By Terry Box, McClatchy/Tribune news
December 10, 2011
Don't stand so close to the Caddy, kid.
You might slice a finger on the fenders of my starkly geometric 2012 SRX, a crossover as raw-boned and edgy as a skinny Seattle trash-rock band.
Of course, that's just Cadillac these days: tall and vertical with aggressive, almost angry lines shooting down the sides and pushing up surfaces in the hood — penned, maybe, by some mildly disturbed geometry teacher.
A couple of years ago, when Cadillac conveyed its linear look on the redesigned SRX, I thought it quickly became the freshest, most strikingly attractive vehicle in the near-luxury crossover segment.
But like a middle-age disco king, the new SRX had great lines and no real moves. Burdened with weak engines, the SRX seemed happiest sitting still, just looking pumped-up and potent.
Now you can delete that image. The SRX finally got some real cowboy under its big hat.
For 2012, Caddy dumped both of the SRX's previous engines — the peaky and somewhat puny 3-liter V-6 and the laggardly Saab-based 2.8-liter turbo.
In their place, Cadillac slipped in the same basic 3.6-liter V-6 available in the CTS sedan, a torquey, sporty road-ripper that produces more power than its predecessors — 308 horses — and about the same gas mileage.
Though hardly a screamer, the SRX is at least respectable now, capable of sprinting to 60 mph in 7 seconds or less, according to Car and Driver.
The new engine also sounds and feels much better than the previous motors, which typically sweated and struggled just to keep up.
The metallic silver SRX I had recently was an all-wheel-drive, Premium Collection model weighing in at about 4,500 porky pounds.
Nonetheless, if you get into the throttle of the newly installed, direct-injected 3.6, the SRX responds with a muted growl and a refined leap to its lofty 6,800 rpm red line.
Mid-range torque is especially strong, giving the SRX lots of traffic-passing snap for its — gasp — $51,055 pop. (In base front-wheel-drive form, the SRX is theoretically available for $36,060.)
The muscular V-6 is tied to a six-speed automatic transmission that clicked off crisp, positive shifts most of the time. Occasionally, however, it acted confused or slurred a downshift — and we hadn't even stopped at a party.
But even in the rare instances when the SRX failed to rock, it seldom rolled. The trucklet handled well for a crossover carrying 500 pounds too much weight, leaning some in hard corners but remaining mostly composed.
With all-wheel drive, of course, the ride was firm and a bit fidgety over some scrabbly road surfaces, but it wasn't distracting or uncomfortable.
The steering in the SRX was light and slightly overassisted at low speeds but tightened nicely and gained more road feel as the speed increased — a reflection of GM's growing acumen with electric power steering.
As you can see, Cadillac wisely chose to leave the SRX's relatively new body alone. With its short wheelbase, minimal overhangs front and rear and tall ride height, the SRX could have come off looking like some lumpy newspaper nerd in Hush Puppies.
Instead, the SRX sports sharply creased fenders, and unusual, vertical-shaped headlamps frame a bold, blingy grille.
Meanwhile, a great, slashing character line on the side starts prominently, fading as it moves toward monster vertical taillamps that recall some of the great old-school Caddies from the past.
A radically sloping top and thick rear-roof pillar help keep a lid on all of the linear energy, and meaty 255/40 tires on 20-inch alloy wheels add some attitude. It works, I think.
The interior, while a bit busy to my old-guy eyes, complements the exterior pretty nicely.
A tightly grained flat-black dashboard neatly surrounds a tall center stack trimmed in silver, aluminum-looking plastic.
As the dash drops down to the glove compartment, it gets white stitching on its edges.
Black leather seats with smooth, somewhat flat bolsters and perforated centers add to the look of modern luxury. Leg- and headroom in back were pretty good for those of us under 6 feet and reasonable for all of you non-midgets.
But those practicalities may not matter much in the high-profile, high-zoot, near-luxury crossover segment. What's probably more important is that the SRX gives seriously new meaning to cutting-edge style.
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