First Drive: 2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo

Even if You Can't Have It All Anymore, You Can Make Some Interesting Compromises

Todd Lassa
Aug 18, 2009
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo
Base Price $49,000 (est)
Vehicle layout Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door, SUV
Engines 2.8L/300-hp/295-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight 4300 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 110.5 in
Length x width x height 190.3 x 75.2 x 65.7 in
0-60 mph 7.6 sec (mfr)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 16/23 mpg (est)
CO2 emissions 1.05 lb/mile (est
On sale in U.S. October 2009

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Cadillac SRX

Fair Market Price
$35,826
Editors' Overall Rating
Basic Specifications
MSRP: $37,605
Mileage: 17 / 24
Engine: 3.6L V6
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