2005 Cadillac SRX Four Seasons Test

Charlie Magee Tim Andrew

There were some mild complaints about the seats from those who felt they were too flat and lacked the appropriate amount of lumbar support, but the most vehement gripes about the interior were aimed at the dashboard layout and quality of materials. Said one particularly disgruntled driver: "The hodgepodge of materials and textures is like a visual representation of ADD: wood that looks fake even if it might be real, cheap plastic that covers the dash with its pseudo-gun-grips cross-hatching, leather-textured plastic, and, to me the most objectionable, the giant chunks of black plastic that make up the center stack, especially where the CDs are loaded." Not everyone who commented on the interior was so bitter, but the general consensus was that while Cadillac can successfully compete with upscale manufacturers such as BMW and Lexus in areas such as drivability and utility, interior fit and finish are still not up to their standards. That perception is enhanced by oddly placed switchgear-such as the rear wiper switch located in the overhead console. (More than one driver spent hours searching fruitlessly for said switch. Of course, a quick check inside the owner's manual might have helped.)

Luckily, we didn't need to consult the owner's manual for any more significant assistance, because the SRX remained mostly trouble-free during its year in our possession. At about 10,000 miles, creative director Richard Eccleston noted a significant vibration at highway speeds. Thinking it might be a bad wheel bearing, we brought the vehicle to the dealer, who told us that the wheels and brake area were packed with mud (apparently, some of us actually do take our SRXs off-road). They sagely suggested we clean the undercarriage after driving on the dirt. At 18,908 miles, the key started hanging up in the ignition, so the ignition lock cylinder and tumblers were replaced under warranty. Last but not least, at the 25,000-mile service, the front brakes were found to be worn, so the pads were replaced and the rotors turned-a little sooner than we'd have expected.

Had we been able to change one thing, it would have been our selection of the 255-hp V-6 rather than the available 320-hp Northstar V-8. We ended up regretting that decision, because our effort to keep the price of the vehicle down (a V-6-equipped, all-wheel-drive SRX starts at $40,935) was sabotaged when we decided to order the $13,660 Luxury Performance package, which included items such as eighteen-inch wheels, rear air-conditioning, heated seats, DVD navigation, and a rear-seat entertainment system. That brought our SRX's price up to a grand total of $54,595. Had we been a bit more judicious with the options, we could have had a nicely equipped V-8 model, which comes with the eighteen-inch wheels, rear air-conditioning, and heated seats as standard, for about the same amount of money. In addition, in this era of $2.50-per-gallon gasoline, the V-6 returned only 18 mpg in real-world driving, just 1 or 2 mpg more than we would expect from a V-8.

But hindsight is twenty-twenty, and the logbook comments about the V-6 piled up. Some drivers thought the engine was underpowered for a vehicle that weighs nearly 4500 pounds. According to Eccleston, the SRX "desperately needs two more cylinders. It feels underpowered on the highway." Others, such as senior editor Joe DeMatio, felt the V-6 had plenty of power but was simply too loud when pushed: "The engine always delivers, but it sure is noisy when you push it. Initially, you might think it's a nice metallic performance sort of sound, but then you realize, no, it's just damn loud." Cadillac is aware of the excessive loudness, and an effort to reduce engine noise is under way. We recently tested an SRX with the noise-abatement modifications, but more work is still needed.

The popularity of the SRX can be attested to by the fact that we kept extending its departure date, turning our Four Seasons test into a Four Seasons-plus-one-month test. Had we opted for the V-8 and had the interior materials and layout been of higher quality, this might just have been the perfect crossover SUV. As it stands, the SRX is still a very usable, dependable utility vehicle. The size is right for hauling people and their stuff, the styling is distinctive, the handling is carlike if not exactly sporty, and the entertainment and navigation systems are first-rate. That the SRX is so good is a testament to Cadillac and a signal that the division continues to head in the right direction. With a little more work on the interior trim, the SRX could be a perpetual All-Star.

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