The luxury crossover might end up becoming a symbol of the 'you-can-have-it-all' era recently brought to a stunning conclusion by the collapse of Lehman Brothers. They're vehicles that let you tower over most passenger cars on the road while giving you near-carlike ride and handling. They get fuel mileage that won't embarrass you, but won't give you anything to brag about, either. And their performance is good enough, at least, to rival many quotidian cars.
Cadillac is just now jumping into this rich pool filled with the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Volvo XC60 and of course, the latest edition of bland perfection, the Lexus RX. The volume launch version of the second-generation, first front-drive/Haldex all-wheel-drive SRX comes with a 3.0-liter, gas direct-injection V-6. That new model was good enough to smite the sonorous Lexus in our recent comparison, falling short of the RX's sumptuous refinement while trumping it in the fun-to-drive categories. Save for power.
The 3.0-liter is simply adequate. While the SRX can run rings around the RX in the corners, it has trouble keeping up in the straights. Plus, the Cadillac's EPA fuel mileage falls short of the Lexus' by one mpg city and highway, and more in real life when you give the SRX the stick in order to fully enjoy its better attributes.
Good thing, then, that Cadillac has an optional engine upgrade on the way, one that replaces the 3.0-liter's direct injection with old-fashioned port injection, shaves off 0.2 liters and adds an 11-psi max turbocharger. The 2.8-liter turbo V-6, available in the SRX about two months after its debut, is worth putting off your lux crossover purchase. Who knows? Maybe that'll be enough time for some improvement in the economy...while pricing isn't final, the turbo engine comes only with all-wheel-drive SRXes with the performance package and virtually every option included, for just under $50,000, nearly $4,000 more than a comparable 3.0-liter SRX and some $13,000 higher than a base 3.0 with front-wheel-drive. The only options left to choose will be 20-inch wheels (19s are standard), remote locking, cooled as well as heated seats and a rear entertainment system. Plus, the turbo is premium-only, while the 3.0 needs only regular.
The numbers you get in return are 300 horsepower, 35 more than the base engine, and 295 pound-feet of torque, a full 72 better than the 3.0, and coming in about 2000 rpm and remaining flat up to about six grand. Cadillac estimates a 0-60 mph time in the 7.6-second range, a full second quicker than the 3.0-liter SRX we tested recently, yet close to a second slower than the 3.5-liter RX 350. While EPA numbers aren't final, Cadillac expects a 16/23-mpg rated average, one mpg lower than the 3.0-liter's in the city and equal on the highway.
The transmission is key to making the turbo 2.8 SRX feel faster than it is. It's an Aisin unit, replacing the 3.0's GM-designed six-speed automatic. A brief first drive of the turbo SRX was limited to roads near and inside GM's Milford Proving Grounds, including some moderately hot laps around the "Lutzring" handling circuit. While the turbo SRX was no rip-snorting muscle crossover, it has a smoothness and fluidity to its power that belies its size and weight. It doesn't want to burn rubber, but it does want to dance around tight handling courses, without laying it on thick like the stiff, over-tired BMW X3/X5/X6 crossovers.