You won't wonder why you didn't buy, say, a Cadillac CTS Sports Wagon; rather, you'll figure you got yourself a utility crossover that superbly balances ride, handling, refinement and performance. Around a circuit like the Lutzring, setting the gearshift in sport mode and letting it upshift and downshift for you is the way to go. Sport mode also stiffens the suspension and tightens the steering ratio oh so slightly. The transmission always seems to find the right gear in which to downshift - second or third - at the right time, making your exit out of the turn as smooth as you could be. A muffled, high-pitched turbo whine accompanies full- or near-full-throttle acceleration and adds to the feeling you're driving a well-oiled machine.
As with our SRX 3.0 vs. RX 350 comparison, the turbo SRX has moderately low body roll in fast corners, and corners neutrally and predictably, with precise, light steering with better feedback than you'd expect from any Cadillac except the CTS.
We broke up our laps in the turbo version with a couple of refresher laps in the 3.0. On the track, that powertrain felt clunky by comparison, especially in the way it tried to find the right downshift through tight corners. However, for the vast majority of luxury crossover buyers, the 3.0 is plenty of engine.
On a country road, the turbo SRX displayed plenty of oomph, and the Aisin six-speed automatic's strengths sparkled, although again, no one will mistake this for a muscle crossover. We did not elicit any tire chirps. The turbo even comes with an ECO mode that lowers shift points - we didn't get past 1500 rpm with moderate throttle. Cadillac may add the ECO mode to the 3.0-liter by next year.
So why didn't Cadillac go the traditional route and stuff the king of its high-feature V-6s under the hood, the CTS' gas direct-injection 3.6? Simple. The '10 Cadillac SRX is being assembled in Mexico, in the same factory as its platform mate, the upcoming '11 Saab 9-4x. The Australian-built 2.8 is perfect for Saab's turbo heritage, and maintaining plans to build the 9-4x is part of GM's deal to sell Saab to Koenigsegg.
No doubt, Cadillac's first-ever production turbo (not counting Euro-market turbodiesels) marks a departure for the brand that you could take one of at least two ways. You could see it as a cynically expedient way to pay off a project that includes a soon-to-be-sold-off brand. Or you could see it as Cadillac's willingness, as well as desperation, to try new things, to plow fertile automotive ground and keep up with the top luxury brands. The reality may lean closer to the more cynical explanation, but that doesn't diminish the fact that the '10 SRX turbo is a tasty, distinctive entry into a new segment that still has a promising future.