The Cadillac SRX is a five-passenger luxury crossover SUV with a placid ride, potent powertrain, deluxe accommodations, and the latest technology. Unlike the big, dazzling, chrome-bedecked Escalade, built on a GM truck platform, the SRX is built on a unitbody, like a car. The two models could hardly be more different, especially in capabilities and road behavior.
Although SRX is now the oldest model in Cadillac’s lineup, it still appears fresh. Tasteful, too, because GM’s decade-old Art & Science design theme is more subtle on the SRX. Little has changed for 2016, other than deleting adjustable pedals from the Luxury edition. This is the SRX’s final season, as a replacement named XT5 is expected for 2017.
Only a single powertrain is offered: a strong and smooth 3.6-liter V6 engine, making 308 horsepower and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-drive is standard, with all-wheel drive available. Acceleration is satisfactory, taking about seven seconds to reach 60 mph.
SRX ranks near the peak of its class in safety, having earned five-star crash-test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick.
On the downside, this crossover has a heavier driving feel than expected. That’s partly due to transmission gearing, but mainly the result of vehicle weight, well above two tons. At the same time, fuel economy scores significantly below average. Cadillac provides quite an array of safety systems, including adaptive cruise control and cross traffic alert, as well as a Safety Alert seat and automatic front/rear braking assist.
As for overall technology, SRX has practically been a showcase for some of the latest devices and systems. Every SRX has Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system, which includes enhanced controls, plus an eight-inch screen interface with proximity sensing.
Four trim levels are available, each with an interior that’s distinctive as well as luxurious. Active noise cancellation uses a microphone to detect ambient noise and counteracts harshness, making the interior remarkably quiet. GM’s OnStar system includes 4G LTE connectivity, allowing creation of an in-car wi-fi network.
SRX manages to tuck a familiar crossover-SUV profile beneath Cadillac-style curves and sharp angles. The combination falls on the edge side of the design spectrum, when compared to such vehicles as the Audi Q5, BMW X3, or Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class. Lacking the long-nose, rear-prominent proportions of Cadillac sedans, flaunting minimal bling, the SRX might not be deemed seductive, but chiseled contours give it an appearance that differs from the customary competitors.
Vertically stacked headlights, plus relatively short overhangs at both ends, help erase any flagrant SUV cues. A strong character line stretches from the front wheelwell all the way to the taillight. Optional 20-inch wheels are especially striking.
Refined and subtle, the cockpit is a modern blend of large touchscreen interfaces with well-done, traditional details, led by stitched leather trim and hand-cut/sewn instrument-panel coverings.
Well-contoured seats, front and rear, provide ample space for five. Front occupants benefit from extendable thigh bolsters. Most riders should be pleased by the seat height.
Quiet-riding and comfortable, the SRX boasts an instrument panel that’s markedly more advanced than expected. Touch-based controls operate with “haptic” feedback as well as proximity-sensing technology.
Back-seat passengers should appreciate the long moonroof, which imparts an airy feel. Rear head and leg room are a tad snug, saved by helpful contouring and long cushions. The 60/40-split back seat can fold flat.
Able to pair up to ten Bluetooth devices, Cadillac’s CUE system can be frustrating, though its touch/swipe interface is fairly familiar. You’re given more choices only as your hands approach the screen. Sounds good, but CUE can suffer from glitches. It might suddenly lose a destination, or excessive sensitivity could register a command when nothing has been requested.
Handling of the SRX isn’t quite as sharp as it could be. Few are likely to dub it nimble, and an SRX feels somewhat heavy in hard cornering. Hydraulic-assisted steering is nicely weighted, though.
Performance also fails to inspire when a quick surge of power is warranted. Still, this crossover never feels sluggish, because of its 308-horsepower V-6. Emitting a nearly inaudible purr when idling, the V6 revs with a silken ease, feels refined, and drives a responsive six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive models use a Haldex system with electronic limited-slip differential.
We prefer the optional FE3 suspension, which features Continuous Damping Control. It can basically read the road, adjusting every two milliseconds. Either suspension is taut enough for effective handling, without delivering a jarring ride.
Brakes tend to feel soft and spongy, and nosedive occurs in sudden stops.
Fuel economy falls notably short of average. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 17 mpg in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway (19 mpg combined) with front-drive. All-wheel drops the estimate to 16/23 mpg. A BMW X1 or Audi Q5 would be thriftier.
Roomy inside and lavishly appointed, imparting an overall sense of solidity, the SRX rates among the nicest vehicles in its category. What sets the SRX apart is materials, fit, and finish, which match or beat likely competitors. Yes, handling and performance trail a bit, and gas mileage lags; but most owners aren’t likely to feel deprived.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.