General Motors has to have the most underrated navigation system in the business. We have other automakers advertising various touch pads, voice recognition systems, and scrolling wheels that are supposed to make finding a destination on the fly easier – assuming the vehicle doesn’t lock out the nav screen altogether when you’re moving. But in this Cadillac, all I had to do was press the blue OnStar button. That called up this innovative device called a “human being,” who found my destination for me and sent turn-by-turn directions to my vehicle. I never had to look away from the road and didn’t need to read the owners manual to find the correct voice commands. This feature is available, by the way, even if you don’t have a nav system (the directions come through your radio display). In case I’m not being clear enough, this is a HUGE step up from most competitors’ telematics, and yet I’ll bet very few consumers know about all its features. GM’s new marketing chief – whoever that happens to be this week – must make a more concerted effort to share OnStar’s virtues with customers.
Though I’m clearly smitten with OnStar (it helped, I’ll admit, that the operator sounded young and female), I’m still not sold on the new SRX overall. The main issue is the power, or lack thereof. This 2.8-liter turbo V-6 is better than the painfully slow 3.0-liter in the base SRX, but it still feels like it’s working too hard, and with a 0-to-60-mph time of 7.6 seconds, is about a second slower than the Lexus RX350, according to the test numbers of our sister publication, Motor Trend. For all this small-displacement huffing and puffing, fuel economy is only marginally better (2 mpg in the city and on the highway) than that of the old V-8-powered SRX and, again, lags well behind the Lexus that is supposedly in its crosshairs.
Too bad about the engines, because otherwise, the SRX does a lot of things very well. It goes down the road with the same buttoned-down confidence that defines the RX350, and yet it has more in common with the athletic Audi Q5 when it comes to steering precision and body control. It’s also taken a leap in terms of interior quality to the point that it’s hard to point to any specific fault.
My big hope for the SRX is that it inherits the two-mode powertrain from the stillborn Saturn VUE plug-in hybrid. That would address both the efficiency and horsepower issues, as the hybrid would have paired GM’s excellent 3.6-liter V-6 with two 75-hp electric motors.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
After driving the new SRX, I won’t be writing any love letters to General Motors or David Zenlea’s OnStar girlfriend. Still, there are definitely a lot of good things going on with Cadillac’s newest SUV.
Outside onlookers will likely be impressed by the SRX’s attractive exterior design language, as this Caddy is a very classy example of the brand’s “Art and Science” theme. The people inside the SRX should also be quite pleased with their surroundings, since the crossover can be filled with lots of nice features, including a giant sunroof and heated and cooled seats. The driver who travels a lot might become a fan of the SRX’s ability to post the speed limit of his or her current road on the instrument panel. In my experience, however, it wasn’t always accurate: Main Street in Ann Arbor, just south of M-14, used to have a silly speed limit of 35 mph, but within the last couple years, the limit was upped to 45 mph. The SRX, however, told me that the speed limit was 40 mph, which I don’t believe it’s ever been on that stretch of road. Go figure.
The SRX’s new turbo engine doesn’t seem all that well suited to this vehicle: It suffers quite a bit more lag than most modern turbos, yet at the top of the powerband, it almost feels too aggressive for a Cadillac people-hauler. And if you lift off the gas quickly, the vehicle often pitches forward like a high-strung turbocharged rally car. I do, however, agree with Zenlea that the SRX is one of the more buttoned-down crossovers on the market today.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
The design of the SRX makes it instantly recognizable, but also uncomfortable for tall drivers and short on interior space. Much like the CTS sedan, I don’t quite have enough room for my right knee due to the overstyled dash/center stack intersection. Despite the fact that the SRX is longer and wider than the Chevy Equinox or GMC Terrain, it has 4 fewer cubic feet of cargo storage and 3.6 inches less legroom for passengers in the back seat. Let’s not forget the Cadillac is also at least 100 pounds heavier than a V-6 Terrain or Equinox.
So maybe opting for a turbocharged 2.8-liter V-6 will add enough sport to negate the compromised functionality of the regular SRX. Well, not quite. Even in sport mode, the SRX accelerates lazily and the transmission is reluctant to downshift even with significant pressure on the brake pedal. Perhaps that’s because it takes an awful lot of pressure on the pedal for the brakes to begin biting.
Gas mileage is also disappointing. Despite the fact the turbo engine displaces fewer cubic inches than the standard (3.0-liter) V-6, it returns a mere 22 mpg on the highway. For reference, an all-wheel-drive Escalade with a 6.2-liter V-8 is rated at 20 mpg on the highway and has enough space inside to hold a soccer team.
