By on March 11, 2012

Large organizations are prone to overly simplistic thinking. It’s just too hard to communicate anything complicated or nuanced to all involved. One overly simple idea: reduce the size of the engine, and fuel economy will improve. Need a performance variant? Shrink the engine a little more and add a turbo. The actual result in the case of the Cadillac SRX: a base engine with too little torque and an optional engine for which GM charged $3,820—to provide performance similar to everyone else’s base engines. For 2012, the SRX receives a solution that was obvious from the start: the corporate 3.6-liter V6 replaces last year’s 3.0-liter. The turbocharged 2.8 is gone. And?

And the 3.6-liter V6, revised for 2012, performs adequately. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t have an upscale or sophisticated sound, but it isn’t hard on the ears, either. It’s not quick—the SRX with all-wheel-drive weighs 4,442 pounds, about 300 more than the CTS sedan powered by a 318-horsepower longitudinal variant of this engine—but it’s not slow, either. The all-wheel-drive system includes an active rear differential, but the engine, while dramatically torquier (265 pound-feet at 2,400 rpm, up from the 3.0′s 223 at 5,100), still isn’t torquey enough to take advantage of it. Fuel economy? The trip computer reported about 17 miles-per-gallon in suburban driving, about 21 on the highway. The EPA numbers: 16 / 23, just a bit worse than the “fuel-saving” 3.0′s 17 / 23 and better than the 2.8 turbo’s 15 / 22.

With the new 308-horsepower engine (up from 265 for the 3.0 and 295 for the 2.8T), the Cadillac edges even closer to the class norm. The Lexus RX 350 has a 275–horsepower 3.5-liter V6. The Lincoln MKX a 305-horspower 3.7. The Acura MDX a 300–horsepower 3.7. The others are all within 150 pounds of Cadillac (the Lexus a little lower, the Lincoln and Acura a little higher). All have six-speed automatic transmissions and all-wheel-drive systems that engage when the front wheels slip (the Acura’s system in a more proactive manner than the others). So straight line performance is similar.

Braking, not so much. The Cadillac might stop as well as the others (I didn’t measure this) but its brakes require an unusually large amount of force. At a BMW comparison drive I attended about a year ago, the organizers felt the need to warn all participants about the SRX’s brakes. On the other hand, if you like a very firm brake pedal, the Cadillac delivers.

Dimensionally all four luxury crossovers are again similar, and so all are similarly larger and bulkier than the relatively spry Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Volvo XC60. The Cadillac feels especially solid and has the most tightly damped suspension of the bunch, but still manages to feel larger and bulkier than it actually is thanks to numb steering and a distant windshield. If it’s any more fun to drive than the others this is strictly relative. Of course, Cadillac tried catering to driving enthusiasts with the original SRX, and it sold poorly. The current one, with its much more mainstream (i.e. Lexus RX-like) configuration, is selling far better.

In terms of interior dimensions, the Cadillac doesn’t quite measure up, with a somewhat tighter rear seat and cargo area than the others. The Acura is the champ here, with a wider cabin and a third-row seat (adults only in a pinch). But the Cadillac isn’t so far behind that these deficits are deal-killers. The front seat, which is a much higher priority for many buyers, feels fairly roomy. What it doesn’t feel: notably comfortable. The cushion is flat and firm, even hard. Among this year’s Cadillacs, only the upcoming XTS has the large, cosseting seats many people expect in a Cadillac.

My favorite feature in the Cadillac: a rear seat belt reminder that shows which of the three are in use and lights up a warning if any are undone while the car is still in motion. This feature is very useful if you have kids—no need to visually check whether they’ve buckled up. I expect to find it in more and more car models going forward. Perhaps even all of them, if car safety regulators get their way.

