Review: 2012 Cadillac SRX renders the Lexus RX pointless

Let’s take a quick trip back in time to the 1960s and early 1970s. A time when a gallon of regular hovered just around the 30-40-cent mark and its primary additive was tetra-ethyl lead. It was a time where conservation and efficiency were afterthoughts and a man’s wealth was determined by the size of their automobile rather than how much chrome it had. Foreign nameplates were just beginning to trickle their way into the world’s largest automobile market at the time with very limited success.

Typically, if you were an individual of wealth in search for a luxury automobile, you would beeline it to America’s second oldest brand—the marque whose slogan has stuck history as the “Standard of the World.” Elvis had many and so did countless other individuals of equal, prominent stature such as politicians and performers. And that’s because Cadillac was the undoubted buy word for pure luxury.

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Even if you didn’t live to see this time, Cadillac’s reputation and corporate philosophy of producing cars with precision engineering and stylish luxury is indubitably embedded in history. Essentially, they were America’s Mercedes-Benz.

Now though, Cadillac isn’t the only brand you’re confronted with when in search for a luxury automobile. Much time elapsed since the brand’s last peak, even facing death for some time in the 1990s. It was not until Cadillac introduced the CTS that they began to regain some of the luxury market share, which was mostly lost to the foreign offerings. Fast forward to today, post-General Motors bailout, Cadillac has certainly come a long way.

In order to keep up with the foreign competition, Cadillac introduced their first crossover back in 2004 with the CTS-based SRX, which didn’t turn out to be so terrible, especially with its rear-wheel drive roots and 4.6l Northstar V8. It was a worthy competitor in its segment, but was still overshadowed by the foreign offerings. Plagued with General Motors’ pre-bailout shoddy build quality on top of being a quirky design, the SRX was a bit of a slow seller. It was rather unfortunate too since the rear-wheel drive SRX was scoring well across the desks of automotive publications, winning some titles such as one of Car & Driver’s Five Best Luxury SUVs for 2004, 2005, and 2006 and a nomination for the North American Truck of the Year award in 2004.

2012 Cadillac SRX Specifications:

  • Style: Crossover.
  • Drive Type: FWD / AWD.
  • Seating Capacity: 5.
  • Base Price: $35,185.
  • Price As Tested: $48,245.
  • Engine: 3.0 liter V6 – 308-hp / 365 lb-ft of torque.
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic.
  • 0 to 60 mph: 7.0 seconds.
  • Top Speed: 132 mph.
  • Curb Weight: 4,277 lbs (4,442 lbs for AWD).
  • Fuel-economy (city/highway/combined): 18/25 mpg (AWD model gets 17/23 mpg).

All Photos Copyright © Nikolina Kostrevski – egmCarTech.

The SRX was completely reworked in 2009 to be based off of GM’s new Theta Premium platform, internally dubbed the GM267. And its purpose was clear: to attempt to dethrone the segment-leading, proverbial Lexus RX350. So, because the current SRX has been with us for about three years now, Cadillac had sent the SRX back to the drawing board for a little mid-cycle refresh to further focus its aim on the Lexus. Over the life of the SRX, Cadillac was sure to listen very closely to the feedback given from customers and automotive journalists alike. And when egmCarTech reviewed the SRX twice (here and here) not too long ago, we liked it a lot. But there were some widely expressed concerns with the still lackluster powertrain when compared to the competition and to address those concerns, Cadillac made sure to focus on those concerns by axing the original two V6 powerplants for just one option. So, how does it fare?

Review: 2012 Cadillac SRX


[quote float=”left”]…out of all of the SRX’s direct competitors, the SRX takes the trophy for the best aesthetics.[/quote] Visually, the Cadillac SRX pretty much remains untouched for 2012. So I won’t get too into detail, but because this is my first take on the Cadillac SRX, I have to say that out of all of the SRX’s direct competitors, the SRX takes the trophy for the best aesthetics. Clearly American, yet modern and loyal to Cadillac’s hugely successful design language of “Art and Science,” the same that coined the CTS’s and XLR’s drop dead sexy looks, the SRX is quite the looker.

Where as the segment-leading Lexus RX350 sacrificed its humdrum, yet subtly handsome looks for something more dramatic and equally mundane for the complete redesign in 2010, the Cadillac’s sharp, chiseled and edgy angles gives it much more presence and character that is wholly representative of the evolution of American auto design, something alone that is worth its own merit.

Review: 2012 Cadillac SRX


The modern good looks transcend the insides as well. Forget any premonitions that this SRX is cheaply built, because it’s nearly the complete opposite of Cadllacs from the last three decades. None of the bargain-basement plastics can be found in this latest SRX. Nearly every surface inside of the Cadillac is covered in soft touch material or high-quality feeling leather. There’s a good balance between the execution of real wood and faux metal trim, contributing to a very warming and upscale ambiance to the cabin. And Cadillac’s pursuit for the “Standard of the World” can be well exhibited, holding true to the brand’s reputation for luxury.

[quote float=”right”]There’s a good balance between the execution of real wood and faux metal trim, contributing to a very warming and upscale ambiance to the cabin.[/quote] There’s a great sense of attention to detail when compared to Cadillacs that I’m personally used to. Buttons were kept to a minimum and everything was legible, easy to operate and refined in their operations. And the infotainment system’s quick responses, ease of use and pleasant graphics were definitely praiseworthy much like its other versions found in other GM vehicles.

