2012 Cadillac SRX Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
December 29, 2011

With a smooth new engine and a rich, uniquely American interior, the 2012 Cadillac SRX appeals to those who want a lot of luxury and flair but don't require driving excitement.

The SRX is Cadillac's mid-size luxury crossover wagon, and it gets a new engine and a better driving personality for 2012, with both the 3.0-liter V-6 and 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6 now replaced by a larger 3.6-liter V-6.

While the larger engine goes counter to the trend toward smaller engines and turbocharging, the SRX feels more confident and refined with it--and more appealing. Overall, the SRX is neither a particularly rewarding vehicle to drive, nor a particularly space-efficient or fuel-efficient one, but its strength is as a vehicle with a lot of style and feel-good luxury comforts, and a distinct cabin ambiance that's more distinguished than other luxury crossovers in this price range.

The 2012 Cadillac SRX continues mostly unchanged otherwise with the new body style that was introduced for 2010. While the package was a bit more conventional overall, the look is a bit bolder and more broad-shouldered than most other vehicles in this class--especially the very conservative Lexus RX 350. Vertically stacked headlights and a trapezoidal chrome grille, plus tall taillights and some powerful side sculpting give the SRX a Cadillac family look without it appearing cookie cutter. Inside the SRX, hand-cut-and-sewn coverings on the instrument panel and ambient lighting make for a rich environment that continues Cadillac's commitment to top-flight interiors.

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Cadillac has completely revamped the Cadillac SRX's powertrain lineup for 2012; both the somewhat sluggish base 3.0-liter V-6 and the thirsty turbocharged V-6 have been dropped this year, replaced by a single engine: a 308-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6. The rest of it hasn't changed; there's a six-speed automatic delivering power through to the front wheels. All-wheel drive by Haldex is optional and includes an electronic limited-slip rear differential that delivers excellent poor-weather grip. While the former base engine had to be revved well into its rev band during normal acceleration, the new engine's 265 pound-foot torque plateau at just 2,400 rpm, makes the whole setup a little more confident and relaxed. Steering is one of the better units in this class--a nice hydraulic system that's nicely weighted--but the SRX isn't all that reassuring near its limits and its brake pedal is on the mushy side, with some nosedive.

Inside the SRX there's a lot to like, with great front seats, a nice driving position, and a second-row seat that's usable for adults. The cabin is remarkably well-hushed, and while the SRX is based on the Chevrolet Equinox, it's extensively padded, insulated, and reengineered. Seats are firm and well-bolstered, with extendable thigh bolsters and plenty of legroom and headroom even for larger-than-average drivers; back-seat passengers might enjoy the huge moonroof that allows a sky view above, though the seat itself doesn't feel contoured for adults or long-distance comfort. Ride quality isn't pillowy soft, but it's well muted while maintaining enough firmness for crisp handling control.

As for utility, the SRX should probe just as useful as about any other crossover on the road. The 60/40-split back seat can fold flat, and a power liftgate and an cargo-anchor system are on the options list.

The 2012 Cadillac SRX is looking like a safety superstar, with top crash-test scores from the NHTSA and the Top Safety Pick nod from the IIHS. With the usual roster of safety features, OnStar roadside and emergency assistance services are included in all SRX models, as well as stability control and anti-lock brakes. Also, an available adaptive headlight system helps illuminate around dark corners.

If you dip into the SRX's options list, or go with one of the somewhat more expensive Performance Collection or Premium Collection versions of the SRX, you won't find a thing missing in terms of high-tech connectivity and entertainment features. Highlights offered in special packages on the SRX include three-zone climate control; adaptive forward lighting that swivels the headlamps in sync with vehicle steering; a power liftgate with adjustable height setting (it won't hit your garage door if opened while parked inside); an integrated hard disc drive for audio storage; and a dual-screen video system for rear entertainment.

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2012 Cadillac SRX

Styling

The 2012 Cadillac SRX isn't all that beautiful or attention-getting on the outside, but it's more distinctive than most other crossovers inside.

The 2012 Cadillac SRX fits right in with other mid-size crossover SUVs from the outside. Inside, it's an expressive piece that stands out among the more sober vehicles in its niche.

The SRX has vertical headlights, short overhangs front and back, and an angular grille. It's proportioned well and has lovely details. It avoids looking too much like every other crossover SUV, thanks to dramatically sculpted flanks and the sharply drawn front and rear ends. A deep line begins at the front wheel and doesn't give up until it glances off the taillights. They extend back slightly, like vestigial tailfins, but unlike the fins of the 1950s this design actually helps aerodynamically by breaking the airflow from the body.

Cadillac sells 18- and 20-inch wheels to give the SRX a beefy presence. It pays attention to aerodynamics with an integrated rear spoiler, which should have been designed to hide the exposed rear glass wiper. Cadillac logos flourish: open a door and a lighted logo shows through its sill plates.

The 2012 Cadillac SRX has an interior that's at once distinctly American and globally appealing. The leather trim on the dash and ambient lighting create a rich environment. The design is much like that of the CTS family, with an integrated center stack housing controls for climate and audio systems. An optional navigation system rises from the center of the instrument panel (or withdrawing with the press of a button).

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2012 Cadillac SRX

Performance

The new powertrain in the 2012 Cadillac SRX is a winner, but it's not one of the better-driving models in its class, let alone one of the better-driving Cadillacs.