The tested SRX, the top trim with all-wheel-drive and optional dual-screen entertainment system, lists for $51,055. Compared to the Lincoln MKX, the Cadillac is priced within $500. Adjust for feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool bumps the Cadillac’s advantage to $2,000 at MSRP, $1,100 at invoice (Cadillac dealers must work with especially miserly margins). The Lexus is the one both Cadillac and Lincoln are gunning for. When the RX 350 and SRX are both similarly loaded up, the Lexus costs about $3,000 more—at MSRP. Compare invoices, and they’re only about $400 apart because Lexus dealers enjoy much more generous margins. Adjust for remaining feature differences and the Cadillac’s price advantage grows by about $1,200. The Acura is priced a little higher than the Lexus. So the Cadillac is actually the least expensive. With the $3,820 2.8 turbo, it lost this important advantage. So in this respect the new 3.6-liter engine is very successful.

The rear seat belt reminder doesn’t turn you on? Going over the specs and features, now that the weak base engine is history nothing else stands out, positively or negatively? Why, then, pick the Cadillac over the others? One word: styling. The Acura, Lexus, and Lincoln are nothing special to look at. The last still looks a bit much like…a Ford. The Cadillac, with its chunky styling and aggressive stance (with the must-have 20-inch wheels), looks nothing like the others and nothing like a Chevrolet, either. Instead, it appears crisp and upscale, especially in “gray flannel metallic,” vying with the second-generation CTS as the best realization of the marque’s polarizing art-and-science design language. You might not like it, but you won’t mistake it for something else. Judging from sales, plenty of people do like it.

Cadillac provided the car with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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50 Comments on “Review: 2012 Cadillac SRX 3.6...”


  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Probably the ugliest car money can buy. They borrow the designer from Ssangyong??

    • 0 avatar
      Rican5.0

      Boy you said it. I mean I can’t even, looks like some sort of bloated tuna.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        This is a stupid looking vehicle. There is no reason for it’s extremes, other than it’s competition is just as stupid looking and extreme.

        Honestly, look at it.
        What is it trying to do?
        Be usable? No.
        Be sporty? No.
        Be practical? No.
        It is just what it is because that is what it wants to be. So, you have a very dishonest design based purely on style in a shape that isn’t actually attractive on a vehicle that is not very practical, useful or sporty.

        Classy? If you think atomic wall clocks, Gucci Lincolns, bejeweled cell phones or Jawbones are classy, then you would probably think this is too. But to me, this thing is trying way too hard to impress the tasteless.

      • 0 avatar
        Contrarian

        Indeed an ugly ride. I have never gotten past Caddy’s angular Arts-n-science look or whatever it’s called. It was a show-stopper for me 10 years ago and now looks more dated than ever.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I will probably get slammed for saying this, but I disagree. Of all the crossover SUVs, I think this one is the best looking. $50k is crazy money, so it would never be on my list to actually buy, but I do like the look. My wife likes them too and shes usually pretty picky.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, polarizing.

    • 0 avatar
      amca

      I actually like its looks. I know, odd. I’m at the other pole. The way all those lines come together works for me, and I’m a sucker for the fact it has a tiny hint of a fin in the rear tail light.

      I’ve rented one. I found it a very comfortable cruiser, nice confident handling on the highway and around town. Liked it fine, but no great thrills.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      It doesn’t look like $50K to me, but I do like the looks. They not only resurrected tailfins, they did it tastefully (unlike, say, Buick’s tacked-on neo-ventiports.)

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      I like it. I see one all the time and it never jarred me, not even the first time I saw it, unlike some vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      vcastongua

      Gotta love these bozos trashing the SRX. If someone would only buy their 1972 Nova, they might appreciate the SRX more with $125 in their pockets. The trashers are usually the guys that cannot afford it!

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I love all the True Delta price comparo info, especially how you break it down with MSRP and invoice, which makes a big difference in the selling prices.

    It would really be interesting if there was some way to track the lease prices, especially for luxury or near-luxury cars. I suspect a large portion of these cars are leased, and the ones with subsidized leases likely attract a lot of buyers, especially when there really isnt much differentiation between the offerings.

  • avatar
    JREwing

    The 3.6 may not be a spectacular engine, but the 3.0 was a horrible choice in such a heavy vehicle. The 2.8 might’ve fared well if it was a modern design, but particularly in the Cadillac was showing its Opel heritage. Direct injection and proper tuning might’ve helped its cause considerably.

