Forget the fast sedans and the behemoth SUVs. The Cadillac SRX is the number-one selling model in the Cadillac lineup. In just two years, the midsize crossover SUV has ascended from the number nine to the number two midsize luxury crossover on the market. But Cadillac is not content to rest on its laurels, and with good reason. Although the SRX has always boasted unique styling, luxurious cabin appointments and the cachet of the Cadillac moniker, the biggest complaint about the previous generation was its lackluster power. Fortunately, that's been fixed.
With a new 3.6-liter V6 direct injected engine and weight-saving modifications, the 2012 Cadillac SRX is more capable than ever. New for 2012, the 3.6-liter V6 is the only engine available and replaces the 2011 model's 3.0-liter and 2.8-liter engines. We found the new 3.6-liter V6 smooth, quiet, and responsive.
The 3.6-liter engine, based on the one found in the Cadillac CTS, cranks out 308 horsepower (16 percent more than the old version) and 265 pound-feet of torque. It's also 20 pounds lighter, thanks to several weight-saving innovations including a plastic intake manifold, lighter connecting rods and exhaust manifolds which are integrated into the heads. To combat the ticking noise characteristic of direct-injection systems, Cadillac engineers packed on added sound-proofing material in strategic places, which helps to keep the cabin quiet.
The 2012 SRX also features a new Eco mode for the 6-speed automatic transmission. With the Eco button on, drivers can get up to 1 mpg fuel savings while driving at speeds up to 50 mph.
Fuel economy for the 2012 Cadillac SRX is an EPA-rated 17 mpg City/24 mpg Highway for front-wheel-drive models, and 16/23 mpg for all-wheel-drive models, although it's not clear whether those numbers were achieved using Eco mode.
All-wheel drive is available for all but the base model. Front-wheel drive is standard.
Upgrades on the 2012 Cadillac SRX include standard Bluetooth hands-free connectivity on all models and a heated steering wheel on all trims except the base. Interior door lock switches have been added to the door panels on 2012 SRX models, although they also remain in the center console. The 20-inch wheels on upper trims have a new finish for 2012.
Inside, the SRX continues to impress with upscale materials and thoughtful design. Smart cargo solutions appeal to practical senses. An optional Pet Guard Cargo Net behind the front seats can help keep your dog in back and may help prevent cargo from flying up front in hard braking. A rear U-well rail system uses adjustable sliding bars to keep gear in place, rather than using nets or boxes that rattle.
Midsize crossovers such as the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 give the more powerful SRX a run for its money, but we'd take the Cadillac any day over the best-selling Lexus RX. As an added bonus, the 2012 Cadillac SRX runs on regular unleaded gasoline, which saves shelling out for premium at the pump. It's also Flex Fuel capable, allowing it to run on E85 ethanol.
The styling of the Cadillac SRX is polarizing, with sharp angles and bold lines. It shares its art and science design philosophy with the rest of the current Cadillac portfolio, an approach that evokes a love-it-or-hate-it response from critics and consumers. The SRX exterior has been called everything from futuristic to risky to fat. Some have likened its shape to a mal-formed potato. Like it or not, there isn't anything else out there that looks quite like it. Built on the same platform as the Saab 9-4X, the SRX is distinctly Cadillac.
The cabin of the Cadillac SRX shines. Materials are high-quality and luxurious. The leather-clad seats are cushy yet supportive, and we especially welcomed the ventilated seat feature while driving in the afternoon summer sun. The steering wheel and pedals are adjustable for maximum safety and comfort. Deep door cubbies will fit a variety of gadgets and water bottles. On the down side, drivers who travel with a purse or messenger bag will bemoan the lack of a storage hook.
The number of buttons on the center stack seem overwhelming at first, but they're logically laid out and it doesn't take much time to figure out what's what. The driver information center is comprehensive, and the navigation screen is easy to use and features real-time traffic and other useful information.
The rear seats are split 66/33 and recline through a fairly wide range of adjustment. Legroom is generous. We liked the opaque covering over the panoramic sunroof (unlike earlier versions which used translucent coverings that always let light in), but it limits rear headroom for taller passengers. With the rear DVD entertainment system, flip-up screens are mounted in front seat backs instead of in the headrest, which make them easier to adjust.
The cargo area offers 29.2 cubic feet of space with the rear seats in place, and more than 61 cubic feet with the seats folded down. A clever U-shaped rail system uses adjustable sliding bars to keep gear in place, rather than using nets or boxes that rattle. When not in use, the cargo bar stows away in under-floor storage area beneath cargo area. The under-floor area can also be used to store an optional spare tire. A Pet Guard Cargo Net is available that can help keep dogs in the back where they belong and may help reduce the chance of stuff flying forward when braking hard, a rare and useful option.
New for 2012 is a larger, more powerful 3.6-liter V6, which pulls the weight of the Cadillac SRX around with ease. There is very little noise at all inside the cabin of the SRX, be it from the road or under the hood. Thanks to a plethora of sound-deadening material, noise from the direct injection system is mitigated.
The 6-speed automatic transmission offers several driver-selectable modes: Eco, Sport, Manual, and Normal. In Normal mode, the SRX offers ample power. In Sport mode, the transmission holds gears longer than it would in Normal model for improved acceleration performance and to reduce upshifting when slowing momentarily for a corner. The system senses braking, throttle input and lateral acceleration (turns). There is also a manual mode for those who enjoy rowing through gears. In this mode, shifts are barely perceptible, although there is more delay when changing gears by hand, since the electronic sport mode anticipates gears for faster changes. The 6-speed automatic transmission includes a driver-selectable Eco feature that alters shift points for greater fuel economy. With the Eco mode switched on, the SRX shifts at lower revs, which Cadillac said will save about 1 mpg at speeds of 50 mph or slower. We pressed it and noticed it lost some oomph, but we weren't rendered powerless.
The Cadillac SRX handles remarkably well, despite being quite a bit heavier than most of its rivals. Depending on equipment, the SRX weighs more than 4,400 pounds. Its responsive steering is a refreshing change from the numb feel of the Lexus RX. We found the available Sport Suspension was able to manage the SRX's considerable weight with relative grace, and we noticed little body roll (lean) in corners. Combined with the 20-inch wheels, which have short sidewalls, the SRX was smoother than expected over bumps.
But the SRX isn't sporty in all respects. The brakes feel like they're better suited to gradually cruise to a stop and lack the bite of the sportier CTS.
The 2012 Cadillac SRX is one of the best vehicles in its class thanks to its more powerful engine for 2012, luxuriously appointed interior and engaging driving dynamics.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Laura Burstein reported from northern California.