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2011 Cadillac SRX 2.8 Turbo

Just a Flash in the Pan

      Since our weeklong foray with the Cadillac SRX 2.8 Turbo, GM has decided that Cadillac dealers no longer require the services of this “premium” offering of their midsize crossover and have decided to cancel the 2.8 Turbo engine offering after one year. Without tipping my hand too far here, I have to say we are inclined to call this a smart move. But let’s delve into the details a bit before we bury the hatchet on Cadillac’s troubled turbo crossover.
      Deep inside the guts of all the editors here on the AT Ranch a little bit of us died the moment we laid eyes upon this second-generation SRX. It was a complete departure from the truly superior offering that was the first generation SRX. That crossover was built atop a platform purpose engineered from the ground up to exhibit dynamic handling and exceptional ride characteristics. It underpinned the original CTS and STS, as well as the 7-passenger first-gen SRX, accepting engines (arranged longitudinally) ranging from a 2.8L V6 to the firebreathing 556-hp 6.2L supercharged small block LSA found under the hoods of the current trio of CTS-V’s. Us media types praised it, but for some strange reason that tall-wagon SRX never caught on.
      There may be many factors to blame here, but for the purpose of this story we’ll focus on Lexus. While Cadillac shot for the moon, Lexus cleaned up on the crossover market with the RX. That vehicle is a nimble, 5-seat, high-riding runabout that featured the amenities step up luxury buyers expected at a price that undercut the Cadillac by nearly $10K. Lexus found that buyers wanted the nice appointments, a higher vantage point, a comfortable ride, some utility (not in the form of a minivan or wagon, mind you) and little else. And this is where we meet our crossroads. While auto scribes such as yours truly demand a dynamic chassis as well as all those other things I mentioned, the buying public at large was satisfied with a good stereo and a moonroof. Editor Gernand summed up it up best by saying: “we’re [Cadillac] gonna go with something that’s based on a lesser vehicle, and we’re going to appoint it the best we can.” The result is the vehicle pictured at the top of this post; a Cadillac chasing after sales instead of our hearts.
      Thus this SRX rides on a platform called Theta-Epsilon, or Theta Premium if you prefer. It is a front-wheel drive based Saturn Vue / Chevrolet Equinox platform that combines with elements of the upcoming Epsilon II (Cadillac XTS) platform and the larger Lambda (Chevrolet Traverse) platform. With this platform switch the SRX moves its manufacturing home from Lansing, Michigan to Ramos Arizpe, Mexico.
      Design-wise this SRX remains a stunning piece. The Art & Science design language still speaks loud and clear. The style lines are crisp and coordinate well with each other. The greenhouse is dramatic with its blacked out pillars and chrome trim and the beltline finishes in subtle Cadillac signature brakelight tailfins. The SRX wears the now familiar Cadillac V-motif grille, but unlike the rest of the lineup the front fascia is a bit chunky and makes for a heavy and downright frumpy looking vehicle. However, the headlights and taillights are beautifully jeweled with light piping, LEDs and even the Cadillac wreath molded into the brightwork.
      Beneath the sharply creased hood is the aforementioned 2.8L Turbocharged V6. It’s mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and in our particular model all-wheel drive. On paper the turbo V6 is good for 300-hp from 5,500 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque from 2,000 rpm. But on the road it’s like the fire department that brings a bucket and a garden hose to a five alarm fire. Your geraniums get watered but the kitchen is still ablaze. And that is just what you get here. You put your foot to the floor and just as that surge of power starts to kick in from the turbo, it’s all over and it returned poor gas mileage to boot, 19.5 mpg in our case.
      Inside, the CTS styling theme has been translated for crossover duty. The gauges are artfully contained within three separate pods, the center of which contains the speedometer and a small digital display for relaying various bits of vehicle information, as well as a telltale for who is belted or unbelted in the rear seat. Real Sapele wood trim adorns the steering wheel, doors, center stack and shift knob. Overhead the expansive UltraView sunroof provides an open air feeling, without any worry of leaves or stray twigs landing in your hair. Our particular model came equipped with seat mounted DVD players for the second row and a cargo management system which looks more like a gate sort of thing riding in a semi-oval track. We’re not sure how useful that is.
      No, the real problem for this SRX is not so much its own shortcomings, but rather the virtues of its competitors. The Lexus RX is a tried steed in this class and offers a true fuel sipping hybrid model capable of 30-city / 28-hwy mpg in the form of the RX450h. The Lincoln dealer across the street offers the refreshed for 2011 Lincoln MKX which rides atop a dynamically superior chassis and packs a modern 3.7L V6 engine that churns out 305-hp on regular unleaded, sans turbocharger. And then there is the ride, which is compliant and comfortable, but never dynamic or engaging, an area the Lincoln is capable in and even more so when we start talking about the competitors from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.
      But despite our concerns the sales numbers speak multitudes. Over 50,000 copies of this second-gen SRX were sold in 2010, more than double the average yearly take rate of generation one. Although of that number the 2.8 Turbo model accounts for less than 10% of the sales, hence the discontinuation for 2012. Rumor has it that the turbo will be replaced with the 300+ horsepower 3.6L V6. That won’t fix the handling deficiencies, but it would make up for the lackluster off the line performance.
      Our model rang the register at $56,550. Honestly, we find that to be a hard pill to swallow considering that the loaded FE3 performance package equipped CTS Sport Wagon we drove last spring stickered for $51,215. But if a softer seat is your cup of tea, the SRX is your vehicle of choice.

The Good:
Beautifully designed details: jeweled headlamps, taillamps, CTS-inspired interior.
The Bad:
Lethargic engine, less than stellar fuel economy, frumpy styling, can get expensive. 
The Verdict:
A luxury minded crossover seeking sales and finding them, at the cost of performance. 

 Photos by Jason Muxlow

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  1. Jim
    February 15th, 2011 at 13:11 | #1

    Love the exterior styling. I’m sure the first gen was a better driver as you said, but the latter SRX looks worlds better.

    I can’t help but wonder if GM were to do this all over again, if this vehicle would be a Buick instead. Everything about this vehicle shouts “almost luxury” which seems to be Buick’s forte. That being said, it’s hard to argue with the sales success and without it, Cadillac’s numbers and lineup would be quite discouraging.

    The unconfirmed 3.6 and 3.0TT will give the SRX powertrains befitting a Cadillac, but won’t do anything for the FWD, or ride characteristics still leaving it “almost luxury”.

  1. February 17th, 2011 at 05:50 | #1
  2. April 4th, 2011 at 17:17 | #2
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