Out German the Germans
We fully expected the SRX to get blown away in terms of driving dynamics by the excellent Q5, but again, it put up a stronger fight than we anticipated. For one, it has better steering, thanks to a precise, smooth ZF rack that's far more natural than the Q5's overly ambitious variable-effort setup, which at times feels as if someone is actually fighting with you for control of the wheel. GM engineers have also managed to out German the Germans in terms of the suspension tuning, as the SRX both rides better and is less prone to body roll than the Q5, which is itself a very buttoned down crossover. Some of the credit goes to the SRX's Haldex-developed electronic limited-slip differential, which can instantly transfer torque from front to back and between the rear wheels. This helps the SRX power out of turns where the Q5 takes a slight, yet definite lean. We must note that the Audi was wearing snow tires versus the SRX's all-seasons, and that our Q5 lacks the optional Drive Select, which brings on adjustable dampers and steering effort. Still, the fact that Cadillac has baked enough poise into its crossover to outdance an Audi is impressive.
Unfortunately, the SRX's advantages in the lateral motion department simply can't make up for its glaring deficiencies when it comes to accelerating or stopping. The turbo V-6 reads like a fine engine, as it offers significantly more power and torque than the Q5's larger 3.2-liter V-6. Alas, it's a paper tiger. Through most of the rev range, it provides less satisfying grunt than it does unrefined groaning, never feeling like it's serving up the promised 295 lb-ft of torque. In contrast, the Audi six, despite being rated at 270 hp and a mere 243 lb-ft of torque, always seems to be in its sweet spot, providing easy, smooth thrust no matter how fast you're going. No surprise, then, that in our previous testing the Q5 has accelerated to 60 mph a full second faster than the SRX and maintains this advantage through the quarter mile. It also stops shorter, with responsive, grippy brakes that instill much more confidence than the underboosted pedal on the SRX. Did we mention that the Q5 is also more efficient (18/23 mpg versus the SRX's 15/22 mpg)? Some of this owes to the Q5's near 300-pound weight advantage, but there's no getting around the fact that the Cadillac is stuck with an inferior powertrain and poor brake tuning. The 2.8-liter, originally developed by Saab, is not long for this world, as it does not meet upcoming emissions requirements. We say good riddance.
You're probably noticing a theme here. The Cadillac SRX Turbo has lots of charm and does many things well, but it also suffers from a few substantial weaknesses. And though none of these flaws necessarily make the Cadillac SRX a bad vehicle, they become all the more glaring when compared with the Audi Q5, which is every bit as charismatic and has the quality and substance to back it up. A few tweaks to address interior quality, better brakes, and a stronger powertrain would make the SRX a clear champion, but until then, the well-rounded Audi Q5 remains our crossover of choice.