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2012 Cadillac SRX ReviewThe Good
The Cadillac SRX midsize luxury crossover vehicle receives a much-needed performance boost for 2012, in the form of a new 3.6-liter, 308-hp V6 engine, and Bluetooth becomes a standard feature across all SRX trims, while all but the Base also get a heated steering wheel as a standard feature.The Bad
Fuel economy numbers for the 2012 SRX's new V6 engine continue to fall short of the best in the class, and the SRX's 6-speed automatic transmission seems outdated when compared to the 7- and 8-speed transmissions in competitive vehicles.
The CarGurus View
Sales of the SRX have increased steadily since the launch of its second generation in 2010, and the addition of a new V6 with a much-needed increase in horsepower and torque may be the missing piece of the puzzle that launches Cadillac's luxury crossover vehicle to the top of its class. Some owners have reported minor issues with the vehicle, but overall the SRX provides a winning combination of exterior styling, interior comfort, smart functionality and solid performance.
At a Glance
Tipping the scales at a relatively hefty 4,277 pounds, the Cadillac SRX naturally needs a capable engine under its stylish hood to move it along at an acceptable pace. When equipped with its 2 previous engines, which included a 265-hp V6 and a turbocharged 300-hp V6, the SRX lacked aggressive performance, especially when accelerating or passing, according to many owners and reviewers. Enter a new LFX 3.6-liter V6, which becomes the SRX's sole powerplant for 2012. Borrowed from the Cadillac CTS, the new V6 received a few modifications, including changes to its manifolds and connecting rods, which reduced the engine's weight and helped improve performance. The engine generates 308 hp, making for a more spirited ride. Most agree that the new engine takes the SRX's performance to the next level, resulting in a vehicle that's now clicking on all cylinders.
The 5-passenger SRX, available at Base, Luxury, Performance and Premium trim levels, also receives a few new additional features for 2012. Bluetooth becomes a standard feature on all trims, and all except the Base get a new heated steering wheel made from Sapele wood as a standard feature. Cadillac also offers a new all-ebony interior color option and a new Xenon Blue Metallic exterior color for 2012.
Introduced in 2004 and currently in the midst of its second generation, the Cadillac SRX shares a platform with such vehicles as a Chevy Equinox and the GMC Terrain. While the previous generation sat on a rear-wheel-drive platform, the current generation comes standard with front-wheel drive (FWD). Owners can add optional all-wheel drive (AWD) on all trims except the Base. Thanks to the additional horsepower provided by the new V6, many critics now consider the SRX one of the best vehicles in its class, due to its competent handling, luxury-oriented interior and stylish exterior design.
Outside, the SRX displays a sculpted appearance, highlighted by chiseled sidelines and a distinctive front end featuring the shield-like Cadillac grille and vertical headlights. The Base and Luxury trims receive projector-beam halogen headlights, while the Performance and Premium trims upgrade to HID headlights with an Adaptive Forward Lighting System. Daytime running lights and heated side mirrors come standard, while all but the Base trim also receive windshield wipers with automatic Rainsense detection and power folding side mirrors with driver's-side auto-dimming. The two upper-end trims also add front foglights. Black roof rails are standard on the Base, while the other trims get chrome roof rails. In the rear, LED taillights come standard, while all but the Base trim get a power liftgate with memory height.
Although sales of the SRX were slow during its first generation, the automaker points out that since the debut of the SRX's second generation in 2010, the luxury crossover vehicle has become increasingly popular with buyers, and sales volume has risen in recent years, matching just about anything else in its class. Competitors include such vehicles as the Lexus RX, the Infiniti EX, the Audi Q5, the BMW X3 and the Acura RDX. All are priced about the same as the SRX, although the SRX's new V6 engine tops the field in terms of horsepower. However, fuel economy numbers for the SRX remain among the lowest in the class, at around 17 mpg city/24 highway, while the Audi Q5 manages up to 27 mpg. In addition, the Q5 and X3 offer 8-speed transmissions, and the Infiniti EX comes equipped with a 7-speed transmission, making the SRX's 6-speed transmission seem a little outdated for the class. Like the SRX, most competitive vehicles offer AWD, either as a standard feature or as an option.
The new 3.6-liter V6 remains the SRX's biggest news for 2012, since it gives the luxury crossover vehicle a much-needed boost in performance. The new engine, which features direct injection and variable valve timing, delivers 308 hp at 6,800 rpm. In addition, torque increases to 265 lb-ft, up from 223 for the previous year's base engine, and it's available over a wider torque band starting at 2,400 rpm, rather than the previous year's 5,100 rpm, resulting in more aggressive acceleration.
The new V6 mates to a 6-speed HydraMatic automatic transmission and includes a driver-selectable Eco mode, which adjusts shift points to eke out 1 extra mile per gallon. However, the SRX's fuel economy numbers remain among the lowest in its class, checking in at 17/24 for FWD trims and 16/23 for AWD trims. The FlexFuel-capable engine runs on regular gas or E85 fuel. However, when using E85, fuel economy numbers suffer slightly, dropping to 12/18 mpg for FWD trims and 12/17 for AWD trims.
On the plus side, Cadillac notes that the new engine provides improved performance while posting fuel economy numbers similar to the previous year's powerplants. The SRX now accelerates at a quicker pace and moves easily and quietly along at highway speeds, with minimal engine strain even when pushed. Some testers say the vehicle actually feels light on its feet, thanks to the new engine. However, some reviewers say the SRX's 6-speed automatic transmission is somewhat outdated compared to the 7- and 8-speed transmissions found in most competitive vehicles and note harsh upshifts and a lack of refinement from the transmission at times.
