Pros: Lots of features for the money; great media and navigation system; superb engine pairing
Cons: High beltline means tight visibility; back seats are cramped
If you've driven Cadillac's crossover, the SRX, since its update in 2010, you may have been disappointed in the performance offered by either the 3.0-liter V6 engine or the optional 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 sourced from Saab. Neither seemed to know how to handle the car's 4,500-pound weight, and the optional engine's turbo was dreadfully slow to respond to any input. But for 2012, Cadillac has done away with both engines, instead offering a single engine, a version of the 3.6-liter V6 found in the CTS.
The 2012 SRX maintains the decidedly Cadillac design language, with sharp edges and superb interior design and materials. It is available in four different trim levels: Base, Luxury, Performance and Premium. The base model comes relatively well equipped, including dual-zone climate control, an eight-way adjustable driver's seat, Bluetooth and an iPod hookup for the eight-speaker Bose stereo. Luxury models come with premium features including heated front seats and steering wheel, parking sensors, automatic wipers, keyless ignition and a power-assisted liftgate. The Performance model adds 20-inch wheels, sport suspension with adjustable ride, adaptive xenon headlamps and a navigation system. The top-end Premium adds another zone to the climate-control system, plus ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and rear-seat audio control.
Comfort & Utility
The SRX provides a comfortable ride, especially in Performance trim with the adjustable suspension, which can be set up to be soft and supple for daily use or taut and communicative for when driving is on the spirited side. For those who don't plan on driving this crossover in a spirited manner, the other versions of the SRX provide a plush ride over all surfaces.
Inside the SRX, as has become the standard for Cadillac, fit and finish is quite good, and there's plenty of technology. Materials are soft to the touch pretty much anywhere the hand can fall.
Legroom is ample in both front and back, and headroom is decent as well - that is, unless you opt for the panoramic sunroof. It is a nice addition and provides a great view of the outdoors, but the pocket needed to hide that expanse of glass cuts into rear headroom noticeably. Six-footers will find their head up in the headliner, and even those who are shorter may feel cramped.
Speaking of cramped, because of the high beltline used to give the SRX an aggressive exterior, there is little room for windows. The effect is that the interior feels slightly claustrophobic, and visibility is compromised.
Cadillac vehicles have become synonymous with impressive interior technology - and it all works extremely well. The navigation system is the same superb system as that in most other Cadillacs. It's hard to ignore the way the screen rises out of the dash every time the car is turned on. Its touchscreen technology works extremely well, although load times for each screen can be sluggish. The Bose audio system is a little heavy on the bass, but that can easily be adjusted through the system's tone settings.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The 3.6-liter engine, which makes 308 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is available. The engine sees 1 mpg less in the city than it does in the CTS, at 17 mpg, and a considerable drop on the highway, at 24 mpg. This seems to be the only real effect the added weight has on the engine. Despite being down on power with the added weight, the SRX still feels agile.
The SRX comes standard with ABS, discs all around, traction control, stability control, front and side airbags, and OnStar's immediate response system. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the SRX received a Good rating in all areas and five stars in all of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's tests except rollover, for which it received four stars.
The SRX seems to be the nimblest and sportiest offering in its class. Steering is responsive yet light enough for in-town driving. The transmission does a great job of keeping the revs where they need to be to keep the engine in its power range. When a downshift is needed, the transmission is happy to oblige, even in automatic mode. If you'd prefer to take control, there is a manual mode that lets you select the gears yourself. There's also a Sport mode that lets the transmission be more lively but still go through the trouble of figuring out what gear to be in, should you not want to do so yourself.
Other Cars to Consider
Acura RDX - The Acura is much cheaper than the SRX, starting at $33,000, but it tops out at a low $38,000. Compare that with $36,000 to $50,000 for the SRX. However, we prefer the SRX's driving characteristics and interior materials.
Audi Q5 - The price is pretty spot on with the SRX, but at each level, the SRX offers more kit for the money. The Q5's interior is hard to beat, but you trade softer materials for less technology.
Lexus RS350 - The class leader and arguably the class creator is hard to argue with. But we fully believe that now, with the correct engine finally mated to the car, the SRX has its best chance ever to unseat the Lexus.
If you're looking for a sporty crossover, we would wholeheartedly recommend the Performance model, which does a great job at being sporty. But we suspect most people aren't looking for a crossover to carve corners with. For those others, we would recommend the Luxury model, because it offers a huge amount of features considering it's the second-level trim. The Premium is only going to give you a few more features for a lot more money.