Cadillac's Crossover

Cadillac's SRX delivers (finally) on a luxury interior but still lacks the sex appeal of the Escalade

Editor's Rating:

The Good: Panoramic sunroof, third row of seats, cash rebates

The Bad: So-so fuel efficiency, unattractive exterior

The Bottom Line: A luxury station wagon on steroids

Up Front

Cadillac may be the best thing General Motors (GM) has going for it. Even as the parent company struggles financially, the Cadillac division continues to compete head-on with formidable rivals such as BMW and Toyota's (TM) Lexus by focusing on quality, features and value (what a revolutionary idea!). It also believes in Japanese-style continuous improvement of its products—a concept essential to today's subject, the '07 Cadillac SRX.

The SRX is a crossover vehicle, which means it's in a hot market. Based on the same platform as the CTS, Cadillac's entry-level sedan, it's a light-duty SUV that looks a little like a station wagon on steroids, combining the roominess, off-road capability and cargo space of an SUV with the handling and speediness of a car.

Earlier versions of the SRX, which first hit the market in the 2004 model year, won plaudits from the auto press but got hammered for having a too-chintzy interior. Rather than ignore the criticism and cut the price to boost sales, Cadillac actually fixed the SRX for the '07 model year—noticeably improving the interior. It should have happened sooner, but better late than never.

The result is that the '07 SRX is a cool vehicle in a hot segment with very few faults. The average SRX spends a mere 13 days on a dealer's lot before selling, according to the Power Information Network. Of the competing models in the same price range, only the Acura MDX turns over faster (10 days). The Volvo XC90 sells in an average of 18 days, and the Lexus RX 350 in 25.

If you're tempted by the SRX, it's a great time to buy because GM is offering $2,145 cash rebates on the model through New Year's Day. Cash rebates and low interest rate financing have given Cadillac a big boost lately. The division's overall sales rose 20.3%, to 17,250, in November, though they were off 3.7%, to 204,299 units, for the first 11 months of 2006.

Cadillac's hottest model right now is its behemoth Escalade (see, 11/2/06, "Cadillac's Crown Jewel"), but the SRX is doing well, too. SRX sales were up 9.5% in November, to 1,492 (though for the first 11 months of the year, sales were down 4.9%, to 19,907).

Cadillac also does well in quality ratings, especially when it comes to service. The 2006 SRX only rated 3.5 stars in J.D. Power's 2006 Initial Quality study. But Cadillac ranked No. 3 (behind Lexus and Buick) among all auto makers in terms of customer satisfaction with its dealers' service and No. 2 (behind Jaguar) in terms of customer satisfaction with the overall sales experience. (Like, J.D. Power and the Power Information Network are units of The McGraw-Hill Companies.)

The SRX is fairly spacious but without the wretched excess of a really big SUV like the Escalade. At 195 in. long and 4,300 lbs., the SRX is 28 in. shorter and three-quarters-of-a-ton lighter than the Escalade. It only comes in two trim levels, mainly differentiated by engine size. Your choice is between a 3.6-liter, 255-horsepower V6, which starts at $37,855, or a 4.6-liter, 320-horsepower V8 version that starts at $44,060.

The V6 version is fairly nicely outfitted, with power outside mirrors, windows, and locks; an auto-dimming rearview mirror; leather seats; 17-in. alloy wheels; OnStar telematics; rear parking assist; a Bose audio system with a CD player; and XM Satellite Radio. The V8 comes with additional standard gear that costs extra on the V6 model, including heated front seats, a six-CD changer, a power passenger seat, wood interior accents, tire pressure monitoring, and 18-in. alloy wheels.

Fuel efficiency is only so-so: With the V6 engine, the two-wheel drive version of the SRX with a V6 engine is rated to get 16 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway, according to the EPA. With the V8—in both two-wheel and four-wheel drive—the rating falls to 15 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. In 273 miles of mainly highway driving in my test car with a V8 engine, I got 16.2 mpg.

What I don't get about the SRX is why it's a hot seller mainly with the geriatric set. The average SRX purchaser is 58, according to Power, as opposed to 52 for the Lexus, 45 for the Acura, and 44 for the Volvo. Only 4.2% of SRX buyers are under 35, while 60.7% are over 56. That's an indication that Cadillac is still having image problems with younger buyers, which is odd given the success of the Escalade.

Of course, it's a matter of personal taste, but my guess is that the rap on the SRX with younger buyers is that its exterior styling is, well, ugly. It's just too boxy and station-wagon-like for my taste.

