2010 Cadillac SRX 3.0 V6 AWD Luxury (USA)

Like it or not – and many manufacturers do not – most brands have a stereotypical image which has built up over a period of years, which is usually derived from perceptions (or the reality) of a combination of the products offered and the sort of customers who often bought them and how they then drove them. Although Cadillac may have liked to have thought of itself as America’s version of the Rolls Royce, a maker of superlative luxury cars, the reality during the past 40 years or so had become more as one of a manufacturer of large, relatively affordable luxury cars bought by the superannuated. Cadillac recognised that such a customer demographic was far from ideal, and that an elderly and ageing customer base is certainly not the obvious recipe for sales growth. so 10 years or so ago, made a determined effort to change their brand perception by introducing some new and fundamentally different products. This sort of change is always a bold strategy, as it runs the risk of alienating the traditional customer base, but in Cadillac’s case, they seem to have pulled it off, with offerings such as the Escalade capturing the interest in luxury SUVs, the XLR sports car having modest success in the rarified market for luxury touring convertibles, and the volume selling CTS appealing to those who wanted a different and US domestic kind of 3 series. The emergent interest in crossover type vehicles was not ignored, either, with the 2004 launch of the SRX. Whilst Cadillacs remain very low volume sellers in Europe, in the home market they still offer the old style product, the DTS to appeal to their traditional buyer, along with a range of really rather desirable cars to appeal to those who would probably never previously considered the brand, let alone bought one before their 80th birthday.
In 2009, Cadillac launched a new SRX. Unlike the latest CTS, where it took a keen eye to spot the difference between first and second generation cars, the second SRX looks very different from its forebear. Not only is it slightly smaller, by some 5″, but the latest generation is also strictly a five seater only. The styling epitomises the current trend for sharp creases, a high waist line and relatively small glass areas. It is certainly distinctive, and with its large Cadillac-style grille, is unlikely to be mistaken for anything else on the road. Two different engines are available in the SRX: a 3.0 litre V6 and a more powerful 2.8 V6 Turbo. The former comes with front wheel drive on the entry level car, and, like the test car, a more luxuriously trimmed four wheel drive model, whereas the more potent turbo unit only comes equipped with four wheel drive. A car badged SRX4, in Platinum Ice Tricoat (a sort of pearlescent white, despite it saying “gray” on the paperwork) was sitting in the Hertz stall at Los Angeles Airport with my name on it. As this represented a substantial upgrade over the class of car I had reserved and paid for, I took it, keen to see what I thought of the SRX.
First impressions were not actually that good. I really did struggle to get the right driving position. This should not have been hard, as just about everything adjusts. As well as having electric motors to alter the position of the seats back and forth, up and down, and a separate lumbar support for the backrest, there is even a button to power the pedals in and out, as well as manual adjustment of the steering column both up and down as well as in and out. I drove the short distance to the hotel not convinced that I had got it right, and some more adjustments the following morning did finally perfect things. By this time I had experienced the entire symphony of electronic beeps which you get whenever manoeuvering the SRX. There are sensors all round, including one which seemed to go more or less whenever reverse is selected. As visibility is definitely not one of the strong suits of this car, they are useful at times, but the fact that they went off when you were going forwards into a wide car parking slot was perhaps less than helpful. In fact, let me strengthen my condemnation of visibility out of this car. It is really rather poor. That the rear over the shoulder view out is lacking is not a surprise as the thick pillars and tiny third side windows forewarns you of this even before you get in the Cadillac. The other real culprit is the very think and angled A pillar, which I found was quite a nuisance when on the twisties up in the mountains. Judging the front of the car is helped a little by the fact that there is a small raised moulding on the top of the headlights, but you have to remember that the nose slopes forward a fair bit further forward than this. When looking forward, I also noticed that you if you look to the front and left at the edge of the bonnet near the A pillar, you can see a small amount of daylight under it thanks to the shape and fit of the bonnet relative to the wing. It is not obvious from the outside of the car, but this sort of detail, once you have spotted it, is surprisingly irksome.
Out on the road the following day, it was time to form some more complete impressions. The SRX is blessed with a start button to the right of the column, so as long as the “key” is in the vicinity, such as in your pocket, and your foot is on the brake, you can fire up. This proved useful when doing the many photographic stops, though there does seem to be no way of allowing accessories such as the stereo to stay on without leaving the engine running. The 3.0 litre V6 engine develops 265 bhp, which might sound like quite a decent amount, but this is a large and heavy car, so it has to work hard. In fact, I am not sure that the engine, especially when coupled with the ratios chosen for the six speed automatic gearbox have quite worked out whether they are powering a luxury cruiser or something which actually lives up to the “Sport” in SUV. In this form at least, the SRX is not fast, but it is brisk. Up in the mountains, the gearbox was almost too willing to change down a couple of gears more than you would have expected, and then work the engine quite