The first half of 2009 was a tumultuous time for General Motors. Like fellow Detroit auto company Chrysler, GM was raked over the coals by Congress, lent bailout money, and eventually went into and emerged from bankruptcy.
Now that we’re well into the second half of the year, General Motors can breathe a little bit easier, but the challenges are in no way over. The company must prove to the country that it’s on stable footing, and ready to produce desirable vehicles that will return it to profitability.
First out of the gate, post-bankruptcy, is a new luxury crossover SUV from Cadillac. In the game of musical chairs, the luxury brand gets to stay, along with Chevrolet, GMC and Buick. Getting the boot are Hummer, Saab, Saturn and Pontiac, with the first three being sold to other companies, and poor Pontiac just walking the plank, much the same way its former corporate sibling Oldsmobile did several years back.
So Cadillac will remain the premium car line from GM, and new products will be introduced in the coming months and years to supplement the much-heralded CTS sedan. Moving into showrooms in the next few weeks will be a completely revamped SRX, replacing a vehicle that wore the same name badge but was quite different.
The folks who run Cadillac as much as admit that the old SRX missed the mark. Someone high up in the company hierarchy had decided that it needed to be rear wheel drive (derived from the platform underneath the CTS), and have three rows of seats. It ended up looking kind of out of proportion; too long and too wagon-like.
Competitive vehicles in the class, led by the Lexus RX350, only have two rows of seats and wear a more trim profile. In addition to the Lexus (now in its third generation), the segment has become rather crowded this year with the new Mercedes-Benz GLK, Volvo XC60, Audi Q5, and another mainstay of the segment, the BMW X3.
The folks who are running Cadillac these days (after a major trimming of the company’s personnel) think that all the competition is a good thing, and that the luxury crossover segment is strong enough to support all comers, including the revised SRX.
So just how is the SRX revised? Well, it’s an all-new design, borrowing heavily from the CTS sedan, especially in the interior. But its relationship to the CTS is in looks only, as underneath the sheet metal the SRX is a front-drive crossover SUV, sharing mechanicals with the soon-to-be-updated Chevrolet Equinox. While many purists may question the loss of rear wheel drive, the reality is that most buyers in this category don’t really know the difference. Besides, the sales champion Lexus RX has always been front wheel drive.
Yes, all wheel drive is an option on the SRX, but the basic underpinnings of the vehicle mean that it starts life with front wheel drive architecture, with the engine sitting “sideways” under the hood. For the most part, this is really the most efficient way to build a vehicle like this.
Speaking of efficiency, another drawback to the prior version of the SRX was mediocre fuel mileage. I remember driving the V8 version when it first came out in 2004 and barely achieving 12-13 miles per gallon. The 2010 SRX is a lighter and trimmer vehicle, and is rated at 18 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway. (Choosing all wheel drive drops those numbers to 17 and 23.)
The base engine is a 3.0 liter V6 with direct injection making 265 horsepower. For the class, that’s about adequate, but driving up some steep hills in Malibu with three people and some equipment onboard, the engine felt a bit strained. A few months after launch, there will be an optional engine, a 2.8 liter turbocharged V6 making an estimated 300 horsepower. The only transmission available is a 6-speed automatic.
While not a powerhouse (yet), the SRX feels very sure-footed on the road. There are various suspension and tire options, up to a 20” wheel and tire, and an optional handling package that puts the little Cadillac right up with the competition in terms of driving dynamics.
Inside, the SRX interior is very modern and stylish, with a nice dose of luxury. The seats are comfortable and firm, and the rear seat even has a recliner mechanism so your passengers can get nice and comfortable on road trips. Bluetooth telephone connection is among the many standard amenities.
Base price for the SRX is $34,155, which is not only more than $5000 less than the 2009 model, it undercuts the Lexus RX350 by about $2000. Obviously, Cadillac is trying to be aggressive with its pricing in order to spur sales. Company officials say that even with the most popular options, a buyer should be able to get an SRX for right around $40,000.
The new Cadillac SRX is smaller and leaner than the one it replaces. Coincidentally, the new version of General Motors is smaller and leaner than the GM we used to know. The plan for the new SRX, which is rather light on its feet, is to help the new General Motors to get back on its feet as well.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7. He’s also a car enthusiast and owns several classics. Dave can be reached at TVCarz @ pacbell.net.