Full Test: 2004 Cadillac SRX

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Oct 9, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    The Corvette of Crossovers

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    By Karl Brauer
    Date posted: 10-07-2003

    As with the term "minivan," "station wagon" still carries enough cultural baggage that most automakers avoid it. The Europeans have always used terms like "touring" or "estate" while American car companies are now trying out names like "sports tourer" or "crossover." Read through the Cadillac SRX's press material and you'll find it referred to as a "driver's utility" and a "luxury utility," which suggests that even the recently popularized "crossover" term has now outlived its marketing magic.

    To clear things up, we're going to tell you what the SRX is — it's a station wagon. Admittedly (by modern standards) it is a big station wagon. And it does come in all-wheel-drive flavors with over 8 inches of ground clearance, but like Chrysler's Pacifica and Volvo's XC90, and even Infiniti's sleek FX35/45, this is simply a Cadillac station wagon — marketing hype and image spinmeisters be damned.

    Now that we've gotten that bit of confusion cleared up, we are happy to report that in terms of driving dynamics, interior comfort and overall execution the SRX is a very good station wagon. No, it doesn't have quite the steering feedback of an X5, the sheer sportiness of an FX45 or the pure refinement of the RX 330. But like the Corvette, this vehicle succeeds by being nearly the best in almost every area rather than by being the best in only one or two areas.

    One of the areas where it is "nearly the best" is inside the engine compartment, where on V8 models Cadillac installed the same redesigned 4.6-liter Northstar V8 that it offers in the XLR roadster. This engine is the velvet hammer every luxury maker strives for. Its 320 peak horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque imbue the SRX with the same urgency and refinement we've come to expect from BMW. Low-end torque stands constantly at the ready, yet this engine can effortlessly hang out in the 5,000 rpm range all day — a real bonus when utilizing the SRX's manual-shifting mode to keep the five-speed automatic in a lower gear. Cadillac's all new 3.6-liter V6 comes standard in the SRX and produces 260 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque. Both engines feature variable valve timing and utilize electronic throttle control, but don't expect economy car fuel mileage. Our week with the Northstar powered SRX netted just over 13 mpg in mixed driving conditions.

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    Our test model was equipped with the V8 engine along with the optional (and fuel-sucking) all-wheel-drive system that splits power 50/50 front to rear and maintains it unless traction loss is detected at one of the wheels. This system works in conjunction with Cadillac's StabiliTrak stability control system to combat skids when road surfaces are slick or when a driver gets too enthusiastic about testing the SRX's limits, which are surprisingly high.

    Driving dynamics are the hallmark of BMW's X5, though recent entries from Infiniti, and Porsche are now meeting, or beating, the BMW for sheer driver thrill. The SRX eclipses all of these vehicles when the road gets twisty.
    The all-aluminum suspension consists of an independent short/long arm design in front and multiple links in back. Our test vehicle was further outfitted with Cadillac's Magnetic Ride Control, a real-time damping system that actively adjusts shock-absorber stiffness based on road conditions. The result is a 4,400-pound SUV, er…station wagon, that handles like a sports sedan.

    If there's a downside to this level of twisty-road proficiency in a two-ton vehicle, it's that the SRX driver can get lulled into a sense of overconfidence.
    Not that we'd have any personal knowledge, of course, but some drivers might soon forget they're driving a midsize crossover with 8 inches of ground clearance, and simply embrace the idea that the SRX can be flung about like a BMW 3 Series. For the record, it can't; but it will get astonishingly close to that level of flickability, and even come back from situations the driver has no business ever getting the SRX into.

    Adding to the SRX's handling capability is 50/50 weight distribution (front to rear) and a four-wheel ABS system that is both capable and user-friendly. It produces minimal noise/vibration when pushed into ABS mode and features large brake rotors that are nearly 13 inches in diameter for both the front and rear brakes. It also features Cadillac's Panic Brake Assist system that will apply full braking power when an emergency situation is detected. If you're thinking this sounds like a version of Mercedes' similarly named Brake Assist system, you're right. All of this hardware rides on GM's new Sigma platform, the same one used for Cadillac's CTS sedan. It might be a stretch — literally — to simply think of the SRX as a CTS wagon because the SRX is longer, wider, taller and, of course, heavier than a CTS. But the smaller sedan's DNA is undeniably present in the SRX's driving demeanor. And to be clear, this is not a complaint.

    Steering feel and feedback, not typically a strong suit on GM products, are among the best we've experienced. It is tight and accurate, with absolutely no on-center "dead spot". Weighting is progressive, meaning it gets higher as the wheel turns further off center.

