Reader “Bunkie” aka Peter Hansen, sends us his impressions of the 2014 Cadillac SRX, versus his 2010 CTS Wagon.
There are times when it’s a good practice to review long-held beliefs. I’ve never owned an SUV or a CUV. I have owned two Rangers, back when I lived in Columbus and had the whole house/2 kids/2 cars/mortgage-in-a-new-subdivision sort of life. I loved my Rangers. The last one came in really handy when that life imploded and I needed to ferry my things to the storage unit that I referred to as the “museum of my former life”.
Since then, it’s been a life lived in Manhattan with a progression of 3 Taurii (wagons) and 2 Cadillac sedans Now, I drive a 2010 CTS Wagon purchased as a CPO car back in 2012. We keep our car in a garage, which is an unholy but necessary expense. Our usage pattern is to escape the city on Fridays, driving about 120 miles to a weekend house in Pennsylvania. This results in about 15-18K miles per year.
Two cars back, we got our second Cadillac (a CPO STS with the Northstar) from R.J. Burne in Scranton, and I returned to the dealer to purchase our CTS. When our CTS Wagon went in for service, R.J. Burne was kind enough to give me a loaner SRX, since they’re quite a distance away from New York City, and I was interested to see how a CUV would compare to my beloved station wagon. By the time I pick up my car (which should be as you read this), I will have put almost 200 miles on the SRX, over a mix of highways and very rough back roads.
I like a certain amount of functionality in a vehicle. I love sports cars, but we live in the real world with a single vehicle, so I must compromise. That’s exactly why I worked so hard to locate a CTS Wagon. The biggest letdown is the 3.0L V6, which feels inadequate compared to the torquey turbo 4 in my sister’s 328xi. I hadn’t yet tried the new 3.6L V6, but the SRX loaner afforded me that opportunity.
Like most CUVs in this class, The SRX’s shape and size is defined by its mission to provide a high level of comfort and space. To me, it looks short and squat with overly large wheels. I can’t say that I’m a fan of the new grill, as it appears too busy. I’ve always liked the vestigial tail fins that are part of the tail lights, largely because I’m a child of the 1960s and loved the befinned Caddies of my youth.
Maybe it’s my age, but my very first impression was how damned easy it is to get into the driver’s seat. I’m about 6’2” with long legs for my height. I usually swivel my butt over and drop into the seat then swing my legs into the car. In the SRX, I was able to just step in and sit down. Like Etta James, the SRX appears to be built for comfort, not for speed. The second impression is that the driving position is more upright. This SRX was a Luxury trim, which included a thigh support. I’ve seen this feature on other cars, but the seat height has been to low for it to make a difference. Here it worked wonderfully and, for the first time, the weight of my upper legs is actually supported by the seat, not my knees and hips.
Visibility isn’t quite as good as our CTS Wagon. The A-pillar is huge. This SRX has deeply tinted rear and passenger windows, but at least the side mirrors are large and have a blind-spot monitoring feature. The rearview camera is acceptable, with a curving path graphic when you turn the wheel.
This was my first experience with CUE, and I found the learning curve to be brutal. Nothing was intuitive and every action, from setting the climate control, to finding Deep Tracks on SiriusXM, took a long time. The sound system is from Bose and, frankly, the sound quality isn’t very good. As someone who builds speakers as a hobby – and onced worked for Bose – it’s disappointing to think of how many superior components are out there.
I have yet to find the way to reset the fuel mileage and trip computer, I suspect that I won’t get time to figure this out. Having said all that, we must accept that if we want this level of control and this rich feature set, there will always be a learning curve.
The driving experience far surpassed my expectations. Compared to the most recent CUV I’ve driven (an Ecoboost Escape), the SRX felt well-planted, free of the usual top-heavy sensation through curves. The steering does an excellent job of pointing the car despite lacking feedback. The primary characteristic when pushed hard into a corner is mild understeer. Body roll is well-controlled. The brakes are nice and linear, well-suited to the car’s weight. Ride quality is another surprise. Compared to my CTS, the SRX feels sharper yet the effect of this year’s crop of monster potholes barely unsettled the car. Road surfaces that have the CTS transmitting every small irregularity to the seat bottoms are no problem for the SRX. You feel them, but the amplitude and impulse are greatly reduced. Another side benefit is that the car is very quiet, more so than the CTS.
The difference between the 3.0L in the CTS and the 3.6L in the SRX is vast. In the 3.0L, there’s simply no torque below 4000 rpm – manual shifting and driving like a lunatic are needed to extract its full performance. The SRX is almost 1000 lbs. heavier than the CTS yet it feels much stronger. Put your foot in it, and it needs one less downshift to find the ponies. Shifts are smooth but leisurely. Manual mode is better, but compared to the 328, they are slow – not that any GM/Cadillac transmission I’ve experienced has performed with authority.
From a practicality perspective, the SRX has a shorter cargo area than the CTS wagon, by about 4-5 inches. Depth is better and hatch height is much better. The CTS manages barely 19 inches while the SRX is about 28 inches.
Feature-wise, I like the driver info center. This is an area where all cars have been getting better with more customization. My loaner SRX has the Intellibeam automatic headlight-dimming feature. We had this on our STS and, at times, it required manual intervention. The SRX is much improved. It dims when following other cars, and isn’t fooled by reflective signs. I miss the fog lights and adaptive lighting from my CTS, however.
Now we come to re-examining part. I’ve stated publicly that I don’t like CUVs all that much. But as my needs are changing, I have become more impressed with the segment – provided that they are executed properly. Since I can’t have a pickup, I own a cheap trailer and can tow it behind my CTS. While my car is only rated for 1000 lbs, the SRX can tow 3500 lbs. I probably won’t even exceed the CTS’ rating, but it’s nice to know the extra capacity is there.
As someone who needs one vehicle to do it all, the SRX really won me over. I like the idea of the higher ground clearance and AWD (even with proper snow tires, the CTS does require more care in winter weather). The better seating position and larger cargo capacity are welcome. The 3.6L is a gem, and makes the 3.0L mill in my car look stone age. I may need to re-consider my biases against CUVs. At the very least, the SRX is a way for Cadillac to keep us CTS Wagon owners (all 4 of us) in the fold.