Cadillac has completely revamped the Cadillac SRX's powertrain lineup for 2012; both the somewhat sluggish base 3.0-liter V-6 and the thirsty turbocharged V-6 have been dropped this year, replaced by a single engine: a 308-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6. The rest of it hasn't changed; a 6-speed automatic puts power to the front wheels. All-wheel drive, courtesy Haldex, is optional and it adds on an electronically controlled, limited-slip rear differential that delivers excellent poor-weather grip.

While the former base engine had to be revved well into its rev band during normal acceleration, the new engine makes its 265 pound-feet of torque at just 2,400 rpm. The low-end power gives the SRX more confident and relaxed acceleration. The new engine settles down to a slight purr at idle, and it revs with a silky tenor. Cadillac says 60 mph comes in about seven seconds.

All that said, at least initially it feels nowhere near as sprightly as the V-6s in the Acura MDX, the Lincoln MKX. or even the Lexus RX 350, but that's because its throttle is calibrated quite conservatively (and we like that). And because of the SRX's heft (nearly 4,500 pounds), rather tall gearing that keeps revs around the 2,000-rpm mark at 70 mph, and the lack of low-rev torque, you'll notice the transmission downshifts often for even mild grades and gradual overtaking.

While the powertrain is sweet, we're not nearly as in love with how the SRX handles--or even brakes. While the hydraulic-assist steering system weights up nicely and unwinds predictably, like a sport sedan (and feels far more reassuring than the electric-assist units in the likes of the Lexus RX), the SRX feels heavier than you'd expect if you pitch it hard into a corner, and it's a bit disconcerting in that its center of mass feels higher, even if it isn't. The brakes feel spongy and there's some nosedive to cement the impression

Two suspensions are offered: the standard tune and the optional FE3 that features Continuous Damping Control, an active suspension that reads and adjusts every two milliseconds. The SRX's ride, even with 20-inch wheels, is smooth.

8

2012 Cadillac SRX

Comfort & Quality

You won't find a third-row seat in the 2012 Cadillac SRX, but most of its interior appointments are first-class.


Most other crossovers this size come with a third-row seat. The 2012 Cadillac SRX doesn't make room for that, but its interior is detailed handsomely, and appointed lavishly.The front seats kick off the good impressions with an upright driving position and nicely contoured, well-bolstered seats that have extending thigh bolsters. They're very good for even tall driveres. In the rear seat, the big moonroof gives those passengers an airy place to rest, though leg and head room are tight. The cargo space makes the SRX quite useful. There's a power tailgate, a cargo-anchor system, and a split-folding back seat. It's as useful as any of its rivals.

Where the SRX makes itself worth the extra money is in the details. Its interior design holds up to close scrutiny. Fit and finish in this vehicle feels as good or better than its rivals. The details closely parallel those of the CTS sport sedan both in design and execution. You'll be hard-pressed to find loose panels or flimsy trim, and everything is assembled (or stitched) with a solid feel.

A quiet cabin damps down most of the powertrain, road, and wind noise. The new engine generates less unpleasant noise and more smooth purr.

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2012 Cadillac SRX

Safety

With top ratings from both U.S. agencies, the 2012 Cadillac SRX is a safety superstar,

The 2012 Cadillac SRX is one model that safety-conscious families should place high on the list, as it not only comes with an impressive list of safety features.

The IIHS gives the SRX a Top Safety Pick award. The NHTSA also hands out top scores of five stars overall.

Curtain and side airbags come standard, as does OnStar roadside and emergency assistance are included in all SRX models, as well as stability control and anti-lock brakes. Also, an available adaptive headlight system helps illuminate around dark corners.

Take a look over your shoulder and you might realize that the Cadillac SRX isn't all that great for outward visibility. But a standard rear camera system, along with front and rear parking sensors, help the driver make do.

8

2012 Cadillac SRX

Features

The 2012 Cadillac SRX is every bit a premium vehicle, and even repeat luxury shoppers will find the feature list bountiful.

Whether you want traditional luxury, or high-tech connectivity or entertainment, the 2012 Cadillac SRX has a strong set of features.

All 2012 SRX models includes keyless entry, cruise control, heated mirrors, steering-wheel audio controls, and a CD/MP3 sound system with XM Satellite Radio, plus a lot more. Bluetooth compatibility is standard, as is OnStar's turn-by-turn navigation service for buyers who do not opt for the car's navigation system option. Over a couple of recent driving experiences, the hands-free system has worked well.

Luxury Collection, Performance Collection and Premium Collection models add many more features, including three-zone climate control; adaptive forward lighting that swivels the headlamps in sync with vehicle steering; a power liftgate with adjustable height setting (it won't hit your garage door if opened while parked inside); an integrated hard disc drive for audio storage; and a dual-screen video system for rear entertainment.

Top Premium Collection models include navigation, Bose surround audio, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated mirrors, a heated steering wheel, a Sapele wood-trimmed interior, remote start, tri-zone climate control, rear-seat audio controls, adjustable pedals, fog lamps, and rain-sensing wipers. By clicking a few option boxes, though, you can drive the bottom-line price well above $50k.

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2012 Cadillac SRX

Fuel Economy

The 2012 Cadillac SRX is bound to be a disappointment for anyone thinking they'll be getting better mileage when they downsize.

Green shoppers probably won't take a long look at the 2012 Cadillac SRX after even a brief look at its window sticker. Its EPA ratings of 16 to 17 mpg in the city and 23 or 24 mpg on the highway aren't that impressive. A number of larger crossovers--like GM's own full-size SUVs such as the Buick Enclave, or even the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid--get around the same or better mileage with more passenger space.

The new 3.6-liter engine hasn't helped either; those ratings are about 1 mpg lower than with last year's 3.0-liter base engine.

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February 12, 2017
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