For those who love the crossover segment, every other car is a niche. Those sporty sedans from BMW and Mercedes, the full-size SUVs, or the economical commuter cars all seem like minor blips. The only car worth buying has the styling of something like the Cadillac SRX: big enough to carry a few passengers (but not too many), room in the back for a few bookbags (but not everyone’s luggage), and a drive that seems at once sure and secure but not so sporty that you’ll do an unwanted jack-rabbit start.
That’s what makes the 2012 version of the Cadillac SRX a bit hard to review. This is the type of vehicle that people actually buy, not just dream about owning. Starting at $35,185, the price is not unreasonable, especially if you use the car for business to impress clients (or the teens you pick up from basketball). With a solid 3.6-liter V6 engine running at 308-horsepower, yet with a respectable 23MPG highway, the SRX has power when you need it but not so much power that you’ll live at the pump.
For this model year, Cadillac made the V6 a standard engine for each versions of the SRX. There is now a Hydra-Matic 6T60 six-speed automatic transmission with a push-button Eco option. The Eco feature reduces fuel consumption by altering the shift points in the transmission. Other additions: Bluetooth is now a standard offering (finally) on all SRX models, the heated steering wheel is standard, and there are a few extra fit and finish options like 20-inch wheels and an all-black interior.
The SRX is not known for a highly spirited drive. In our tests, we found the V6 to be capable and powerful at times when we needed to pass someone on the highway, but this is not a sporty crossover. The similarly sized Lexus RX-350 has a 275-horsepower engine, and the Audi Q5 has just 211 horsepower. But, at 308 horsepower, this 4,442-pound crossover still felt a bit sluggish at times. In fact, we were reminded a few times that the drive is not that different from a Chevy Equinox. Even the interior styling, while branded thoroughly as a Cadillac with a pop-up nav system and an analog clock, has more than a hint of the Equinox’s slanted dashboard layout, similar buttons, and even similar control features.
Understanding that the SRX is not intended to be sporty, we still felt the drive was a bit lethargic at times – but wondered if this is by design. Sportier crossover models, including the Ford Edge, have a similar horsepower rating but just seemed to have better acceleration and a sportier feel. That’s a bit surprising for Cadillac, the company that makes the CTS-V sport sedan, but the goal was to make the drive refined and elegant, not so you can win a race at the shopping mall.
We didn’t find as many pleasant surprises when driving the SRX, either. The Lexus brand does a better job adding a few extras to their crossover and SUV models. The GX460, for example, has tiny sprayers that rise up above the headlights to wash them off. The heated steering wheel on the GX460 also heats up much faster and stays hotter than the one on the SRX. In terms of the sound system, the 10-speaker Bose premium audio on the SRX is loud enough and distinct, but lacks the spatial audio of the Mercedes GL350 where you can hear parts of a song in different areas of the interior cab.
There’s also an issue with price. The model we tested, the AWD Premium, costs $51,550 with additions for the Bose audio ($1,395) and a black ice metallic finish ($495). That pushes the price well over the $39,075 base price of the similarly style 2012 Lexus RX350, which also has a V6 and gets 25MPG highway. The 2012 Audi Q5 Premium Plus, which has a 3.2-liter V6, costs $43,000. Even the 2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK with the AWD option costs $37,900. The SRX base price of $35,185 falls under each of these models, but that’s without the AWD or any of the premium features.
That’s not to say we were disappointed with the SRX. For one thing, the safety tests on the SRX are class-leading. The SRX also lets you use E85, which is a bonus in some areas where the price of that fuel will get you some relief in the pocketbook. (Unfortunately, not in our area.)
The ride on the SRX is also a notch better than the RX350, but not as smoother as the Mercedes GL350. Cadillac improved the suspension with variable damping to smooth over ruts and potholes. (That option is only available in the costlier Performance and Premium versions, though.) Computer-controlled AWD worked surprisingly well on an icy road, keeping the car straight in the same condition where a GX460 felt a bit unsure. The computer automatically pumps more power to any slipping wheel.
Some of the luxury features on the SRX seem a bit common now, even on Buick and Chevy models. On the SRX, you can adjust the foot pedal, there’s a rain sensing system for the wipers, and an interior lighting system that fades out like you’d expect from a luxury car. The truly notable feature, though, is the amazing sunroof, which stretches from one end of the car to the other.
When you start adding up the costs for the SRX, the highest end Premium model is a bit more expensive that the higher end models of several other crossover models. That means the SRX needs more than just an expansive sunroof. We felt the SRX offered a comfortable ride, but not as many unusual tech features that give you the feeling of superior craftsmanship. For example, there’s no lane departure warning, and no adaptive cruise control. The headlights do adapt to the terrain, and there is a headlight washer button (even if you don’t get the sprayers that rise up from the hood as you do with the GX460).
That makes the SRX a good buy for those who want the extra power of a V6 with 308 horsepower, even if that still means the acceleration was not remarkable. We liked the smooth ride of the SRX. The price tag and lack of extra tech features were the main turn-offs compared to other crossover tests.