June 18, 2007
In terms of its size, shape and the way it drives – especially the way it drives – the Cadillac SRX sits about halfway between a luxury station wagon such as BMW’s 5-series Touring or Mercedes’ E-class wagon and midsize luxury SUVs such as the Lexus RX350 and Acura MDX. It’s higher off the ground than a wagon, but feels significantly lower and more nimble than a full-on SUV. In particular, getting in and out of the SRX is a cinch thanks to a step-in height that seemed perfect for almost everyone that got into the thing (so much so that they, to a T, commented on that fact). While the ride height may be a bit low for off-roading – there’s no low-range gear anyway – it’s more than enough for traversing cottage trails or snow-clogged driveways.
More importantly, a lower ride height and lower overall package compared to more mainstream SUVs gives the Cadillac a feeling of connection with the road they can’t match. It barely rolls when hustled around corners, stays stable and flat even at high speeds and is also a more comfortable ride on winding roads, with its lower centre of gravity contributing to reduced head-tossing motions. Braking is more confident, too: the four-wheel discs with ABS are powerful enough to haul the SRX down from serious speeds with little drama and even less nose dive. All the major controls have a sport-sedan like feel to them: the steering is a bit heavy but very accurate, the pedals have a linear pedal feel under your feet and the six-speed automatic cracks off brisk, smooth shifts with barely a pause in the power flow. Mechanically and dynamically, this is a very refined package.
Thanks to a recent facelift to the passenger cabin, it’s very refined inside as well. Gone is the plastic tower-o-buttons that used to hold all of the audio, navigation and climate settings; it’s been replaced with a more streamlined centre stack with more intuitive controls, tastefully outlined with chrome and featuring sharp, blue-backlit displays. The instruments now reside under a leather-covered binnacle and much of the dash and centre console have been wrapped in leather as well. Overall, the level of quality is markedly improved: while the Cadillac’s cabin isn’t quite as well-made as the MDX’s, it’s (save for a couple of cheap pieces) as nice as BMW’s latest X5 and more interesting to look at than the RX350.
A low-slung, wagon-ish body means that the SRX’s cargo area isn’t as high as any of its competitors – with the tonneau cover drawn shut there’s not a lot of height below the window line, either – but with the third row of seats folded, there’s more length to play with, making the SRX about as versatile as anything in its price class. The second row of seats is easily accessible through big doors that open wide and access to the third row isn’t bad either; adults might not want to spend a road trip there, but they’re fine for shorter journeys.
The one major demerit on my tester was its power liftgate: the convenience factor of being able to operate it from the remote control was completely negated by how slow it moved: it takes ages to open before you can shove your things in and you have to stand and wait while it closes before you can lock the car up.
No waiting from the drive-train, though. Fitted with Cadillac’s familiar but excellent 4.6-litre Northstar V8 and a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control, my SRX hustled away from stoplights with a chirp of the tires and an addictive snarl; it cruised and passed on the highway always with plenty of power in reserve. Fuel economy from the 320-hp engine, on the other hand, was less impressive. In a week of mostly urban driving, I struggled to better 15 L/100 km, a pretty dismal figure for a modern unibody design, a high-tech engine and a drive-train not carrying the extra weight of low-range gears. If you’re looking for economy, best go for the six-cylinder SRX (rated at 12.4 L/100 km combined) or one of the Japanese entries in this segment; a comparably-equipped hybrid Lexus RX400h is priced almost the same as the SRX V8 AWD and is significantly more efficient.
My test car came with a couple of notable options worth mentioning. The first, the "ultraview package" consists of a huge sunroof, rear air conditioning and some other accessories; it really lightens up the interior ambiance and is one of the biggest sunroofs in the business; I heartily endorse it, even for $2,770. The sport package, however, is a different story. Past experience with other SRXs has demonstrated an excellent balance between ride and handling; the package’s sport-tuned suspension and 20-inch wheels and tires give you a little more handling but completely ruin the smooth ride – a key component of any Cadillac in my opinion. Sure, the big polished wheels look cool, but you’re better off buying a more modestly-tired SRX unless you always drive on perfect pavement.
Cadillac, in case you haven’t noticed, is on a bit of a roll right now. The new Escalade is vastly better than its predecessor and is (remarkably for such a big, heavy, expensive vehicle) an increasingly common sight on our roads. The STS has just received a power boost and a facelift and the gorgeous new CTS is due to hit showrooms this fall. All of which makes it sort of remarkable that the SRX – one of the older vehicles in Cadillac’s line-up – is still as good as it is. Because of its right-on packaging and its careful balance of SUV and wagon attributes, it’s a very strong proposition.
Pricing 2007 Cadillac SRX V8
Base price $62,730
Options $ 8,820 (sport package, $3,275; ultraview package, $2,770; all wheel drive, $2,625; power pedals, $210)
Freight $ 1,400
A/C tax $ 100
Price as tested $73,050
Manufacturer’s web site