One of the top-selling luxury crossovers in the U.S., the Cadillac SRX boasts unique styling, luxurious cabin appointments, a powerful engine, and a ride that's smooth and able.
Cadillac launched its first SRX for 2004. The 2013 Cadillac SRX got a revised interior that incorporated Cadillac's CUE touchscreen interface. An acronym for Cadillac User Experience, the large screen uses proximity sensors, haptic feedback and voice recognition to control phone, audio and navigation functions. Unlike many luxury vehicles with proprietary interfaces (like the BMW iDrive and Mercedes Benz's COMAND system), there is no central control knob on the center console; all functions are performed either through voice or via the touchscreen. CUE has received mixed reviews from experts and consumers. Its natural voice recognition, when it works properly, is a refreshing change from some systems that require the user to memorize specific commands. But a few idiosyncrasies, and a glossy screen that shows fingerprints, easily make CUE far from perfect.
New safety packages, already found on Cadillac's XTS and ATS sedans, also debuted on the 2013 SRX. With the Driver Awareness package, the driver's seat will vibrate to warn the driver of an impending collision. More active-safety features are available, such as automatic collision preparation and automatic low-speed braking, both when going forward and when in reverse.
Except for three new color choices, little has changed for 2014, except that Intellibeam headlamps are included in the Driver Awareness Package. With those headlamps, high beams deploy automatically when needed and instantly turn off when oncoming traffic is detected. Later in the 2014 model year, 18-inch chrome-plated wheels will be available on the Luxury Collection. Otherwise, the SRX carries over essentially unchanged following a significant update for 2012. Four trim levels are offered: base SRX, Luxury Collection, Performance Collection, and Premium Collection.
Cadillac SRX is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 308 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. The 3.6-liter V6 uses many weight-saving techniques, such as a plastic intake manifold, lighter connecting rods, and exhaust manifolds that are integrated into the cylinder 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. Active noise cancellation promises a quieter experience in the SRX.
Front-wheel drive is standard. All-wheel drive is available for all but the base model. AWD incorporated an electronic limited-slip differential, to improve traction on slippery surfaces. It can also provide side-to-side transfer to enhance control during hard cornering.
Fuel economy for the 2014 Cadillac SRX is an EPA-rated 17/24 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive, or 16/23 mpg with all-wheel-drive models. All SRX models have a 6-speed automatic transmission. A driver-selectable Eco feature alters shift points, boosting gas mileage by up to 1 mpg, according to Cadillac.
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 when braking hard. A rear U-well rail system uses adjustable sliding bars to keep gear in place, rather than using nets or boxes that rattle. For 2014, the center console has two additional USB ports, an SD card slot and a 12-volt power outlet.
Midsize premium 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.
The styling of the Cadillac SRX is polarizing, with sharp angles and bold lines. SRX 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 malformed potato. Like it or not, in contrast to several lookalike crossover SUVs on the market, there isn't anything else out there that looks quite like an SRX.
Cadillac's vertical-style headlights flank the grille, using light pipe technology. Light pipes also impart a glow to the front fender vents, and the vertical taillamps. Available Adaptive Forward Lighting technology rotates the lamps in the direction of the front wheels, which can be a boon in night driving on curvy roads. Adaptive lighting with high-intensity-discharge headlamps is standard on Performance and Premium Collections, which also are equipped with fog lamps, All but the base model get a powered rear liftgate and chrome roof rails.
In addition to a wide stance, the SRX features minimal overhangs front and rer, with wheels pushed out toward the corners. Other manufacturers promote similar traits, but in the case of the SRX, those attributes help deliver a distinctive look.
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 hold a variety of gadgets and water bottles. On the down side, drivers who travel with a purse or messenger bag may bemoan the lack of a storage hook.
Many controls on the center stack were replaced in 2013 by Cadillac's CUE, a voice-activated proprietary interface with an iPad-like 8-inch touchscreen. While past Cadillac models were fraught with an overwhelming number of buttons, CUE drastically cuts down the number of controls to just a handful. It controls audio and telephone functions, as well as directions and map information on cars equipped with navigation.
CUE's home menu is configurable so you can access your favorite functions easily. It also uses proximity sensing, which saves extra steps and keeps your attention better focused on the road. While driving, CUE will display full-screen maps or audio information; but when your hand is nearby, it automatically brings up menu options related to the current function on the screen.
Still, we have mixed feelings about CUE. It's supposed to understand natural voice commands, meaning you don't need to use pre-canned terms to get it to do something. Unfortunately, like all voice-activated systems, sometimes the system doesn't understand what you're saying, which can be frustrating and time-consuming.
Another oddity is that CUE uses physical buttons on the center stack, located below the screen, for the climate control's fan speed and temperature. However, if you want to change vent mode, you have to go into the CUE menu. Another thing that annoyed us was the barrage of fingerprints that appeared on the screen after just a few minutes of use. A microfiber cleaning cloth is available, but that's hardly an elegant solution.
The rear seats are split 67/33 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 seatbacks instead of in the headrest, which make them easier to adjust.
The cargo area offers 29.9 cubic feet of space with the rear seats in place, and 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 might rattle. When not in use, the cargo bar stows away in an under-floor storage area beneath the cargo space. 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. It's a rare and useful option.
The 3.6-liter V6 pulls the weight of the Cadillac SRX around with ease. Very little noise at all is heard 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 engine's direct-injection system is mitigated.
The 6-speed automatic transmission offers four driver-selectable modes: Eco, Sport, Manual, and Normal. In Normal mode, the SRX delivers ample power. In Sport mode, the transmission holds gears longer than it would in Normal mode, 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's 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.
A driver-selectable Eco feature 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 front-drive SRX weighs at least 4,277 pounds; with all-wheel drive, 4442 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 those in the sportier CTS sedan.
The 2014 Cadillac SRX is one of the best vehicles in its class, thanks to its able engine, luxuriously appointed interior and engaging driving dynamics.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Laura Burstein reported from northern California.