    Typical GM – pushing half-baked vehicles out the door, then fixing them after the fact.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I actually like the Arts & Sciences style – I will never say it is pretty, but at least it is distinctive.

    I don’t get the point of this class of car though, why would you buy one over a CTS Wagon, other than some irrational dislike of wagons? It won’t do anything better, and it will do most things worse.

    • 0 avatar

      Better rear seat than a CTS. More commanding driving position (though you do sit higher in the CTS than the typical car). A little cheaper (about even with the CTS sedan). That’s about it.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I know, the point of crossovers is murky at best. But its easy… my wife will never drive a wagon, even the CTS-V wagon that I love, she thinks is dorky. But she would drive one of these. Thats what sells crossovers, whether us “car guys” like it or not.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      My sister has an SRX with the 3.0. I have a CTS Wagon with the 3.0. She bought hers new in ’09, I bought mine as a CPO car with 12K last November. Now that she’s driven my car, she prefers it over the SRX. I get better fuel mileage, about 2-3 mpg on average.

      My car is much better in the snow (hers is FWD, mine is RWD with Blizzaks). For functionality, the SRX has more cargo space the the CTS wagon, but both are practical vehicles. The CTS is more fun to drive. It’s lighter on its feet and seems to have better steering and is more connected. Everything else is a toss-up.

      So, to answer your question, the real reason has to do with dealers and pricing and financing programs. The CTS wagon is a halo car and I get the feeling that that’s all it will ever be. Go to any Cadillac dealer and you’ll be lucky to find one, whereas SRXs outnumber CTS sedans. There are lease deals on the SRX and nothing of the sort for the wagon. Pricing is also higher for the wagon. Decently equipped ones sticker for $51-52K whereas you can get a similarly equipped SRX for about $3K less.

      We searched far and wide for our wagon. I would have preferred the 3.6, but being in such short supply, I was lucky to get everything else I wanted in our current car.

      • 0 avatar

        While I love the wagon, and have no doubt it is nicer to drive, I do take issue with the “better in snow comment.” Are you saying that a FWD car with blizzaks is worse than a RWD with blizzaks? Or are you comparing a car with no winter tires to a car with winter tires? If its the latter, its a useless comparison. Of course the car equipped with winter tires will be better than the car without…its a matter of grip. Otherwise, I suspect the SRX would be quite a bit better.

        In other words, while I appreciate your comparison, get back to us when you can report based on a fair assessment of the two in snow with similar tires.

        Still, my pick would be the CTS wagon as well (although the interior is significantly better on the SRX, to be fair).

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        Funny, I realized after I posted that what I wrote wasn’t clear. You’re right, the SRX had all-seasons. However, I still feel RWD is better because of 1) weight loading on hills and 2) no loss of steering when the drive wheels are spinning. I demonstrated this when my sister’s SRX got stuck on a hill which I was able to get up in my other sister’s RWD Jeep Cherokee fitted with all-seasons. I was crabbing which can’t be done with FWD.

  • avatar

    Biggest mistake was the lack of a third row seat- even if it was relatively tight for all but little kids. I like this car though and if I was in the market- i’d take it.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    A 2012 Tahoe LT get 15/21, not a whole lot different. It probably costs the same when one adds options to the SRX.

    The Tahoe is bigger, more practical, and probably has the same interior bits. Tahoe seems like a smarter purchase. GM’s best vehicles are Big trucks and SUVs, not little CUVs.

    Anyway, how does this stack up to an X3?

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      I agree. For the same money you could buy a Chevy Tahoe hybrid and have a larger, more powerful, more capable, and more efficient vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      PJ McCombs

      Except that luxury CUVs sell primarily on image – and I suspect the target market thinks a loaded Tahoe looks like something a successful roofer or plumber would drive.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        I honestly don’t understand why the automotive press (in this case, surprisingly, TTAC included) has been all over Cadillac’s balls in:re interior quality – particularly this vehicle and the current CTS. Sure, they’re better than the horrible last-gen vehicles, and they look and feel decent when new, but they don’t seem like they’re going to hold up well. And if my experiences in sub-30k rental examples are any indication (vehicles usually get wear about 2-2.5 times as quickly in rental service), they won’t hold up any better than GM interiors from the early-aughts dark ages. I just don’t get it.

