where Lincoln has tended to make its signature grill much larger on its CUVs like the MKX and the MKT, Cadillac has made the grill on the SRX less prominent than on the CTS. The breakup of the grill area by the front fascia keeps the front end from looking massive. The headlight lenses are quite detailed. There are angles within the lens that are strictly for cosmetic purposes but are designed to keep with the angular theme that modern Cadillacs are know for. They have even worked the Cadillac crest into the lens. It’s something few people will see or pay attention to, but it’s a great detail.
The side profile of the SRX is very much like the SportWagon with similar rooflines and DLO, just taller. That styling does create an issue with blind spots though, as we will touch on a little latter. There are multiple bodylines from the bottom of the vehicle to the one on the top which follows the top of the window opening further back into the D pillar and into the rear tail lens that give the SRX a nice texture.
If there is an angle that doesn’t quite work with the SRX, it is the straight rear view. It appears that the back is bulky and it carries that bulk a little high. Perhaps if the rear window was a little larger and came further down into the hatch, it would break up the sheet-metal enough to alleviate that.
Once inside, you are greeted with a cabin that has a very open feel thanks in part to the huge panoramic sunroof. The materials are of a high quality and immediately feel good to the touch, both from the feel of the texture and a lushness that tells you they didn’t try to save costs in that area. Where in the past, GM cars that cost north of $40,000 had interior materials more suited for a $25,000 car, in the SRX it more than fits in this $53,000 vehicle.
The gauge cluster is well laid out, though the tachometer seems to hide somewhat behind and to the left of the speedometer. In the middle of the speedometer is a sizable LCD display that can be rotated between a digital mph gauge, distance to empty, average fuel mileage, instant fuel mileage, among others. We did find the digital mph readout to be useful as the numbers on the analog gage are small and mashed together, even though it has a wide sweep across.
The center stack is very comprehensive, if a little busy with buttons. After driving a number of GM vehicles in the last year, we are finally getting used to the central door locks being high on the center stack, rather than on the doors. We aren’t fans of this layout but we’re sure this placement probably saves $15 in wiring and switches over putting them on the doors where they traditionally are located.
In the toys department, the SRX has them in spades. It has the popup LCD screen for navigation, the back up camera, audio, phone controls and more. While our SRX did have the built in hard drive, we didn’t use that, but rather our iPod touch. Perhaps it’s just our particular iPod touch, but the SRX has issues syncing with it and controlling it with the SRX’s interface. We say it might be our iPod because this isn’t the first time we’ve had issues and it’s been across all brands.
Audio quality through the Bose sound system is good. In some ways it’s a bit too good because it’s very easy to hear the compression and lower bit rates on some of the XM music channels. We listened to songs on XM on 1st Wave, Lithium, Chill and Real Jazz and compared then to the same songs are similar songs on our iPod that are ripped at very high quality and the difference was substantial. We’re picky about the sound quality of music but most people probably wouldn’t notice.
The rear seat of our test unit was equipped with a dual rear seat entertainment system with wireless headphones and remote control. At $1,295 it was the only option on our test unit and for families with young children, we’ll guess that it’s an option the parents would gladly pay double for. While we wouldn’t call the rear seats abundant in room they are certainly roomy enough for two well-sized adults to spend multiple hours in while getting three adults in the back might be a bit tight.
With the back seat up, the rear cargo area had more than enough room for our bi-weekly run to Costco, Trader Joe’s and Meijer’s. With the seat folded flat, our English Mastiff had more than enough room to fit comfortably and be able to stand up; she just had to duck her head a bit once inside.
Now we come to the part most people care about: how does it drive? If you were to remove or cover all of the Cadillac badging, and tell people it was an Audi, BMW or Mercedes, no one would argue with you. The Cadillac SRX strikes that difficult balance of being firm, fun, but yet maintaining a compliant ride. South of Ann Arbor, MI there is a road called Plank Road. The last time it was paved, was more than likely the first time it was paved and that must have been back in the early 60’s. When you drive down the road, you tend to drive in the middle of it because where your right tire would go, it’s worn down in a groove from the traffic and has a pothole every three feet, if that far. In driving the Caddy down that road, we could stay in the lane and the suspension would absorb the undulations without transferring to the vehicle, yet felt calm and planted, steady as she goes down the road. It’s not something you’d expect from an American crossover! Throw it into some twisty bits, or what passes for them in South East Michigan, and again, the SRX feels planted and willing, with good feedback through the wheel. In many ways the Cadillac is more German than the Germans!
The motor in our AWD Premium unit was the 2.8 liter V-6 turbo, last seen in the SAAB 9-3X. The motor does feel like it came from a mid 90s SAAB in that there is some very notable turbo lag, much more than you would expect in a modern power-plant. Once above 2,000 rpms, the power comes on in a rush and if you keep the motor above that figure, it’s very spirited. If you are trying to get away quickly from a stop light or are in the toll booth drag race, the SRX will move okay on initial throttle tip in but, about thirty feet out, once the turbo has built some boost, you feel a pretty strong kick in the pants.
We have two thoughts on the engine choice here. Number one is that this motor calls out for some re-tuning or a twin-scroll turbo to come in with more boost sooner. The other thought, and we are going to guess the reason is either CAFE or maxed out capacity at the engine plant, but rather than the 2.8 turbo, we’d love to see the 3.6 direct injection V-6 in here. Normally we like turbo motors and some tweaking here might solve our issues, but given the rest of the chassis dynamics, the turbo lag is a pretty glaring oversight.
If you are going to be changing lanes in the SRX, it’s a good idea to be up in the boost because the styling that looks good outside and the lines to the thick D pillar make a pretty large blind spot when you turn your head to do a lane check. It’s nowhere near as bad as the Camaro and few things are, short of a Lotus Exige, but you can hide some large vehicles in it if you’re not careful.
While some are measuring how the Cadillac SRX stacks up to the Lexus RX 350, the CUV/SUV’s the Caddy is really measuring itself against are the Audi Q5 and Q7, the BMW X3 and X5 and the Mercedes GLK. Audis tend to have the best interiors, BMWs are the sporty brand and the Merc would bring the luxury The 2010 Cadillac SRX can drop the gloves and go toe to toe with any of the German cars and the worst it would come out is a split decision.
Much like our experience with the CTS SportWagon, the more we drove the SRX, the more we enjoyed it. There is some additional cabin space over the wagon and the taller height of the vehicle makes for more cargo room as well. Also, people enjoy sitting a bit higher in a car so as to see traffic and feel more in command of the road. Whereas the SportWagon could make you think you were driving a coupe or sedan, the SRX feels like a crossover, but it’s among the best we’ve driven to date.