Review – 2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo

After my first run in with the SRX I had strong opinions, both good and bad.  The new SRX is a valid contender in this automotive segment and pushes the envelope for Cadillac both in quality and as a class competitive product.  My largest gripe was that the base powertrain is weak and affected the driving experience.  A simple question: would the optional turbo V6 engine fix the driving experience?

The main highlight of the SRX Turbo is larger engine which is funny because the engine in not actually larger because it is a 2.8 liter while the base V6 is a 3.0 liter.  The extra power in the this V6 really comes from the turbo, putting out 300 hp and 295 ft-lb to all four wheels all with max torque coming at 2000 rpm.  The all wheel drive system is the torque vectoring unit from Haldex.  This is the same unit that made its debut in the now dead Saab TurboX a few years back and can transfer up to 90% of the torque to the rear wheels at any given time.  The torque can also be distributed between the wheels side to side.  All of this gets put to the ground through a six speed automatic transmission with manual shift capabilities.  So the question still remains:  does this extra power fix the SRX driving experience?

The answer is yes and no.  Yes, the driving experience is much better.  In fact, leaps and bounds better.  In normal and spirited driving the car does not feel strained like the base 3.0 liter V6.  Even pulling away from a stoplight, you notice the difference.  In normal driving the engine does not feel like it is working hard.  The revs are easily kept under 3ooo rpm’s unless pushed.  When pushed, the engine responds quickly with no noticeable lag.  The turbo is going almost constantly whenever you have your foot on the gas.  Something to note is that you cannot put the needle into the red on the turbo gauge.  Why would you have the red there when you cannot put the needle in that zone?  The first thing people said to me was to put it in the red and I had to respond sadly, “It does not go that high.”

The downside to this engine is the gas mileage.  Rated at 15/22, this engine could definitely be described as thirsty.  I cannot decide what is worse about the mileage;  the fact that it is just terrible for this vehicle class, or that it is coming from the engine putting out the power that this vehicle really needs.  That mileage is no joke either.  I averaged 15.3 mpg during the week and it is worth noting that the gas it is guzzling requires premium.  I did not really stretch the SRX Turbo’s legs so I cannot comment on the highway mileage though I can assume that it matched the EPA rating pretty close to dead on.  Again, that city mileage is really not good and is so bad that it starts to dip into body-on-frame SUV mileage.  For example, the much larger body-on-frame Chevrolet Tahoe is rated at 15 mpg in the city with a V8.  If SRX Turbo engine had direct injection it would post better fuel mileage numbers and would be more competitive.

As mentioned in my previous review of the SRX, the interior styling is very well done. The materials all look and feel great. It uses the center stack from the CTS (minus the tiny climate control screens on each side) and the door handles are uniquely shaped.  These little details help set it apart. That said, the back seat is somewhat short on leg room with a taller driver.  The cargo area has a terrific cargo management system with sliding tie down brackets and there is a decent sized storage cubby below the rear floor that can hold items away from public view.

The styling is terrific.  I am still undecided about the front air dam being so low and whether it makes it look better or worse.  The rear taillights hark back to the “tailfins” on older Cadillac’s and play nicely with the overall design.  The rear diffuser finishes off the rear while integrating the exhaust into the overall design.  The A-pillars in this vehicle are ridiculously huge and they make sight lines a problem in a few instances and the rear window is tiny and makes visibility awkward so the back up camera is definitely useful in a parking lot.  The twenty inch wheels fill out the wheel wells nicely and look great because they are painted aluminum wheels instead of chrome plated.  Another thing that still bugs me is the GM chiclet.  I mentioned this in my original review, and again, I assume the tooling was already set before the decision to ditch this “Mark of Excellence” was made.

The SRX Turbo I had was a premium model with almost all of the bells and whistles.  The rear seat entertainment system package with dual rear screens and wireless headsets with remote adds $1,295 to this package and  I like the way this system is set up with screens in the back of the seats and separate video inputs for each.  The second option was the crystal red tintcoat which will set you back $995.  All said, including destination fees, the total sticker price of this particular SRX Turbo came to $54,475.

I want to take a second to talk about the competition.  The SRX is really going head to head with the Lexus RX. It was developed and bench marked against that vehicle and the marketing pitches it that way.  As I mentioned earlier, the price on this SRX Turbo was close to $55,000 and that is a lot of coin while there are a lot of other great vehicles for that price.  The SRX Turbo starts under $50,000, for that price you can get a nicely equipped Acura MDX or an Ecoboost Lincoln MKT and, while the Ecoboost MKT is a much larger vehicle, it just goes to show the breadth of this segment and price range.

There must be something about the SRX because each time I have had the vehicle we have gotten whacked with lots of snow here in Minneapolis.  The SRX Turbo handled it like a champ plowing through the white stuff with the all wheel drive sending power to the wheels with traction.  It felt weird but sometimes I thought the electronic stability control was slow to kick in.  The front wheel drive SRX handled the snow with its low profile, all season tires better than expected, so this all wheel drive version had absolutely no issues.

As with the other SRX I reviewed, I do like this vehicle.  When you compare it with the direct competitor, the Lexus RX, you see the SRX is a more engaging and dynamic vehicle.  The optional turbo powertrain definitely fixes the anemic feeling but at the large expense of gas mileage and in reality, the bulk of the SRX’s sold will be equipped with the base 3.0 liter V6 and that engine will be fine for those who are more concerned with the gas mileage.  For those who really want to take the SRX to its full potential, you will have to take the hit on the gas mileage and option for the turbo V6.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

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