The luxury crossover section has been a booming market since 1998 when vehicles like the Lexus RX and Mercedes ML sprang onto the automotive market. Since then, everyone from Europe, Asia and even here in America have been trying to take over the market.
The most notable car-based SUV from the states was the Cadillac SRX. When it debuted in 2004, it had some promise. Niceties such as a rear-wheel-drive chassis, leather interior and a Bose audio system were standard while navigation, all-wheel-drive, a Northstar V8, and a third row seat were options.
The SRX competed well with its competitors, with a good driving poise and room for both luggage and kids. However, it never overtook the perennial king of crossovers, the RX-series, with its squared-off body design and less-than-stellar interior. Cadillac hopes to change that with their new 2010 crossover and give the Lexus something to actually worry about.
Completely redone from the ground up, the new SRX has a brand new front-wheel-drive platform, two six-cylinder engines, and a well-made interior all wrapped in modern-looking sheetmetal.
From the outside, the Cadillac has taken the angular style of the CTS and turned up the futuristic design a few notches. The SRX now has a very bold and angular front end, with a protruding front bumper under a pair of stunning-looking headlights and a large chrome grill. Along the side, there are several strong character lines which follow the rising beltline as it flows into the rear, where the roof slopes down into a short rear-end with two taillamps that hark back to the old fins of the 1960s.
Inside, it is essentially a carryover from the CTS, which is good thing. Chock full of nice materials and technology galore, the SRX’s interior is a nice place to be. With its motorized navigation screen that can either be controlled via a rotating knob or as a touchscreen, elegant gauges with a crystal clear multifunction computer screen right in the middle, and supple leather seats, Lexus owners will be pleasantly surprised. Of course, buyers of this crossover will be rewarded with the high-end technology expected, such as Bluetooth, Bose and XM.
With the new chassis though, room is a bit snug with only two rows (no third row is available). Front seat room is good with plenty of room despite the feeling of sitting low via the higher beltline. However, the rear seat room available is just okay, with acceptable head and shoulder room, but tight leg room. Trunk room is only adequate as well wouldn’t even attempt to put three full-size people back their either unless you plan on torturing your friends.
But what will really turn buyers to the Cadillac will be its drive. On my short, but enjoyable test drive during a rainstorm, I could tell engineers really focused on handling and ride.
There is smoothness in some cars where the ride is just firm enough to keep body motions in check, but soft enough to go over any bump without any harshness transmitted into the car. Cadillac has done that with the SRX by giving it the optional FE3 sport suspension. The body stays true and flat in cornering or under acceleration/braking, but glides over potholes and speed bumps. Handling on the whole is crisp, with light, but accurate steering and plenty of front-end grip. With the optional all-wheel-drive, there is no wheel slip in the rain, just grip. My only complaint would be a brake pedal that needs a bit more force feedback.
Acceleration comes from two engines: One is a brand new, 3.0-liter direct-injected V6 pumping out 265 horsepower and 223 lb. ft of torque. A second engine is offered as an option, which is the 300 horse, turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 provided by Saab. Both engines come with a six-speed automatic.
The car I piloted was equipped with the 3.0-liter, and was a little rocket. Full-throttle starts leads to a surprisingly athletic, yet smooth acceleration and a wonderfully muted burble coming out of the back. I am anxious to try out that turbocharged motor as I bet that is a screamer compared to the bigger engine.
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The 2010 Cadillac SRX is a brilliant little car and will compete hard against newcomers like the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 as well as that benchmark Lexus RX350. Prices start at $34,155, with a fully-loaded example running just over $50,000. But Cadillac, and General Motors, should not be worried. They have themselves a wonderful vehicle on their hands. Expect a full review of this vehicle in the coming months.