hard so it could change up again. Under such conditions, the usually very quiet and refined V6 took on a different aural character, not unpleasant, but rather more vocal. The gearchanges are very smooth, and you would struggle to detect them in more gentle acceleration. All this must have taken its toll on the fuel consumption, though. Judging by the movement of the needle, I was assuming that it was not going to be too bad, but when I put in 20 gallons having covered 320 miles, I changed my mind. An average of 16mpg (US) is frankly disappointing. That is a word you would use to describe the other dynamics of the SRX. There is little feel in the steering, which is light and not terribly precise. The handling befits something of the size and weight of the Cadillac, with lots of lean on the corners and it proved to be a car in which it was surprisingly difficult to keep to the line you expected on the bends, as it always seemed to want to run that bit wide. The upside to this is that the SRX rides well, with a nice soft suspension that reminds one of the sort of pliancy that Cadillac drivers of yore would have appreciated. No issue with the brakes, which were perfectly fit for purpose. There is an electronic parking brake fitted, with a small flick on/off lever in the centre console behind and to the left of the gearlever.
The interior of the SRX is not quite as stylised as the outside, but it is certainly headed in that direction. There is much use of leather – on the seats, part of the steering wheel and the dash – as well as some rather highly polished plastic pretending to be wood that can be found on the dash, the door caps and the upper part of the steering wheel. Inlays of plastic pretending to be aluminium ( or, as this is America, should that be “aluminum”?) are also present on the dash and the spokes of the steering wheel. The dash itself contains three very dished dials under the main cowl and a large and prominent moulding for the centre piece with large and dominant air vents at either side. It is certainly striking, and not of bad quality, but I found it just that little bit tacky looking. The most unusual feature is that there is a translucent outer rim to the moulding round the centre dial, which shines green when you indicate, repeating the conventional indicator warning light. The dials themselves are clear and easy to read. The centre of the dash contains a graphic for the selected audio station and climate control settings, then a number of knobs buttons and switches for these two services. The XM Satellite radio, with Bose speakers proved to have good reception even up in the mountains, and provided some welcome listening material, whilst the climate control was particularly appreciated on a day when the outside temperature exceeded 100 degrees. Other functions are operated by column stalks, which are of far higher quality than the nasty generic GM things you used to encounter in all their products until relatively recently. The whole ensemble is well put together, and distinctive, but it will not give the interior designers at Audi too many sleepless nights.
Having adjusted the seat so that finally it was in the correct driving position, I can record that it did indeed prove comfortable. With it set to suit my short legs, there is a huge amount of space in the rear of the SRX. The rear seats can be individually reclined somewhat, to suit. The centre of this seat incorporates an armrest, which when it is pulled down reveals quite a decent cubby hole and cup holders on its reverse side. There is then also a flap to allow access to the boot. The only use I can imagine for this would be for some very small but long items to be able to poke through it. The boot is a nice regular shape, with a flat floor, but it is not that deep. There is a removable load cover blind, which is not something you find in all such US market cars, and the floor of the boot had a recessed U-shaped track on it to which you could use to secure loads if you wanted to do so. The rear seat backs fold forward onto the cushions, leaving a much longer and flat loadspace. In the cabin, there is a glove box which is nothing like as large as the extensive lid would lead you to suspect, a two level cubby area in the centre armrest, some rather small door bins, with a smaller upper area on each door, and of course the ubiquitous centre console cup holders, the area for which has a false floor in it which can be dropped out of the way to create depth for the largest of Starbucks buckets of drink.
Befitting its title of Luxury model, the test car came well equipped. The enormous glass sun roof certainly lets a lot of light into the car if you power the blind out of the way. I found it quite noisy, with a lot of buffeting with the roof open, but with ambient temperatures that were almost too hot, appreciated the light and used the climate control for cooling. There is an electric motor to close the rather heavy tailgate. Other luxuries include two memory settings for the power operated and heated seats, full leather trim, the XM Satellite radio, the all round parking sensors and dual zone climate control.
The SRX did definitely grow on me during the test, starting from those slightly inauspicious beginnings, but as I handed it back, I had to conclude that overall l was disappointed. Opinions will always vary on bold styling, so I know that this will be a matter of taste. The SRX is just that bit too awkward to look at, for me, and the design creates some challenging visibility problems. Cadillac would doubtless tell you that cars like this are intended to put practicality over being fun to drive, and if you were to look at one of its principal rivals, the Lexus RX350, you would doubtless agree. However, I have driven another competitor, the Infiniti FX35, which had the heart of Z under its bonnet. It’s a heavily stylised car, too, and its looks won’t appeal to everyone, but it was far more fun to drive. Were I in the market for a luxury SUV in this class, it would be to the Infiniti dealer that I would head.

2010-10-08 00:29:57

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