I'm torn about the Cadillac SRX. On one hand, there are the Cadillac's strengths: it finally has a capable and entertaining engine, which provides adequate low-end grunt and sings arias when you stamp on the loud pedal. When you get to a corner, it has plenty of grip, and doesn't roll like one would expect from such a big vehicle. The seats are comfortable, and the on-board tech is pretty good.
And yet, driving a Cadillac SRX, especially in this trim level, is a game of numbers. The SRX is 4400 pounds, which puts it in the upper quadrant of crossovers in terms of weight. Nearly all of its crossover competitors -- the Acura RDX, Volvo XC60 T6, Audi Q5 3.2, and Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4MATIC, even the Range Rover Evoque -- weigh less, despite having similar passenger and luggage volume. (The Evoque actually weighs about 700 pounds less.) Cadillac solves this mathematical equation by comparing the SRX to the RDX's big brother, the MDX, but the MDX has three rows of seats and a whopping 42 more cubic feet of interior space than the SRX.
Which brings me to the SRX's biggest problem: the cost. The SRX is good, but it's stuck between crossover size classes, and it's not exactly winning either one.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
Two things really stood out to me about the Cadillac SRX. First, it has an incredibly stylish, clear, and bright instrument cluster. The three-binnacle design features bold, legible characters on a bold white background. Some might complain that it looks too bright at night, but I think it's a triumph of style meeting usability. Second, I was impressed by just how much space there is inside. Some small luxury SUVs have tight cabins, but I found both rear-seat and cargo space plentiful.
Although the SRX's driving experience is mostly impressive, it suffers from a poor automatic transmission. The six-speed sometimes picks the wrong gear, and it occasionally seems surprised when the driver wants to do things like, say, accelerate, and shifts can sometimes be rougher than I would expect in an upscale vehicle like a Cadillac. It's a blemish on what is otherwise a nice entry-luxury SUV.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
Cadillac may have nailed the SRX's styling and packaging, but it seems the automaker had some difficulty reaching its stride when it came to engine offerings. The previous base engine - a 265-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 - was a little underpowered for the 4400-pound SUV, while the optional 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6 was thirsty, peaky, and rather expensive.
Thankfully, the 2012 SRX finally receives the engine it should have had from day one. Cadillac has dropped both the aforementioned engines and replaced them with the direct-injected 3.6-liter V-6 from the CTS. Rated at 308 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, it's about as powerful as the outgoing turbo six but far more linear. The engine pulls quite strongly, and although it sounds a little coarse once the tachometer's needle swings past of 4500 rpm, it still feels rather smooth. The GM-sourced six-speed automatic transmission is certainly an improvement over the herky-jerky Aisin six-speed used on SRX Turbo models, but it still could use some polishing to eliminate its reluctance to downshift and to smooth its gear changes.
Even so, it doesn't spoil the fun behind the wheel. Yes, the steering is numb and the brake pedal a bit uncommunicative, but the SRX is remarkably poised when driven hard. Adaptive dampers and stiffer springs are included on both the Performance and Luxury Collection models; the combination delivers impressive body control for a vehicle of its size.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
The SRX is not as appealing or as glamorous to driving enthusiasts as Cadillac's excellent CTS family, but it's hard to find fault with the SRX, especially if you desire more headroom, ground clearance, and cargo space than a CTS. For 2012, the SRX gets GM's direct-injected 3.6-liter V-6, and it's a nice match that's more powerful and just about as fuel-efficient as the outgoing 3.0-liter V-6 as well as the 2.8-liter turbo V-6.
The SRX is quick off the line and quiet on the road. I did notice that the transmission was slow to upshift when accelerating away from traffic lights in town, but perhaps it was trying to adapt to my generally heavy-footed acceleration habits. Jake Holmes and Evan McCausland also were unhappy with this transmission, however, so clearly it's not just me.
The SRX's huge sunroof makes the spacious interior seems even larger than it is. The cabin is full of nice materials, but they aren't all solidly put together -- some flex and gaps are evident if you look closely. This is a very nice car, but I'd spend my $50K elsewhere.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
The new engine transforms the SRX and makes it a real contender in its class. The SRX is quiet and composed and handles well. The engine does indeed get noisy at higher revs, but the six-speed automatic snaps off shifts quite efficiently, and the manual control mechanism works well. The Caddy has good ride comfort and very good brake pedal feel and response. I adjusted the driver's seat to satisfy my five-foot, eleven-inch self and then sat behind the driver's seat and found it to be a reasonably comfortable and roomy perch. The optional rear-seat TV screens are clever: rather than being integrated into the headrest, which makes headrests huge and bulky, they flip down on a hinge into the actual seatback, and then flip up when needed. And the U-shaped aluminum cargo track in the rear cargo compartment, with movable dividers, is pretty cool, too.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Driving the SRX with the 3.6-liter V-6, one wonders why GM ever tried another powertrain. The surging, gritty delivery of the 2.8-liter turbo V-6 always felt like a misfit considering crossover's otherwise refined, luxurious character. With the 3.6-liter the SRX is still no rocket ship - blame the 4400-pound curb weight - but it never feels sluggish or strained. The only remaining flaw, as others have noted, is the transmission's eagerness to upshift, which I was able to partially counteract by leaving it in sport mode.
The fact that the powertrain is now up to par makes it easier to focus on the rest of the SRX, which was already quite good. The exterior styling stands out from the rest of the segment. Designers were able to translate the now instantly recognizable Art and Science design language to the larger shape of the SRX without making it overwrought or cartoonish (as is the even larger Escalade). The interior looks as upscale as anything in the segment, though some of the switchgear, as Kelly notes, feels cheap. That should change next year when the SRX receives Cadillac's new CUE infotainment system, which does away with buttons altogether.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor