Just as GM was getting back on its feet a few years ago, they launched a new SRX luxury crossover SUV. Its dramatic looks and practical features were a solid hit, but its base 3.0 liter V6 engine was more like a bunt. It was too small and unrefined to move such a vehicle around smartly.
Help came along soon … sort of. There was a turbocharged engine available, a 2.8 liter unit making 300 horsepower and shared with the Saab 9-5. The problem was, it wasn’t easy to find an SRX Turbo, and it was only sold as an up-level all-wheel-drive model.
For 2012, Cadillac has finally updated the SRX with the engine it should have had in the first place: the wonderfully smooth and powerful 3.6 liter V6 found in the Caddy CTS as well as the Chevy Camaro. It’s now standard in every 2012 SRX.
Now it has the guts to keep up with its looks. The new engine makes 308 horsepower (43 more than the old engine), and is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, which has been revised for better efficiency. No longer is Cadillac’s crossover a weakling on hills or when carrying lots of people and cargo.
With this engine transplant, the SRX is truly competitive in the luxury crossover segment. There are many players there, including the Lexus RX350, which every car brand tends to benchmark. What Cadillac brings to the party is eye-catching style and a “just right” size.
Cadillac’s greatest strength these days is its distinctive design. When you see any of the brand’s new models (two more will debut this year), you know right off the bat that they’re Cadillacs. Crisp shapes and a bold grill combined with a high-tech motif gets the brand noticed.
From a practicality standpoint, the SRX is hard to beat. The height is just right for easy ingress and egress, and you can stow a lot of things in the back. There’s also a clever sliding bar that holds items in place (I really dislike hearing things slide around in the cargo hold of any vehicle while driving), as well as a deep compartment beneath the floor.
From a driving perspective, the SRX is world-class. The new engine is silky smooth and quiet in traffic, but emits a nice growl when you need to call up some extra horsepower. The transmission shifts perfectly, and thanks to today’s technology, you can select “eco” or “sport” modes to aid in fuel efficiency or driving fun, respectively.
Every gadget you could want is also at your beck and call, and even things you might not realize you’d want. My test SRX was equipped with remote starting from the key fob, which was handy on some of the sub-40-degree mornings we had in the pre-dawn hours. Hit a button on the remote, and the engine fires right up and gets the heater going. Obviously it will work just as well on a hot afternoon when you’d like the car cooled off before you get in.
The seats are wonderfully comfortable, and there’s even a fair amount of handling prowess dialed into the chassis. As an urban commuter or a long-distance tourer, the SRX shines equally well. Fuel economy wasn’t anywhere near the ratings of 16 city and 23 highway on the EPA sticker (that’s with all wheel drive – two wheel drive models are rated +1 mpg on each cycle), but I wasn’t really trying hard either. More often than not I had the transmission in sport mode, because it was so much more fun.
Base price for a 2012 Cadillac SRX is $35,185. My test vehicle was a Performance Collection model with all wheel drive that started out at $46,340 but checked in with a DVD player and dual screens for the rear passengers for $1,395 and carried an as-delivered bottom line total of $47,735. I can’t imagine any feature it didn’t have, as it was loaded to the gills.
A good looking vehicle without guts is like someone who tones their body up with weights but does no cardio at all. They may appear to be in shape, but the first time they have to climb a hill, they’re quickly out of breath. The SRX now not only looks muscular, but it can run a marathon too.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz@pacbell.net. Twitter: @dave_kunz Facebook: ABC7Dave