What Cadillac has done well is sort out the suspension of the SRX – it feels very stable in high speed turns and the steering has nice weight. As David Zenlea pointed out, the SRX is every bit as buttoned down on the road as an Audi Q5, which is quite possibly our favorite small premium crossover. And the interior is finished as well as the Audi’s, even if the infotainment system isn’t quite as polished as the Q5’s MMI system.
Despite my abundant criticism, the SRX is actually a very competent vehicle. Adding the hybrid system Mr. Zenlea suggests would certainly improve the SRX’s appeal and give GM a bit of the green credibility it has been struggling to build. We know an Audi Q5 Hybrid is on its way to market, so this would give Cadillac another chance to be right at the top of its (very competitive) class.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
I honestly didn’t intend to spend three hours winding my way through the back roads of Monroe County last Sunday. Blame the SRX – or rather, its chassis tuning. I can’t recall the last time I’ve been in a luxury crossover that was so enjoyable on a winding stretch of two-lane blacktop. Body roll is kept to a minimum, and the steering is fairly sharp, offering a decent amount of feedback. It’s good enough where you may well decide to take a wrong turn and, as Bruce Springsteen suggested, just keep going.
As my colleagues have noted, there are a number of areas where the SRX could be improved, but I for one hope that GM’s engineers are on the hunt for a better transmission. The base SRX receives GM’s competent 6T70, but the turbo uses a slow-shifting six-speed automatic from Aisin. The sport mode does help expedite transitions between gears, but it also delivers some harsh downshifts when slowing to a stop. That sensation isn’t what I expect from a $53,000 vehicle, let alone a Cadillac.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
David Zenlea may swoon over the usefulness of OnStar, but he’s also not paying the $299-per-year subscription fee for directions and calling service. The consolation for those not willing to pay a monthly fee is that the Cadillac infotainment system is quite good in its own right. It takes a while to learn the location of the hard buttons, but the graphics are great and navigating the menus is easy.
When the SRX launched, everyone seemed to pit it against the segment juggernaut, the Lexus RX350. However, Cadillac’s target should really be the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. Lexus is Buick’s target, and GM has a small crossover coming that should directly combat the RX350. That said, the SRX offers some serious competition to the Audi. Handling in the Cadillac easily keeps up with that of the Audi, while steering substantially outperforms the German. Neither steering setup is exceptional, but the Audi is plagued by wildly varying effort. The SRX’s steering wheel filters out some feedback and is a bit light, but at least it’s predictable.
Several drivers have noted the SRX’s powertrain deficiencies and I concur with those observations. However, there are more shortcomings in the Cadillac that have gone unmentioned and might frustrate and owner more. There’s quite a bit of noise that emanates from the suspension and reaches the cabin. Also, visibility is downright miserable, with monstrous A-pillars, large rear headrests, and a rear window that isn’t low enough.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
I’ve seen a lot of these new SRXs on the road recently and for good reason; it’s a stylish Cadillac SUV with ample room for passengers that doesn’t demand the space of the attention-seeking Escalade. I really like the exterior styling compared to the previous generation SRX; specifically the tall vertical taillights that stick out from the rear hatch, which remind me of those found on cars in the 1950s.
It’s interesting that almost everyone wrote something about the powertrain; it was the first thing I noticed about the SRX turbo. It really doesn’t deliver the thrill of a turbocharged vehicle. I agree with Rusty, in that I haven’t been in a modern turbocharged car with this much lag. Perhaps I set my standards too high when I heard the words “Cadillac” and “turbo” in the same sentence.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo AWD Premium
Base price (with destination): $51,360
Price as tested: $53,480
2.8L DOHC, turbocharged V-6
6-speed automatic transmission
Electronic limited slip differential
20-inch painted aluminum wheels
AM/FM, CD/DVD Player/XM Satellite Radio
Navigation and voice recognition
Bose 10-speaker stereo with 40GB hard drive, AUX jack, USB port
Bluetooth for phone
Heated and ventilated front seats
Power adjustable pedals
Tri-zone climate control
Power, heated outside mirrors
Automatic headlamp control
Stabiltrak stability control
Antilock brake system
4-wheel vented disc brakes
1-yr OnStar directions with automatic crash response
Theft deterrent system
Options on this vehicle:
Entertainment System, Rear Seat – $1295
– Dual screen DVD with wireless headphones and remote control
Key options not on vehicle:
Trailering package – $499
15 / 22 / 18 mpg
Size: 2.8L DOHC turbocharged V-6
Horsepower: 300 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
Curb weight: 4307 lb
20-inch painted aluminum wheels
Michelin latitude tour hp 235/55R20