It had certainly been a long time since I’d driven a Cadillac. With everyone focusing on the recent difficulties at GM specifically and the state of the automobile industry in general, most of us failed to notice the giant steps taken by the American luxury brands, including Cadillac.
While its new SRX mid-size utility vehicle tries a little too hard to mimic the Chevrolet Equinox’s exterior style, the two vehicles are still different enough. Specifically, the differences lie in the passenger compartment, engine, platform (oh yes, different platforms!) and place of assembly (Mexico for the Caddy, Ontario for the Chevy).
With that in mind, the new SRX doesn’t have much in common with the first generation SRX. You’ll notice, however, that I didn’t say “fortunately”... You’re going to miss the rear-wheel drive, which was replaced by a more traditional front-wheel drive structure. And with a body that’s 13 centimetres shorter, the utility vehicle won’t seat more than five passengers, so say good-bye to the third bench and the sixth and seventh seats.
On the other hand, the new look is fantastic. The incisive lines that made Cadillac stand out on the automobile landscape for years are not only well adapted to the utility vehicle, they convey luxury and elegance. It has an imposing and masculine look, with big vertical headlights and that brilliant chrome grille. Basically, the sexy Caddy is back.
300 horsepower: not that great
The SRX has a V6 turbo engine (in its best equipped version), which replaces the now-defunct V8. For years, manufacturers told us repeatedly that it was impossible to build engines that were both powerful and environmentally-friendly without a drastic increase in production costs... Fortunately, we didn’t believe them. And the Cadillac SRX is living proof that, at GM at least, if you can conceive it, you can achieve it.
So, our high-end version of the SRX came equipped with GM’s new V6 turbo with its 2.8-litre capacity and some 300 horsepower. Fuel consumption is a little higher (about 8% in total) than the base model’s V6 (265 hp), but more importantly, it’s 13% less than the old 4.6-litre V8. That doesn’t exactly make you weep for the old V8, now does it? But 300 horses aren’t that great for performance. GM claims that it goes from 0-100km/hr in 7.6 seconds, but tests carried out by the AJAC found that the time was actually 8.5 seconds. Luckily, this power is smooth and is delivered directly, without any lag from the turbo. The only way we knew that the turbo was engaged was the indicator on the dashboard. Of course, this SRX turbo has all-wheel drive (developed in collaboration with Haldex). That’s what brings the weight up to more than two metric tonnes, with all the equipment and options packages that come with the vehicle. Think of the panoramic roof, keyless drive, adjustable pedals, adaptive XENON lights, heated front and rear seats... Unfortunately, forget intelligent cruise control. It’s a shame, too... We really love that gizmo.
A more logical transmission
In addition to being smooth and technologically modern, the new V6 turbo engine gets a new six-speed automatic transmission that, while it jolted us a few times in manual mode, thankfully does not have the programming incoherence of the Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain duo. On the road, the SRX’s suspension is nicely balanced. It’s more comfy than firm, without being too soft. The vehicle is solid on its relatively low ground clearance (179 mm), and that makes for reassuring handling, although it’s not exactly sporty. However, the braking is soft and the steering is a tad too loose to truly make for fast and satisfactory reactions. The turning radius is rather large (12.2 metres), but then again, pivoting 20-inch wheels takes a certain amount of breathing space. What’s more, the rear visibility is seriously reduced. Rear parking assist is a must for avoiding accidents.
Like a full moon…
The SRX is really winning people over with its passenger compartment. The soundproofing is exceptional (let’s give credit where it’s due), the materials are carefully chosen; while the woodwork and the mocha stitched leather upholstery creates a warm and luxurious atmosphere. At night, a thin line of blue light runs from the doors and the bottom of the dashboard for discrete and hushed lighting, like the cast of a full moon. We like... While the cargo space is generous, the leg room in the back is less so, and the middle seat is decidedly uncomfortable. Even though the wheelbase has been decreased by 150 mm compared to the first generation SRX, you would still think there would be a sliding bench to gain a few centimetres when necessary (but there isn’t...). However, the seatbacks recline for more comfort, and when it’s flat, it’s really flat.
We like the navigation system that disappears from the dashboard and repositions itself at eye-level. Ditto for the entertainment system and its screens installed in each of the two front seat backs. And finally, we like the hatch with the two-position power programmable liftgate (very simple, thanks): perfect for smaller garages. We like it so much that we forgive those unintuitive climate controls. How many times did we accidentally heat a seat, rather than adjusting the temperature or vents? That said, the seats were pretty comfortable and can be set to several different positions.