Behind the Wheel

The SRX's interior, on the other hand, is genuinely sumptuous. My test car had soft black leather throughout, and wood accents that actually resembled wood in places. There's even an old-fashioned analog clock in the center of the dash, which is an elegant touch.

There's plenty of leg- and head-room in both the front and rear seats. The front seats have the comfortable feel of club chairs. The bench-style second-row seats are less plush, but offer excellent back support. The rear seats also can be moved back and forth in a 60/40 pattern, so they can be adjusted to the height of the passenger if you have, say, and adult riding in back with kids.

The SRX drives a lot like a station wagon would if you tightened up the steering and suspension a bit and plopped a big, powerful engine under the hood. Equipped with the V8 engine, it's very fast. I got 0-to-60 times of 6.7 to 7.0 seconds. When you punch the gas at highway speed, there's plenty of passing power, and the engine takes on the nasty snarl of an enraged dog. The six-speed automatic transmission has a manual option mode for drivers who like to do the shifting themselves.

One feature that really sets the SRX apart is its huge, panoramic power sunroof, a $2,250 option ($1,800 with the V8). You can open up the entire roof space over both the front- and second-row seats. With the sunroof wide open, the SRX almost has the feel of a convertible. With the glass shut, the cabin has an airy feel and the sunroof adds an inch or two to the already ample head space. There's also an interior covering that slides shut automatically. You would hardly know the sunroof is there when it's shut.

All-wheel drive is optional and costs an extra $1,900. Although this is a luxurious light-duty vehicle, you really can take it off-road if you want to. In fact, there's a long section of advice on off-roading in the owner's manual. The optional navigation system even has an off-roading function that tracks where you are and allows you to memorize your position in areas where there are no roads.

The SRX has excellent car-pooling capabilities, too. You can add a third row of seats as part of a $1,500 utility package that also includes rear-seat air conditioning and a towing package. That's a big plus not offered on such rival models as the Lexus RX 350 and Infiniti FX. My test car didn't have third-row-seats, so I couldn't try them out. But according to the owner's manual they fold down flat when not in use. There's a power switch behind the second row seat on the passenger's side inside the rear gate to put them up and put them down. However, third-row seats are mainly for children, given how tight head- and leg-room typically is in them.

Another plus is all the safety gear on the SRX. It comes standard with antilock brakes, traction control, and front, side and head protection airbags. It also has good-to-excellent crash test scores. I couldn't find a rollover test score for it, but its lower profile and standard stability control should make it less prone to rollover than a big SUV.

If you don't get the third row of seats, yet another handy feature, part of the utility package, is a system of storage compartments hidden under the rear deck. There's even one designed to be opened by someone leaning over the back of the second row seats. It's an ideal hideaway for kids' games and toys.

Buy It Or Bag It?

First off, paying more than $6,000 extra to get the V8 seems excessive, so I would probably go with the V6. But you'll need a calculator to figure out the real cost difference between the two because the V8 version of the SRX has more standard equipment and (as mentioned above) some options cost less on the V8 version. For instance, the premium luxury package costs $7,150 with the V6 and includes extra power equipment, as well as Bose surround-sound, a navigation system, extra wood trim, and a bunch of other stuff.

The same package only costs $4,050 with the V8 because it doesn't have to include extra stuff that's standard with the V8, like a power passenger seat. So the actual costs of the V8 depends on which options you want.

Expensive as the option is, I would at least consider getting the magnetic ride control ($1,650), which includes active suspension and an automatic leveling system that should really smooth out the ride. Getting the extra wood trim on the steering wheel and shift knob adds a touch of class for just $150.

The SRX is reasonably priced right now, taking into account the rebates GM is offering. The average buyer pays $41,374 for an SRX, according to the Power Information Network, which isn't bad considering that a Lexus RX 350 goes for $40,231, a Volvo XC90 for $42,572, and an Acura MDX for $45,637. The SRX is also a lot cheaper right now than high-end competitors such as the BMW X5, which is selling for an average of $57,003, and the Audi Q7, which averages $54,169 (see, 12/8/06, "Audi's Q Factor").

In the end, it's a question of what sort of vehicle you want—and whether you believe Cadillac really has gotten quality up to snuff. The SRX is a more car-like vehicle than most of its competition. It handles well, and has unique features (that big sunroof, for one) that add to its appeal. I don't much like the way it looks on the outside, but if that doesn't bother you, the SRX offers a lot of value for its price right now.

Click here to see more of the 2007 Cadillac SRX.

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