        Still, though, the interior of the SRX is in a completely different solar system than that in the Tahoe/Yukon/Suburban. They simply are not comparable. This shares interior pieces with the Buick LaCrosse and Chevy Sonic and Cruze. The BOF GM SUVs/trucks are from the same era of interior design as the Impala.

        Speaking of, can anyone explain to me why this 3.6 is heralded as a huge deal in the SRX, and is an option in the LaCrosse, but standard in a $25k MSRP Impala that you can probably get for $18k once incentives are counted in? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a screaming deal of an engine in the Impala at the likely transaction price, but shouldn’t the engine lineup/applications make a little more sense?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I think this is a stunningly cool-looking wagon – just my style. Trouble is, this is ‘way beyond my means and I’m not pretentious enough to need something like this to be satisfied. Now, if it had a Chevy bowtie on it – I’m in!

  • avatar
    Spartan

    For $50k, I have two words for you Caddy, Buick Enclave. That is all.

    • 0 avatar

      Which is much much larger (con in my books), much older, much more floaty, less interesting to drive, less interesting to look at, has less brand cache, and an inferior interior. Other than that, sure.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The curb weight information seems to be off. The Lexus RX 350 AWD weighs a hundred pounds less than the SRX and the BMW X5 weighs from 500 to 900 lbs more, depending on trim and engine choice. The Acura MDX weighs all of 9 lbs more. I suppose it is nice that the Cadillac isn’t as heavy as it looks, or unfortunate that all the others are heavier than they look. Were I to buy a crossover, it wouldn’t announce its crummy packaging from across a parking lot. Whats the point of something so big that isn’t particularly roomy?

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      I believe it should’ve been X3, not X5. That struck me while reading the article. I don’t believe the X5 is comparable to any of the vehicles listed, except perhaps in overall interior room (and then, probably only with the RX and MDX).

      The Q5 and SRX are more competitors to the smaller class, i.e. X3, RDX (particularly the newly upsized model), Q5, etc. The X5 goes against the MDX in size (though not in price), Q7, and Touareg.

      EDIT: Then again, the SRX may suffer from the same in-between syndrome that the CTS does. The CTS is analogous to a 7/8 scale 5-Series at more of a 3-Series price. This seems even more common in luxury crossover/CUVs, where size matters less in pricing than feature content and brand.

    • 0 avatar

      Where’s I say anything about the BMW X5?

      There tend to be a few different curb weight numbers floating about. Looking at the manufacturer sites now, I do see that the RX is about 100 below the SRX, but that the MDX is about 150 above it.

      The essential point isn’t affected: they’re all pretty close in curb weight and horsepower (aside from the Lexus, which is about 10 percent lower).

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        “Dimensionally all four luxury crossovers are again similar, and so all are similarly larger and bulkier than the relatively spry Audi Q5, BMW X5, and Volvo XC60.”

        Only the interior accommodations of the group are larger than the X5′s. The BMW takes up more space on the road and weighs far more. Sorry about the Acura curb weight. When I searched for Acura MDX curb weight, the first number to appear was 4,451 lbs, but it must have been for a previous generation or a FWD one, if they exist.

  • avatar
    28-cars-later

    Do the wagons from from Europe or are they building them here in North America? If they are being sourced from Europe I could see the rarity a bit more than the Mexican Camcord-esque SRX.

  • avatar
    werewolf

    50k gets you an entry-level Porsche Cayenne…I’m just saying

    • 0 avatar
      Buckshot

      Porsche Cayenne is ugly too, but atleast it´s a Porsche.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Well technically its a VW with Porsche headlights… but true, my wife would much rather lease a Cayenne than an SRX. Althought I doubt they would lease out the same, regardless of price. GM subsidizes these much more.

      • 0 avatar
        Franz K

        @ mnm4ever

        Not quite . Cayenne came first , so in fact the Touareg is the cheap dumbed down version of the Cayenne with the Audi Q5 as its pretentious Luxury sister .