However I could point out a hint or two that the Cadillac is still built to a budget as the interior was lacking some refinement. For instance, the vertical distance between the gas and brake pedal is completely off. The brake pedal was so high in relative to the throttle that I often found myself getting my shoe caught under the brake pedal. That’s not only bothersome, but a major safety issue as well. The next instance isn’t as dramatic, but when we decided to test out the 10-speaker Bose surround sound system, there was quite a bit of rattling whenever the subwoofer emphasized any sort of low frequencies. It’s a minor foible, yes, but it was just a little nuisance. Lastly, the seats I thought were bit too small. Though they had decent support, they were a bit hard for a luxury car and felt like they were positioned too forward, giving off the feeling that my face should always be up close and personal with the windshield.

Review: 2012 Cadillac SRX


The biggest change for the 2012 SRX was the consolidation of the SRX’s powertrain. Before the update, buyers could choose from either a 3.0l direct-injected V6 that was good for 265hp and 223 lb-ft of torque, or a 2.8l turbocharged V6 that produced 300hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The turbocharged V6 was a tough sell because it was not the most refined engine. And the 3.0l was a bit gutless, especially since it had to lug about 4,277 lbs through its front wheels, 4,442 lbs if you had all-wheel drive.

So to make things easier, they dropped the two latter for a naturally-aspirated, direct-injected 3.6L V6 that churns out 308hp and 265 torques. Although the differences in the numbers aren’t significant, the 3.6l easily sets itself as far more superior to the previous two V6s and it all comes down to the power delivery. The 3.0l V6 needed a solid thrashing in order to take full advantage of its power band; where as the turbocharged 2.8l V6 was just all over the place with its nonlinear power delivery and noticeable turbo lag. The 3.6l V6 on the other hand is a far livelier and more refined engine. Torque peaks at a low 2400 RPM while horsepower peaks at 6800 RPM. The result is a very wide and effortlessly linear power band.

Channeling the power to the axle(s) is GM’s electronically controlled Hydra-Matic 6T70 six-speed automatic, the same cog swapper mated to the original 2.8l. That means the transmission comes standard with a manual control function and the same “Eco” mode that debuted with the 2.8l. Though the shifts were smooth, the gearbox had the tendency to be downshift-happy. Any throttle pedal input greater than the growth of your toenail forced the SRX to downshift two gears, as if you were flooring it on a German car with the kickdown switch. It was rather irritating and unnecessary, especially if you just wanted to casually accelerate. It gave me the sense that Cadillac wanted to keep the SRX interesting by making the transmission react in a sportier manner, but they tried a little too hard. Shifting the selector to the right engages the SRX’s standard sport program, which just holds the gears. Hit the “Eco” button and the SRX’s Hydra-Matic upshifts just slightly earlier to give the SRX a 17/24 city/highway EPA fuel rating. Either way, if you prod the throttle above 15%, down come two gears.

On paper, it seemed they went a little backwards because the new platform changed the drive wheels from rear and all-wheel to just front or all-wheel to again, set the SRX’s aim directly at the Lexus. Where as the rear-wheel drive SRX handled well enough to satisfy the enthusiastic driver, the new SRX goes for a more neutral approach.

Our tester was equipped with Cadillac’s adaptive suspension and the results were rather surprising. Body motions are well controlled with no waft. Crank the Cadillac’s three-spoke wheel and the SRX will glide from bend to bend with poised composure. But don’t think for a minute that this is a BMW X5, because it’s far from it. The brakes, although firm and responsive, were lacking in feel. The steering is also very praise worthy when compared to the Lexus. Much like a Mercedes, it is solid, accurate, well weighted, has good feedback, but also lacking in feel. In fact, the whole driving experience mimics that of a Mercedes. Push the SRX to the limits and understeer is the name of the game. But the threshold at which understeer became truly apparent was high enough to make the enthusiasts smirk and keep the average driver safe.

And despite the optional 20-inch rims, the Cadillac’s ride was absolutely superb in nearly every way and is by far the closest to anything from Germany. Smooth, serene and most of all, solid, are the best ways to describe the SRX’s ride. Nearly ever road imperfection I encountered was completely shrugged off; and keep in mind, these were on the severely battered roads of New York City and New Jersey.

Review: 2012 Cadillac SRX


Overall, Cadillac discovered that marketing their crossover to the enthusiast wasn’t going to yield the success that they sought. And while the SRX sacrifices its edgy-performance and commendable rear-wheel drive handling for something more serene and neutral, that’s not at all by any means a bad thing.

[quote float=”left”]…the (Lexus) RX just doesn’t hold a candle to the Cadillac’s gorgeous and thoroughly modern-American design.[/quote] Remember the quick history refresher, Cadillac’s core corporate philosophy has always been about luxury. And while you do get that with the Lexus, the RX just doesn’t hold a candle to the Cadillac’s gorgeous and thoroughly modern-American design. The SRX’s driving experience may not be enthralling, but it makes the RX350 feel like a complete mess. Not to mention, there are many other alternatives to look into if you’re considering a performance luxury crossover. But to answer the ultimate question of whether the Cadillac SRX smashes the RX350 against the wall or not, the answer would be no and that could be attributed to the Cadillac’s shortcomings in interior refinement and the downshift-happy transmission. Additionally, Lexus’s impeccable reliability, unmatched refinement and wide loyal customer base may keep the RX ahead in terms of sales.

But if I were asked, I’d gladly walk away with the SRX.

– By: Chris Chin

All Photos Copyright © Nikolina Kostrevski – egmCarTech

Chris Chin

Chris Chin is the Editor-In-Chief of egmCarTech and is a regular contributor to Automobile Magazine.

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