Design is how Cadillac most seriously takes on the Lexus. Whereas the RX 350 is soft-looking and amorphous, the 2010 SRX is sharp, hard-edged and wedgy, playing Cadillac "Art & Science" design language to the hilt, from the vertically rectangular headlamp covers that extend to a point atop the front fenders to the LED taillamps designed to evoke 1950s tailfins.

SRX's new profile is pleasing to the eye, and not just ours, judging from the reaction of fellow motorists. It's only the dead-on rear view that betrays the limitations of making a tall two-box vehicle look sexy.

Inside, the RX 350 is visually unmemorable, defined by unsurpassed sumptuousness, fit, and finish. The new better-than-iDrive mouse-controlled navigation/audio control keeps fingerprints off the screen, and a steering wheel button that turns on a camera under the passenger side-view mirror is a true surprise/delight feature.

The SRX interior, which borrows a lot from the CTS sedan, stands out for its looks. The stitched leather dash cover opens up to reveal brushed metal accents along the front part of the instrument panel cover, near the cowl. A slick instrument cluster control on the turn-signal stalk allows you to switch the center gauge between timer, average speed, fuel consumed, fuel economy, fuel range, trip odometer, speedometer, navigation, and a real-time readout that displays the speed limit on major roads -- including speed warnings for slower corners. It's a useful bit of what interior designers have come to call "theater." If you have the navigation system off, the CTS-monolith style nav screen pops up for the backup camera only as long as you're in reverse.

The center gauge also features two light pipes built into the binnacle that are turn-signal indicator repeaters, blinking green when you use the signal. It's a minor thing, a nice bit of post-modern flavor inside the crossover, and it might get more SRX drivers to use turn signals.

Here's the rub: The Lexus handily whips the Caddy's interior for quality, fit, and finish. The RX's soft, smooth leather would do an LS proud, while the SRX leather seems cost-controlled and maybe slightly cheaper than the CTS'. The SRX has power lumbar support for both driver and front passenger, but the SRX has a manual leg bolster for the driver and not the passenger. And when we pulled out that driver's bolster, the finish was sub-standard. Velcro for the inner leather (or, more likely, pleather) piece was undone, showing off some hard plastic pieces that were meant to be out of sight. The piece should have been sewed together at least.