Driving Northwest: The 2010 Cadillac SRX is a comfortable and stylish ride

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by TOM VOELK / KING5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on January 7, 2010 at 12:03 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 7 at 3:57 PM

For years GMs premium brand, the Standard of the World, had no consistent style.  In the 80s and 90s you could spot a Mercedes from 50 paces.  Stop and think.  What did Cadillac stand for?  Big and soft is not a design language folks.  The only element that the bustle backed Seville, Euro penned Catera and generically drawn Allante convertible had in common was the Caddy crest.  At that rate you could arguably pry one off a DeVille, throw it on a Cavalier and call it a Cadillac.  Rimshot please.  Unless you count vinyl roofs, you have to go all the way back to the tailfin era to get a cohesive corporate look.  Until recently.

In 2002 the CTS debuted with the crisp Art & Science theme.  People took notice.  Not everyone liked, but Caddy got its mojo back.  Didn’t hurt that the car was a proper rear drive sport sedan either.  Art & Science grew bolder as it spread throughout the line and today it’s easy to know you’re looking at The General’s high end products.  The family’s origami look is now in full force with the second generation SRX.  Not only does it have a strong family resemblance to its siblings, there’s a hint of great grandfather’s tailfin in the tailights.

So much competition

Seems the outgoing SRX tried to be everything to everybody.  It held 7 passengers if ordered up as such.  Want a mini Escalade?  Check the V8 box.  It was a clean design but one looking more like a tall station wagon than crossover.  The new one has a much more narrow focus.  The lines are bold and aggressive and seating stops at 5 now.All of this aligns it closer to its formidable competition the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Infiniti FX, Mercedes Benz GLK350, Volvo XC60, and of course the 500 pound gorilla the Lexus RX 350.  Prices start at $34,155.  At $46, 015 as tested the only option on this Premium model is a dual screen entertainment system.  Keep that in mind as you read, there is a lot of standard equipment on this rig.

First, choose your motivation. The base direct injected 3.0L V6 makes 265 horsepower.  A 300 horse 2.8L turbocharged V-6 will be introduced in the middle of the 2010 model year.  Each of these engines gets a 6-speed transmission but they’re different.  My tester is front-wheel drive, of course AWD is available.  It’s a Haldex system (they seem to supply everyone these days) and it goes for $2,500.

Patience may pay off for the impatient

The base engine delivers 0-60 in 8 seconds.  That’s fine, more Buick than Caddy.  This is a Cadillac though and it should deliver Cadillac-like performance.  GM is most likely giving shoppers the ability to get into this rig at a lower price and that’s admirable.  Those wanting competitive scoot will wait and go with the turbo engine that has more low end torque on tap.  Have to imagine there’s a price premium too.

Everyday gear changes are smooth but aggressive cut and thrust maneuvers in traffic can sometimes trip up this tranny.  Dodging through heavy traffic it occasionally takes a split second to settle into the right gear, breaking my rhythm.  Will you drive as aggressively as a New York cabbie to experience this? Probably not.  I’m holding the SRX up to a very high standard because, again, it’s a Cadillac.  Word is the Aisin sourced gear box paired with the turbo motor is more suited to my kinds of hijinks. 

When it comes to curves the Caddy corners more confidently with better road feel than the Lexus.True corner jockeys won’t find it quite as nimble as the BMW X3 or Audi Q5.  Both of those feel lighter and more tossable.  SRX is comfortable, controlled and quiet though.  Halfway through an hour long drive a passenger realized that she didn’t have to raise her voice at all to talk.  EPA rates fuel economy at 18 city, 24 highway. Properly equipped it can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Light show is standard

There’s a lot of style and attention to detail inside the cabin.  The instrument panel has a cut and sewn design complete with entertaining light show during engine ignition (standard keyless by the way).  The touch screen rises majestically, crimson needles sweep their gauges and animation appears in the middle of the cluster.  The classic arrow shaped turn signal is repeated in a jewel-like piece embedded in the gauge cluster lip.  My boy says it looks like The Matrix (I don’t think he knows that the Art & Science designed CTS made its debut on the second film).Shop for an SRX at dusk and you’ll find elegant light piping that sweeps from the instrument panel right through to the back door panels.  Again, something passengers noticed.

Heated and ventilated seats are road trip rated, the driver’s chair gets a thigh extension that’s great for the long legged.  There are adjustable pedals and a manual tilt/telescope wheel that should be motorized on a Caddy.The touch screen interface is simple to use (I’m talking to you iDrive, Comand and MMI).The Bose sound system is iPod friendly and can record AM and FM radio while you’re away from the car.  Great if you want to catch the rest of a ball game but need to meet with the financial planner.  No recording XM though.

OnStar rocks 

Bluetooth for cellphone connectivity is here, but even if you forget your phone, calls can be made through OnStar.  I left my cell on the charger at home while I was out finishing Christmas shopping and this feature saved my bacon.  Figuring the phone icon linked to the Bluetooth system, I almost didn’t push it.But thankfully I was prompted to speak the number I wanted to dial (there’s a keypad on the touch screen as well).  Voice recognition worked perfectly.  And I was able to tell my wife I purposely left my cell at home to test the OnStar system.  Liar, liar, pants on fire. 

OnStar does much more than that and I highly recommend you study the system.  Lock your keys inside?  OnStar can open it remotely.  Without a nav system it can download audible turn-by-turn directions, even recommend restaurants.  In extreme situations the service can even disable the car if it’s been stolen.  If buyers understood it better OnStar could be a deciding factor when choosing vehicles. 

Passengers get a great view

As far as the back seat goes, 3 averaged sized adults will be fine here.  Seats recline and slide fore and aft to max out leg or cargo room.  From the rear the panoramic glass roof is especially dramatic.  Passengers in this spot will be comfy with bun warmers and separate climate control zone.  With the entertainment system, dual screens tilt up from the seat backs. 

Gripes?  The lock controls aren’t on the door and it takes a while to get used to their location on the center console.  Same as European cars.  I don’t normally complain about cupholders but even with depth adjustment these units don’t have great lateral support.  Only quick reflexes kept me from wearing a venti Starbucks coffee during a brisk corner.

Heading to the cargo area finds there’s no spare tire, only a repair kit.  True, most Cadillac owners will push the OnStar button and wait for the service to rush out and take care of things.  I prefer to have a spare. 

The power liftgate has a neat trick, adjust it to the point you want it to stop then push and hold the power button.  That stores it in memory.  Great for extremely tall or short people and those who have low garage ceilings such as myself.  In the cargo hold there’s enough room for a pack of TP below the load floor (the result of lacking that spare).  An adjustable rail system puts tie-downs any where you want them.The main space swallows 8 bundles of Costco’s finest 2 ply for a total of 9.  That’s a smidge above average in the luxo crossover market.

What have we learned?

Well, first the 2010 model is a big improvement from the first generation, especially in the cabin.  The overall execution is more dedicated to what the market wants with a bold decisive design setting it apart from the crowd.  SRX is priced about mid pack, though the turbo will pop the price up a bit.  Make no mistake, I’m very interested in driving the turbo powertrain.  The added torque and power should make it great fun to drive.  Everyone will compare the SRX to the Lexus RX350 because… well, it’s the king of the hill.  I prefer the user interface, masculine design and handling of the Caddy but the silky and powerful drivetrain of the Lexus.  That’s me.  But ultimately the choice is yours and you’d be wise to test the competition to see what agrees best with you.  As it stands now the SRX is a comfortable and stylish ride. 

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