        So yeah , buy the Cayenne . Funky looking ? Maybe . Heck of a driver ? Damned tootin ! But good luck finding one for less than $55K

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Just be sure to leave your nuts at home. The footwell of the Cayenne and Touareg is so narrow that I always feel like a campaign cork crammed into a bottle when I have to drive one. They’re probably the least comfortable cars I’ve encountered for this reason. I guess they work for women though.

  • avatar
    spyked

    If anyone likes this car, I’d recommend checking out the SAAB 9-4X with 2.8T. Built along side each other at same factory in Mexico. SAAB (arguably) has the edge in looks, inside and out. And the price of the SAAB will surely be THOUSANDS less.

    • 0 avatar
      Franz K

      Ahem . Excuse me mate , but if’n you haven’t taken notice ;

      SAAB is DOA .

      Add to that the 9-4X is just a Chevy in SAAB drag with an excessive price tag , why’d anybody in their right minds even consider buying a car ( the SAAB ) with Zero warranty , dealer back up , service etc … not to mention Zero access to parts as of this moment

      • 0 avatar
        spyked

        SAAB may be dead. However, the SAAB 9-4X is not a SAAB. It’s built not even 6 inches away from the SRX (not in Sweden, but in Mexico). Same powertrains, same GM parts, same everything except GM/SAAB designed some exclusive bumpers and interior bits for the 9-4X. Completely serviceable by any GM tech. Access to parts can’t be an issue since the SRX doesn’t have any parts shortages (that I know of).

        It’s as close to a Chevy as the Caddy is. My recommendation stands: If you like the SRX but want a “deal” while getting better seats and smarter loosk, try out the SAAB.

      • 0 avatar

        You are right on the money spyked, and with everyone saying SAAB is DOA and parts are as well, the deals are even better. The 9-4x is equally as adventurous, but overall more attractive. And what with the parts sharing, and the SAAB parts company that has now started up to supply pre-existing SAABs, I can’t imagine they would be too hard to own. Plus, keep it in good shape, and you’ll have a rare collector in 40 years.

        Its also worth mentioning that the reviews plainly stated in every case that I read, that the 9-4x was better to drive than the SRX.

  • avatar
    Franz K

    Add to the above review , a plethora of excessive Blind Spots ( one GM designer called them ” unacceptable ” ) lousy traction in the snow ( with very intrusive AWD on/off ) ABS that for a car of this price is excessively harsh . Seats that came straight out of the Spanish Inquisition ( after three days of driving it ) A sluggish at best Tranny and over all build/fit & finish unbecoming of a car in this league . Toss in lousy MPG as well .

    A better option by a long shot ( and the one TTAC should of been comparing the SRX to in light of the SRX’s diminutive interior space ) is the GLK .

    Cadillac SRX ; Just Say No !

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Nobody’s mentioned the interior is thoroughly uncompetitive? The same color palette (including silver accents) is standard in the sub-$20k Hyundai Tucson. Now that I think about it, the same dash design too.

    I “get” crossovers. I also “get” Cadillacs, having owned a 1980 Eldorado and a 2002 STS. Have you ever been in the new Escalade? It’s breathtaking, with wood and unashamed luxury (with probably the same level of tech). The CTS interiors leave me seriously disappointed. They look & feel like alternate-universe Acuras. Too much emphasis on tech and gray. Not enough on the depth of the experience.

    I would love the Cadillac of crossovers, I really would. It sucks that I have to step back a generation in SRX to get one.

    • 0 avatar

      The CTS is well behind the curve at this point. The SRX is better, in my opinion. The Tucson has a nice interior given its pricing, but the materials aren’t on the same level as those in the Cadillac.

    • 0 avatar
      dundurrbay

      The interior obviously uses much higher quality materials then the Hyundai, but the appearance of the interior is strikingly similar. . although the exterior styling is polarizing, I actually like it, especially in the colour above.

  • avatar

    I would buy this one ONLY if it had the Volt powertrain. Then it would be the ideal car in the market right now.


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