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2011 Cadillac SRX: A Star in an Increasingly Crowded Class

Ever since the Lexus RX300 first hit the streets thirteen (!) years ago, the sensibly-sized luxury crossover has been hugely desirable among the upwardly mobile.  Over time, the segment has grown by leaps and bounds, not just in terms of sales but more recently in terms of the sheer number of players.  Over the past couple years, the Europeans joined the fray with the Mercedes-Benz GLK, Audi Q5, and Volvo XC60.  And last year, Cadillac ditched the slow-selling and somewhat cumbersome three-row SRX with the smaller and more pert SRX seen here.  Wait a minute, don’t we Americans always want bigger?  What’s the deal here?

Well, the older and bigger SRX frankly didn’t really excel in its class.  Sure, it had three rows of seats, but you had to travel in the most cramped and unCadillac-like accommodations in the third row.  It looked pretty anonymous, and it frankly paled in comparison against players like Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and Audi Q7.  With the latest SRX, the model has been recast to compete against the new crop of smaller luxury crossovers.  In this role, the new two-row SRX really holds its own and truly excels in many areas.

The new SRX shares some of its underpinnings with the more prosaic Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, but don’t let that put you off.  After all, Toyota’s own RX, the sales champ of the segment and the one that started the luxury crossover craze, has always shared its guts with the Toyota Camry.  Besides, the Cadillac rides on the so-called Theta Premium platform, as opposed to the plain ol’ Theta platform of the Chevy and GMC products.  This means the chassis uses more premium components and is suitably modified for luxury duty.  And fear not, unlike countless platform sharing exercises at General Motors in the past, the SRX shares not a single exterior panel with its lesser brethren.

There’s little doubt that the SRX is a looker.  It successfully adapts the latest version of Cadillac’s Art & Science design language into an attractive crossover shape.  There are fascinating styling details everywhere, from the vestigial tail fin lamp clusters in the rear to the stealth fighter-like creases and angles.  There is a lot of surface tension all over the sheetmetal, but Cadillac’s stylists have successfully made something very cohesive out it.

Our all wheel drive tester was equipped with the optional turbocharged 2.8L V6 making 300HP.  Recently, this wonderful engine was discontinued due to lack of consumer interest.  That’s a real shame as the crossover accelerates effortlessly, and the engine’s small displacement makes for a very sweet exhaust snarl at high revs (nothing like the baritone growl of most larger V6 engines).  For time time being, all SRX models are powered by the standard 265HP 3.0L direct injected V6.  However, for 2012MY, the 300+HP direct injected 3.6L V6 from the CTS will become available.  Regardless of powertrain, any SRX is very capable on the road.  A well controlled ride and precise handling give it a fun, sport sedan feel through the twisties or on the interstate.

Remember when GM couldn’t make a nice interior if its life depended on it?  Actually, in recent years, GM’s life did in fact depend on its product execution (among other things), which of course includes its interiors.  And the SRX’s interior really is first rate.  Like its CTS sibling, the SRX’s inner sanctum is finished throughout with Cadillac’s “cut and sew” stitched surfaces covering the instrument panel and door trims.  But the overall level of fit and finish definitely exceeds that of the older CTS, which still exhibits a tiny whiff of “Old GM” cheapness inside.  Everything feels solidly attached, and the overall ambience is impressively premium.

The whole affair is pretty spacious too for its relatively compact exterior dimensions.  Front and rear passengers have plenty of room, and the rear cargo area has a nifty aluminum divider on rails that keeps “stuff” separated and in their place.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time with the SRX’s competitors and we can truly say that the Cadillac can honestly hold its head up high among its peers.  It need make no excuses; it’s a very well executed and very well finished luxury crossover that oozes appeal and desirability.  Cadillac has quite a few more tricks up its sleeve in the coming years; the ATS small sports sedan and the big XTS luxury sedan are due to hit showrooms in the next couple of years.  If SRX is anything to go by, Cadillac could well be on its way to reclaiming its old “Standard of the World” moniker.

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