    When it comes to interior ambience, GM is making a concerted effort to address its longstanding tradition of producing interiors with as much charisma as a K-Mart tuxedo. We've seen the fruits of the General's labors but with rare exception (Cadillac XLR) they still aren't ripe enough to pick. Bright spots within the SRX include the rich wood trim on the steering wheel and center stack, as well as the creamy leather upholstery, and tight overall build quality. Stark interior colors (everything inside our test model was either black or gray) added to the SRX's Euro flavor.

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    But when we started tapping on parts of the overhead console, center console, grab handles and lower dash, we found ourselves once again experiencing "That Great GM Feeling." No vehicle selling for over $50,000 in today's competitive car market can get away with this type of plastic and rubber in exposed areas. Highly textured inserts within the steering wheel hub, door panels and dash were likely meant to add to the SRX's high-tech styling theme, but there's nothing high tech about sharp rubber. Beyond the subpar quality of some of the interior parts, we felt the SRX lacked some basic features for a vehicle at this price point. Our test model had no power lumbar control and no power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and only the front windows were one-touch up and down.

    When it came time to interact with the interior, either to perform basic functions like climate control or more advanced activities like programming the DVD-based navigation system, we were happily surprised at the SRX's general ergonomics. Heating/air conditioning controls were clearly marked and logically placed. Basic audio controls, along with voice command buttons, were placed within fingertip reach on the steering wheel. We like having the seat heater buttons among the other climate controls rather than hidden on the side of the seat or in some obscure panel. GM has a habit of cramming turn signal, cruise, foglight and headlight controls onto a single steering column stalk, but this was a minor annoyance compared to performing basic audio controls like manual radio tuning or tonal adjustments. As is all too common on modern luxury cars, the audio controls in the SRX are bundled with the navigation system, meaning a touchscreen must be utilized for just about any effort beyond adjusting the volume. The interface is straightforward, but it doesn't reduce your irritation when you want to manually tune a station, and it requires three or four steps to do it. At least the Bose system in our test car sounded incredible.

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    We can also give kudos to Cadillac for its ability to create a serene and comfortable cabin. It was easy to set up the driving position for either relaxed highway cruising or aggressive performance driving. Features like power-adjustable pedals, shoulder belts that are integrated into the seat back and articulating front headrests helped out here, as did a spacious cabin that supplies plenty of head-, leg- and hiproom.

    Rear-seat accommodations are similarly plush with a high seat bottom for excellent thigh support, a fold-down center armrest with cupholders and exceptional legroom (best in class, actually). A fan speed control knob in the back of the center console allows rear passengers some power over the auxiliary heating/cooling vents, and in SRXs equipped with the UltraView sunroof both front and rear passengers can experience open-air driving.

    SRX buyers with genuine utility needs will be happy to know that either a power-folding third-row seat or an effective cargo organizer can be placed in the cargo area. Our test model featured the cargo organizer with under-floor storage compartments. With 32.4 cubic feet of storage behind the second-row seat, and 70 cubic feet when both second and third rows are folded down, the SRX lands about midpack in terms of storage space for this segment.

    Luckily for Cadillac this car is not a midpack player when taken as a whole. Its drivetrain and handling dynamics are sublime, its interior comfort and spaciousness are class-leading and its exterior design lends it a distinctiveness few modern vehicles can offer. If the interior materials were better sorted it would be hard to fault the SRX, but as it stands the vehicle is still one of the most compelling in its segment.

    Hmm, you could replace "SRX" with "Corvette" in that last sentence and it would still work. This whole "breakthrough" thing just might have some legs.

    -----

    Road Test Editor John DiPietro says:
    After driving (and enjoying) the SRX, I felt so patriotic I wanted to install a U.S. flag on the front fender (like the presidential limo) and drive around some more, shouting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" Why the huge swell of red, white and blue pride? Because the SRX is so darn good I'd put it against anything out there in the midsize luxury SUV game.

    The Northstar V8 has power everywhere and the automatic is brilliant at choosing gears and seamless when changing up or down. The adroit handling and quick, precise steering are more sport sedan than SUV, no accident as the SRX is based on its athletic CTS sibling. I even like the styling
    ; Cadillac's new design direction (that being wide-set, stacked headlights along with angular and creased sheet metal) is toned down a bit and thus works much better on the SRX than on the too-busy CTS. The comfortable cabin features great seats, a well-finished cargo area with several usable under-floor compartments and storage bins in the front doors that glide open at the touch of a button. And even though the dash and console are essentially the same as those in the CTS, the wood grain trim makes it look more upscale.

    In short, the SRX is powerful, handles great and is comfortable. It also has a kickin' stereo. In those important areas it gives absolutely nothing away to anything from Europe that's in its price range. Yes, there are a few details that could use attention. The parking brake release handle is too small and one can feel the flashing from the molding process on that handle. At this price point, power lumbar adjustment should be standard, not optional. And lastly, the clock shouldn't be hidden at the top of the nav screen; it should be separate and more prominently displayed.

