Car-based crossovers (CUV's) are America’s SUV escape pod of choice. Domesticated SUV’s from Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Ford and more have found favor, as have their upmarket homonyms. Although GM was late to the crossover party, the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook are (at least for the moment) highly competitive products. At the top end, Cadillac stands pat with its three-year-old SRX. For '07, Caddy’s attempted to re-invigorate their CUV with a new interior.
Yes, well, first impressions last. Here’s the long and tall of it: the SRX looks more like a station wagon than an SUV, albeit a very BIG station wagon. From the front, the SRX wears a surprisingly demure version of Caddy’s spizzarkle prow. From any other angle, the vehicle’s “Art and Science” creases work at cross-purposes to a distinctly disjointed multi-level assortment of window shapes. There are some strange details: fly-eyed headlights, boomerang taillight and the like. Overall, the genre-straddling SRX has a lot of generic GM about it. At best, it’s more distinctive than attractive.
And so to the interior.
The SRX’ center console benefits from a much needed makeover. The old console’s central feature— a large, featureless letter box (CD and DVD slot)— has disappeared. The display screen assumes its rightful place mid-dash, with an undersized analog clock above and two oversized rotary controls climate control buttons below. A chrome strip surrounds the pod and the new, intersecting gauges. A wood strip (complete with hidden dash cubby) bisects the cabin.
In general, the ’07 SRX’ fit, finish and softer, [partially] hand crafted materials are a cut above the previous model’s. In specific, details bedevil. The thin plastic door pockets still flex when you insert road supplies. The trim surrounding the vent rings reflects straight into the oversized side mirrors. The seat belt attaches to the seat instead of the B-pillar, eliminating adjustment and inviting decapitation for shorter drivers.
The SRX’ touch screen navigation system is a disaster. The screen graphics are crude. The voice prompts are unclear and imprecise, suggesting turns on roads that merely curved (once putting us on the Blue Ridge Parkway with no exit to our destination). In contrast, the [optional] Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround DVD-based digital audio system is a glorious device. Played through the SRX’ 10 speakers, Pink Floyd never sounded so hallucinogenic.
The SRX’ intrusive transmission tunnel renders the second row quad (not quint) compatible. Despite the Caddy’s considerable length, the SRX’ third row is best suited to pre-pubescent children who like to hide in cupboards. On the positive side, the process of getting into the way back is so tortuous they’ll probably fall asleep from exhaustion once they arrive. After detaching the headrests, the motorized third row chairs tumble and stow in a sloth-like 35 seconds. If you’re still awake, you’ve got enough space for several large boxes of lifestyle brochures.
Our $38k SRX holstered Caddy’s 260hp 3.6-liter V6 with a five-speed autobox (the ‘07 V8 gets six cogs). The double overhead cammed, multi-valved powerplant is smooth and responsive in waft mode, and throaty and powerful when stomped upon. Although the SRX motors to 60 mph from rest in a respectable 7.2 seconds, highway passing occurs at roughly the same pace as the folding rear seats. Plan ahead, leave early.
On long sweepers, Caddy’s crossover is a confident companion, absorbing undulations and responding to minor steering inputs with grace and something not unlike élan. But as soon as you up the pace and/or tighten the bends, the SRX’ light steering, soft rear suspension, high center of gravity and long wheelbase exact a poise penalty. The modestly shod, grip challenged SRX takes to small mountain roads like a country music fan to Judas Priest’s Painkiller. Although, it's a serene cruiser, the Caddy's dynamics aren't a patch on Infiniti FX-series.
Off road, c’mon, get real. The SRX is about as rugged as your average string quartet. Towing? You can schlep anything you like as long as it’s under 2000 pounds. The SRX six’ fuel economy clocks in at 15/22mpg. That may be about par for the course for its competitors, but it’s still a pretty frightening stat for a company desperately seeking sales in a world of escalating gas prices.
It’s hard to say why the SRX has failed to capture the imagination of American SUV refugees. Cabin quality (or lack thereof) was certainly a problem— which the automaker’s now rectified. The lack of a sustained and coherent marketing campaign also kept Caddy's CUV off the import buyer’s radar. And the vehicle’s bland looks did it no favors.
Ultimately, it’s the latter that torpedoed the SRX. Caddies need charisma. The SRX rides, handles and cossets beautifully; it walks the walk, but it doesn’t talk the talk. In fact, the SRX proves that automotive beauty must be skin deep.