This might come as a shock to Cadillac advertising executives, but it's pointless to pose the SRX sport-utility on top of some wildly fluted red-rock chimney out in Utah. You see, the SRX is not a truck.
This country's enthusiasm for sport-utilities is widely misunderstood. Americans still want the same things in a vehicle that they've always wanted: full-size roominess, all-around utility, and go-anywhere mobility. What's changed is the shape of the vehicles, not the intentions of the people who are driving them.
The SRX reinvents the sport-utility as an American automobile; this crossover sport-ute really feels like a touring sedan when it goes about its business. It is refined, composed, and quiet, yet it has a steely, high-performance character underneath.
All it took to create such a device were all the resources at Cadillac's command, part of a reported $4.5 billion being spent to remake the division's vehicle lineup. Everywhere you look, the SRX exhibits leading-edge technology and carefully crafted details, the kind of serious effort it takes to make a serious automobile. For example, just lift the hood. Instead of some great lump of a truck engine, there's the virtually all-new 4.6-liter Northstar V-8, Cadillac's most powerful car engine in thirty years.
There's some pretty sophisticated automotive technology underneath the SRX, too. The unibody chassis architecture comes from the Sigma platform that now sits under the CTS and will shortly find its way into the 2005 STS, which is the next-generation Seville. This chassis brings to the SRX all the electrickery at Cadillac's command, including a calibration of StabiliTrak skid control for the SRX's all-wheel drive. The newest part of the high-tech package is MagneRide, the quick-response adaptive damping system introduced in the 2002 Seville STS and the 2003 Chevrolet Corvette.
It's no surprise that the SRX has the aggressive creases and flat planes of Cadillac's current styling look. Now that 40,000 CTS sedans are on the road, there's no need to explain it. Beneath the sheetmetal, Cadillac took some trouble to make this great big box as structurally rigid as possible, using high-strength steel in the rockers, structural foam in the C-pillars, a cast magnesium instrument-panel support beam, and even a spring-tower brace for the front suspension. Just as important, the result is usefully lighter than comparably sized SUVs.
We don't want to make too much of our drive in the prototype SRX last November, since production models won't find their way into Cadillac showrooms until the far-off fall of this year, but it was a real eye-opener. We drove the SRX in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, Virginia. The two-lane rural roads were narrow, and they swooped beneath trees still bright with autumn color and then crossed creeks on one-lane bridges. The first few times we'd hurtle across the crest of a hill on some little ribbon of pavement, we'd hold our breath, waiting for the SRX to bound and skip and waddle for a quarter-mile down the road until the suspension finally snubbed the 4600 pounds under control. Instead, the SRX sucked up the bumps and then planted its tires firmly on the pavement without a moment of indecision.
It was more than just carlike. On these roads, the SRX has the sort of athletic grace that helps sustain a fast, even driving pace for hours. Its long wheelbase and wide track deliver great straight-line stability. Turn the wheel, and the SRX heels into a corner without hesitation, and there's never an instant of doubt about where the corners of this great big vehicle are. Wide tires on eighteen-inch wheels provide plenty of cornering grip, and there's lots of suspension travel to help keep the rubber on the road. As you lay into the throttle, sophisticated algorithms in the transmission's electronics help kick down a gear quickly and smoothly, and then other algorithms read your intentions and hold the gear in the appropriate situations. The transmission also has a manu-matic mode (Cadillac's first). When you get to your destination in the SRX, you look down at your wristwatch and invariably discover that you're early. The speed comes without even thinking about it.