As you might have guessed, Cadillac engineers used an automotive standard of measure during development, not a truck-based one. They based their expectations of ride and handling on the BMW 530i and the Cadillac CTS, and they proved them out at the Nrburgring, not only at GM's proving grounds. The message through the speed-sensitive, variable-assist steering is one of composure--a mixture of stability and refinement, just as you'd expect from a luxury vehicle. In comparison, a BMW X5 feels crisper and livelier, but the German ute's constant heavy-footed ride motions wear you out and make you clench the steering wheel. The SRX is always easy to drive, although the steering is a little slow at low speeds and perhaps too isolated at high speeds.
Composure is what you feel within the SRX as well. The design architecture is simple, and the materials are first-rate, a lesson Cadillac has learned from Lexus. As a result, the SRX feels warm and inviting inside. A glass sunroof arcs all the way back to the rear seat, and a unique wind blocker at its leading edge keeps the huge hole in the roof from producing any annoying buffeting. When the roof is closed, the cabin is notably quiet, well isolated from both wind noise and road rumble.
Even better, there's plenty of room. The seats are large, with flat, comfortable squabs and fairly supportive backrests. The rear seat's combination of reclinable seatbacks and deep footwells enhances the feeling of roominess, and passengers sit slightly higher than in the front row, so outward visibility is great. A central pod integrated with the front console holds the requisite rear-seat DVD system. A kid-sized third seat is optional, and it deploys electrically out of a flat load floor with Disney-like cleverness. As a passenger package, the SRX is in the same league as the Volvo XC90.
For all the SRX's carlike attributes in comfort and roadgoing composure, it also offers the all-weather mobility you expect from a sport-ute. The all-wheel-drive system is always engaged, and it splits the torque 50 percent to the front wheels and 50 percent to the rear wheels, which we believe is the most effective proportion for driving on ice, snow, and loose gravel. All three differentials (front, center, rear) are open, so it's the ABS's responsibility to minimize wheelspin.
The SRX's rear hatch is broad, and the load floor (with or without the optional third seat) is usefully flat. There's also unexpected evidence of everyday utility. The front-seat height is just five inches taller than that of a CTS, so there's no need for running boards. There's plenty of steering lock, and the turning circle is relatively compact, so you can maneuver into those corner mini-malls where the dry cleaners always lurk. The trailer hitch is integrated very well, although it's optional and we think a hitch should be standard equipment for any vehicle with "utility" in its description. The optional trailer-towing package increases the SRX's towing capacity to 3500 pounds (barely enough) from 1000 pounds (too little).
Once it's introduced, the SRX will arrive with two different engine choices: the 315-horsepower, 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 or a new 260-horsepower, 24-valve, DOHC, 3.6-liter V-6. Either all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive will be available for each engine choice. There will be two different suspension calibrations, standard with Sachs high-pressure gas-charged dampers or the more expensive MagneRide. (We think the conventional Sachs dampers offer better body control and steering precision than MagneRide, which feels more comfort-oriented in the SRX's application.) Cadillac has yet to announce pricing, but we expect the SRX will sit right on top of the Acura MDX and the Lexus RX330, ranging from $35,000 to $45,000.
With the SRX, Cadillac has successfully morphed the sport-utility formula into automotive transportation that is in keeping with its own heritage. This is a real luxury vehicle, because it delivers the luxury of speed and all-weather mobility as well as the luxury of roominess and comfort. In short, the Cadillac SRX is not a truck.