The optional AWD system features advanced torque vectoring and adds an electronic limited-slip differential, allowing the AWD system to move torque not only between the front and rear wheels, but also from side-to-side along the rear axle to ensure optimal handling and stability. When properly equipped, the SRX can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Ride & Handling
The SRX continues to ride on a car-based platform, which results in good road manners and agile handling in tight curves. However, testers do notice a difference between the FWD and AWD platforms, noting that while the AWD system delivers better road grip and stability, it can sometimes result in a harsh ride. The FWD system provides a smoother, more comfortable ride, according to reviewers. In addition, some have noted a lack of refinement from the brakes, which tend to grab at times.
The SRX rides on a 4-wheel independent suspension with short/long-arm coil-over struts in the front and a modified multi-link rear configuration with coil-over monotube dampers. Cadillac also adds anti-sway bars in both the front and rear. Owners can also opt for a sport-tuned suspension with real-time damping, offered on the Performance and Premium trims with AWD. The continuously variable real-time damping system makes adjustments to the damping forces every 2 milliseconds, depending on road conditions. Power rack-and-pinion steering comes standard, but trims equipped with the sport-tuned suspension get an upgraded variable-effort ZF Servotronic 2 speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering system. Both suspension systems do a good job of preventing body lean in corners, reviewers say.
Cadillac offers the SRX with a number of standard and optional wheels. The Base and Luxury both get 18-inch, 7-spoke wheels, although with different finishes, including a painted finish for the Base and a bright machined finish for the Luxury. The Performance and Premium both get 20-inch, 7-spoke wheels with bright machined finish and painted accents. Owners can also opt for available 20-inch wheels with a new chrome tech finish for 2012.
Cabin & Comfort
The SRX's cabin remains spacious, comfortable and well-equipped for 2012, with a high level of fit and finish, top-quality materials, plenty of soft-touch surfaces and a strong list of standard features at the Base level. The geometric dashboard and center stack design provide visual appeal while placing gauges and controls within easy sight and reach of driver. Seats are comfortable and supportive, with 8-way power adjustment for the driver and plenty of legroom and headroom in both rows of seats. However, taller passengers in the second row might find headroom lacking due to the sloping roofline. Similarly, the driver's seat offers a high seating position, providing good visibility out the front, but testers say the large B- and C-pillars, as well as the sloping roof and a high beltline, can sometimes hamper visibility out the sides and back.
The Base trim comes with leatherette upholstery, while the other 3 trims upgrade to leather upholstery with heated front seats, an 8-way power-adjustable passenger seat and manually adjustable thigh support for the driver. The top-level Premium trim also adds ventilated front seats and heated outboard seats in the second row. The second-row seatback splits and folds, and includes a rear pass-though. With the rear seatback up, the SRX offers an impressive 29.8 cubic feet of storage space. That expands to 61.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.
Other standard features for the Base trim include remote keyless entry with push-button start, a leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, dual-zone climate control and an 8-speaker Bose audio system with a CD player, Bluetooth, SiriusXM satellite radio, a USB port and an auxiliary input jack. Power windows and door locks, a driver information with a full-color display and OnStar with one year of the Directions & Connections plans are among the Base's other standard features.
In addition to leather upholstery and a power passenger seat, the Luxury trim adds ambient lighting, memory settings for the driver's seat, power-adjustable pedals with memory, a rear-view backup camera with an LCD screen in the rear-view mirror and a heated steering wheel with Sapele wood. The Luxury also gets ultrasonic front and rear park assist, an Ultraview power tilt/slide sunroof, Sapele wood interior trim and a well-reviewed cargo management system with a cargo shade and cargo fence.
Stepping up a notch, the Performance trim receives several additional tech features, including a navigation system with an 8-inch glide-up touchscreen and a panoramic rear-view camera, and an upgraded 10-speaker Bose 5.1 Surround Sound audio system with a 10GB hard drive for music storage. The top-of-the-line Premium also includes tri-zone automatic climate control and rear-seat audio controls with headphone jacks, in addition to the other features mentioned. Options include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a Pet Guard cargo system for all trims except the Base.
The IIHS named the 2012 Cadillac SRX a Top Safety Pick and awarded it a top rating of Good for protecting passengers in all types of crashes, including frontal, side, rear and rollover crashes. The NHTSA similarly gave the SRX an overall top safety rating of 5 out of 5 stars, since it achieved 5 stars for protecting passengers during front and side crashes. However, the SRX received only 4 stars for protecting passengers during rollovers.
The 2012 SRX comes with 6 standard airbags, including side-curtain airbags for both rows of seating, and such expected safety features as the StabiliTrak electronic stability control system, traction control and 4-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist. In addition, the SRX's OnStar system includes such safety features as automatic crash response, crisis assist, roadside assistance, stolen vehicle assistance and remote door unlock.
What Owners Think
The 2012 Cadillac SRX gets mixed reviews from owners. For many owners, the new V6 was the missing piece that, when added for 2012, makes the SRX a truly class-leading vehicle, with a head-turning exterior design, luxury-oriented interior and good driving dynamics. In addition, many owners like the SRX's fit and finish, quiet cabin, smart ergonomics and even the throaty growl of its new engine. Many owners say they've test-driven competitive vehicles and opted for the SRX for such reasons as reliability and overall value.
However, a number of owners have reported negative issues with the vehicle. In addition to comments about the transmission and brakes, some owners say the interior fit and finish isn't up to Cadillac's standards, giving rise to squeaks and chirping noises, and a few owners are unhappy with the optional navigation system and rear-view camera. Others say the bolstering on the front seats make them uncomfortable for long trips, and some owners complain about blind spots out the rear. For the most part, however, owners are generally pleased with the SRX.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.
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