    Apart from those minor nits, this is a great first-year effort from Cadillac, and hopefully a harbinger of things to come.

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    Road Test Editor Brian Moody says:
    The SRX comes off more like a CTS station wagon than any kind of crossover SUV. This isn't meant to be a criticism, but merely an observation or a reaffirming of what I had suspected about this car all along. Anyway, I like wagons.

    In general, the interior is befitting a Cadillac, but I would have liked just a tiny bit more plushness. The seats are comfortable and there is enough expandable cargo space to hauling duties. The really great thing about this car is the smooth V8; there's plenty of power and it's readily available although, at times, the engine seemed to make too much noise. It was especially noticeable at lower speeds and sounded like a bad bearing or noisy power steering pump. It's hardly what I would call intrusive, but definitely noticeable.

    While the SRX has to stretch our perceptions a bit to fit into the Cadillac lineup, it still delivers a distinctly Cadillac feel. If I was in the market for a luxury/crossover SUV, I would sure give the SRX serious consideration — the Lexus RX 330 and BMW X5 might be better in a few areas, but I sure do hate driving down the street and seeing 10 other cars just like mine. Besides, with the Porsche Cayenne, VW Touareg, Volvo XC90 and now the Cadillac SRX, the X5 is so five minutes ago.

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    Ups: Superb drivetrain, class-leading driving dynamics, high comfort and refinement levels, exterior styling that works in spite of itself.

    Downs: Some questionable interior materials, missing key features for this price range.

    The Bottom Line: Cadillac wants to compete with the premium German brands in terms of driving dynamics, overall refinement, cutting-edge style and high-quality, uncompromised interiors; the SRX easily scores three out of four.

    Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $48,895

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  2. You posted this shit yesterday :confused:
     
  3. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I wasn't happy with how it looked, so I reformatted it and reposted it.
     
  4. RDB

    RDB Blinded By Subpar Modulators

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    :eek3:

    finally a cadilac with a cadilac engine THATS UNPOSSIBLE!:eek3:
     
  5. GTO2050

    GTO2050 OT's Ol Man™

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    So, then......... :repost: would be appropriate? :big grin:
     
  6. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    :doh:
     
  7. Supertrapped

    Supertrapped President of 2:73

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  8. Ah, I still the interior is nice...

    BUt like I said yesterday, I'd rather pimp a Denali...
     
  9. Bernout

    Bernout OT Supporter

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    today's "station" wagons > yesterdays station wagons

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    :ugh2:
     
  10. Bernout

    Bernout OT Supporter

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    Why? What do you want that for?
     
  11. lsondubz

    lsondubz Guest

    cheap interior
     
  12. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    More like some cheap details.

     
  13. lsondubz

    lsondubz Guest

    same... interior... every... vehicle..
     
  14. Short Bus

    Short Bus Beep beep!

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    The Denali is a big-ass tank. This thing looks like a big-sports car, er uh... sort of.

    I like it, kudos to Cadillac. I think both them and Pontiac are really making a come-back. Now if Chevy would get their heads out of their asses and follow suit.
     
  15. For the price, it's the best looking truck on the road...
     
  16. Short Bus

    Short Bus Beep beep!

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    What do you drive?
     
  17. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Get a black one, take the luggage rack off the top, lower it with 20s, and load up some Led Zepplin.

    I'd drive it. :o
     
  18. jazzmine

    jazzmine Let the rivers fill, let the hills rejoice

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    The new F150 is just an Eldorado!
     
  19. lsondubz

    lsondubz Guest

    lincoln ls...
     
  20. Short Bus

    Short Bus Beep beep!

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    Nice car... but the interior isn't any better than the one in this Caddy.
     
  21. lsondubz

    lsondubz Guest

    oh well, i meant cheap as in they use the same style in every vehicle cheap

    and i think the '03 LS interior is much nicer than that of the caddy, as well as the navigator/aviator interior puts the escalade interior to shame, all my opinion of course
     
  22. Bernout

    Bernout OT Supporter

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    :uh:
     
  23. Bernout

    Bernout OT Supporter

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    :werd: Except in mine it would probably be TOOL. :big grin:
     
  24. WS6Formula350

    WS6Formula350 molestache amririte?

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    Mmm... That looks like a sweet ass wagon :eek3: Go Cadillac :cool:
     
  25. Short Bus

    Short Bus Beep beep!

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    Most manufacturers stick to a certain "style" in terms of interior design. :dunno:

    I can't fault Cadillac for it. If it works, it works. I don't think it's all that bad, but I haven't sat in one yet.
     

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