2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo Tested: Who's This Caddy's Daddy?

July 18, 2010

2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo AWD Premium: Family Crest Worthy?

Ask GM's reps about the Cadillac SRX crossover's genus and the silence is deafening.  Face it, these days carmakers don't like to field questions about a how they make their "Wienermobiles."  They'd rather talk about modules.  One reason for their apprehension is public reaction.  Sometimes less-than-regal DNA is the stuff of which dream machines are made.

What about the latest SRX?  The old three-row one rode on GM's Sigma rear-drive architecture.  My neighborhood garage thought new smaller SRX rode on the Buick Rendezvous foundation.  Wrong!  It has the General's premium TE variation of its front-drive-based compact crossover Theta platform (Chevy Equinox).  So while the SRX's transversely mounted drive train borrows hardware from the GM's compact crossovers, an up-close inspection reveals several key upgrades.  For example, the SRX has six-lug wheels rather than five-the same number as GM's mid-size Epsilon crossovers (Chevy Traverse).

The rear control arms are lightweight metal castings rather than stamped steel and there's further use of parts engineered to reduce un-sprung weight (suspension bits below the springs).  This should improve ride and handling--great for those ready to trade in their out-of-fashion Escalades.   Sprung and un-sprung weight is hefty: 4,400 lbs, despite an aluminum hood.   Perhaps the large glass sunroof adds pounds.

Another SRX specialty is under its bonnet-an optional Saab-derived 2.8-liter turbocharged V6.  This mill churns out about 300 hp compared with 260 for the standard direct-injection 3.0-liter V6.  It's attached to a six-speed automatic transmission with eco, normal, sport and "manual" shifting.  The engine is a portent or residue:  GM planned a Saab 9-4X crossover built in the SRX's Mexican plant sharing SRX modules.

From Finland?

The crossover's exterior sports Cadillac's latest V-theme styling with dollops of plastic chrome trim and perky tailfins molded into the taillights.  The interior echoes the V motif.  Door panels, dashboard, seats and center console are covered in opulent tightly stitched soft-touch materials.  Check into the VIP frequent driver's suite.  Satin-metal finished accents and wood inlays surround this lap of luxury.  This is further embellished by white LED ambiance lighting, which casts a soft glow within a thin alcove atop the wood spear that flows from rear doors into the dashboard.  As a bespectacled driver, I'd normally complain about flares caused by extraneous light, but Cadillac's designers executed these perfectly.  Nice effect, certainly theatrical and befitting the optional three-screen DVD entertainment system.

Take to the road and the SRX coddles.  Its steering has more heft than other luxury crossovers, which makes interstate cruising a surprisingly engaging opportunity.  Unfortunately, that steering feels sticky during slow-speed maneuvers as if the all-wheel-drive system's differential locked when it shouldn't.  And height and mass are not disguised when the road gets twisty.  Then, the 20-inch rubber donuts let the vehicle push, traction aids rein in entrepreneurial motoring.  It's neither as fleet as the Audi Q5 nor as plush as the Lexus RX350.  But it's certainly more athletic than Lincoln's MKX.

While the extra ponies are welcome, the turbo mill's excitement is undermined by a languid indecisive transmission.  Most shifts are smooth, but this tranny is retentive, letting go of gears when downshifting in a manner that causes momentary surges.  Press assertively on the firm brake pedal.

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