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First Drive: 2010 Cadillac SRX

By KBB.com Editors on July 27, 2009 12:26 PM
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Intent on gathering a more sizable slice of the burgeoning mid-size luxury crossover segment, Cadillac has completely redesigned its mid-size SRX for 2010. This comprehensive transformation endows the Gen II SRX with greater style, comfort and functionality while trimming about $5,000 off of its price. Due in dealers next month, the new SRX will offer buyers four distinct content variations, two V6 engines and the choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Our recent first encounter with the SRX, although brief, left no doubt that Cadillac has created a serious competitor to challenge the perpetual big dog in this pack, the Lexus RX 350, as well as other key players like the Acura MDX, Audi Q5 and BMW X5.

Visually, the new SRX is strongly reminiscent of Cadillac's fuel-cell powered Provoq concept that was first displayed at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. Like that crowd-wowing one-off, the new SRX boasts far edgier bodywork than its predecessor crowned with a fall-away roofline and angled hatch. The aggressive profile is complemented by more sophisticated headlamp/taillamp treatments, sweeping side character lines and short overhangs that add even more visual impact.

The 2010 SRX is built on a new platform GM calls "Global Luxury Crossover Architecture." It represents an amalgam that intertwines bits of the existing Global Crossover and Global Epsilon luxo-sedan designs with Cadillac-specific elements. Wheelbase and length on the new SRX have been trimmed by 5.5 and 5.0 inches, respectively, however width has expanded by 2.6 inches. Both front- and all-wheel-drive versions of the SRX share the same powertrain components. Standard motivator is a new direct-injected 3.0-liter V6. This scaled-down version of GM's 3.6-liter engine makes 265 horsepower and 223 lb-ft of torque. A 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 that cranks out 300 ponies and 295 lb-ft of twist will be optional starting later in the year. Each is backed by its own six-speed automatic transmission that features a Sport mode and paddle shifters.

Inside, the SRX's well-proportioned cabin reinforces the exterior flash with the latest take on Cadillac's Art and Science theme that matches a quality look and feel with a magnum load of standard equipment even on the entry-level version. Although this front-drive-only base SRX -- which opens at $34,155 -- is trimmed in leatherette rather than the real leather that's standard on its Luxury, Performance and Premium Collection kin, you'll still find a full array of power assists, cruise control, keyless remote entry, Bose audio, a tilt/telescoping steering column, dual-zone auto climate control, acoustic front/side glass, and front/front-side/side-curtain airbags included in the mix.

One step up on in hierarchy, Luxury Collection-spec adds other niceties headed by a programmable power liftgate, power adjustable pedals, heated seats, front/rear park assist, Bluetooth connectivity, real wood trim and an expansive UltraView sunroof -- features Cadillac expects will help it account for roughly half of all SRX sales. Moving into the Performance and Premium realms further ups the goodies ante, bringing items like a navigation system with an 8.0-inch pop-up screen, an upgraded audio package with 40-gigabyte hard drive, and bi-xenon adaptive headlights on Performance models plus tri-zone A/C, ventilated front seats and rear-seat heat and audio controls for the Premium package.

Up front, the SRX's well-formed power front buckets match comfort with support and lots of adjustability. Cadillac wisely jettisoned the optional vestigial third-row seat option for this 2010 incarnation to create a five-passenger package that's more in tune with today's crossover market. The new, semi-bucketed 60/40 split-folding rear bench gets high marks for its adult-friendly outboard positions, child/child-seat capable center spot and new adjustable-rake back which can make a huge difference in long-range comfort for passengers of any size. All but the base SRX also offer an optional dual-screen rear-entertainment system. When configured for five, the new SRX can tote 29.2 cubic feet of your favorite stuff, but a quick and easy flip-down increases that to a very usable 61.2 cubic feet. Adding to utility are a small passthrough opening and a huge underfloor bin as well as a nifty U-rail Cargo Management System that adjusts to keep items securely in place.

Our first encounter provided the opportunity to experience both a front-drive "Luxury" SRX and an all-wheel-drive variant kitted out in the sport-oriented "Performance" trim. The latter (as well as the top-line Premium model) augments standard StabiliTrak and capable anti-lock brakes with real-time adjustable damping while trading off 235/65 tires on 18-inch aluminum wheels for 235/55s on 20-inch alloys. In this case, it also had the slick AWD package which is optimized for on-road running. Developed in conjunction with Haldex and incorporating an electronic limited-slip differential, the system can transfer up to 100 percent of the engine's power to either axle and up to 85 percent of that force from side to side as traction conditions warrant.

In putting these vehicles through their paces, we found that both offered a commendable balance between comfort and control regardless of the number of wheels driven. Body roll is minimal and response to steering and brake inputs is confidently reassuring. Although its turning radius has marginally increased for 2010, the new SRX in either configuration still proved quite adept at negotiating twisty canyon roads and effortlessly cruised freeways. While impressively smooth and quiet, the 3.0-liter engine does seem happier in the 4,224-pound front-driver than in the 4,307-pound AWD model. Anyone expecting to take full advantage of the SRX's optional 3,500-lb maximum towing capabilities on a regular basis might be better off waiting for the more potent 2.8-liter turbo six to arrive -- albeit only in the Performance and Premium Collection trims.

These are tough times for any vehicle to be fighting for market share, especially in a segment that's constantly adding quality new players. But its bolder look, impressive vehicle dynamics, enhanced feature set and solid value orientation should serve the 2010 SRX well in its quest to stand out from the crossover crowd.

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