Test Drive: 2015 Cadillac SRX

The Cadillac SRX is the luxury domestic brand’s less-known foray into the wonderful world of SUVs. Eclipsed in every way by its far larger sibling, the Escalade, the SRX is almost the forgotten son of Cadillac. That meant that when Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony and I spent a week tag-teaming the SRX there was plenty of room for surprises – both good and bad.

For example, we both re-discovered the hidden Cadillac bin behind control panel just below the 8.0-inch touchscreen. Jonathan put his sunglasses in there. I found them a few days later. I still haven’t told him.

Jonathan put his sunglasses in there. I found them a few days later. I still haven’t told him.

Other discoveries were more subtle. The interior is not just a GM interior with slightly better materials; it’s its own Cadillac-specific layout with surprising material quality.

“For some inexplicable reason, I carried in my mind the notion that the Cadillac SRX interior was a mere centre stack and leather seats removed from its Chevrolet Equinox cousin,” Jonathan remembers.

“I should know better. First of all, the Equinox rides on a highly modified version of GM's Theta architecture, essentially exclusive to Cadillac. But most importantly, the level of quality throughout the interior impressed. The leather is supple and the seats comfortable, the wood genuine and the polish of the infotainment layout appealing, if not entirely free of ergonomic and usability quirks.

“But even beyond the main focal points of activity, I was impressed that Cadillac's fit and finish is still not only acceptable but inviting. Where the leather and soft-touch plastics end, even the hard plastics have a subtle matte finish that makes them look refined, and they feel decent, without burred edges or loose fitment. It’s details like this that earn the luxury cachet.”

The aluminum trim was fake yet convincing enough that it took serious inspection for me to reach that conclusion, the wood grain was impossible to distinguish – especially as it is behind about an inch of lacquer. The seats, as Jonathan said, were great, but why the memory buttons are sequestered down to the left of the driver’s seat where they’re all but inaccessible while actually sitting in the seat I’ll never know. Quibble quibble.

Our initial walkaround highlighted generous rear seat legroom and a flat floor. That means the middle seat is actually usable, though the centre console does intrude into legroom for that space. Still, the SRX has less legroom than the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Lexus RX. It has less passenger volume than the two Germans but more than the Lexus. It pips the Q5 by just 4 mm in front legroom but is dead last in rear legroom by 12 mm. This is another classic case of domestic vehicle external girth going missing between the door skins. At 4,834 mm long it is 20 mm longer than the next longest, the M-Class and at 1,910 mm wide is wider than all but the M-Class, which is 16 mm wider. So on balance it’s the bigger of the quartet, but has the smallest interior room. For my 5’6” frame I could still sit beside myself with ease however, so the differences are academic.

A feather in the cap to Cadillac comes when you measure curb weights. At 1,940 kg the SRX is 30 kg lighter than the next lightest, the RX 350 – not bad for a four-year old platform.

Continuing our walkaround to the back uncovered more surprises, all of them good.

“Even the trunk is finished in quality carpet, with the lid for the underfloor storage braced by a locking hinged brace that will keep it open for you while you load,” Jonathan gushed.

“In the cargo area itself is a track and gate system that allows you to secure your cargo should it not fill the full space of the respectable 844 L trunk.”

The U-Rail cargo system is innovative, and would be cool on its own without the underfloor storage brace. I’ve seen bonnets with less intricate and lower quality support struts than this thing. It even has multiple rigid-mount hooks and one mounted retracting elastic strap to keep all your stuff in place. For some reason looking at it reminded me of my old housemate’s basement….

Anyway, kudos to Cadillac for understanding that innovative interior design helps add value to a luxury car. Perhaps they went a little far with CUE though…

CUE is an automotive journalist’s favourite whipping boy and that’s not altogether fair. I really love the customizable display embedded in the instrument cluster, though I prefer it in the fully fledged all-digital versions in higher-up Cadillac models. I also don’t mind the volume slider these days. But I rue the absence of a tuning method that doesn’t skip through presets. If you could program the steering wheel to skip stations instead of presets, I would have no complaints about CUE other than its occasional slowness. As it is, the system is still more of a distraction than a help. At least it looks good.

The SRX is powered by a 308-hp 3.6L V6 also making 265 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic. SRX FWD is the lowest trim and FWD is standard on the Luxury Collection as well, but our tester was fitted with AWD for an additional $2,625 over the non-AWD trim.

The Performance and Premium trims are the top two trims and both get power-assisted, hydraulic, rack-and-pinion, variable-effort, speed-sensitive steering. This trim doesn’t get the variable-effort speed-sensitive bit. But it does get cruise control, blind-spot alert, power-adjustable pedals (which I didn’t realize until after writing the review and wish I had. My legs are to your legs as T-Rex’s arms are to your arms) and interior lighting. There’s also a rear-vision camera, power liftgate, generous sunroof, heated steering wheel, and eight-speaker Bose audio system.

The $545 Driver Awareness package added forward-collision alert – a very sensitive and scary device – lane departure warning, auto high beam and a safety-alert seat.

The seat is great for lane-departure and blind-spot monitoring, vibrating on the appropriate side, but it doesn’t really work for feeling out a parking space in the garage. The camera does the job well enough so the seat is just a distraction. Most cameras do the job, come to think of it – why do the annoying tone things exist anyway? All they seem to do is wake up my daughter.

The 3.6L in this configuration makes the 1,940 kg SRX feel like a behemoth. I couldn’t quite figure out if it’s the transmission or the engine itself holding the SRX back, but it never delivered convincing power. Some four-cylinder engines in mid-size SUVs feel stronger than this one does and that’s frustrating.

Especially when there’s not necessarily any economy to be gained from it. The SRX is rated at 12.4 L/100 km combined compared to the Audi Q5 (11.2), Lexus RX 350 (11.2) and Mercedes-Benz ML350 (12.4). The full rating for the SRX is 13.8/9.8/12.4 L/100 km city/highway/combined. We ended the week on 13.1 with mixed use.

It’s not even smooth, either; the engine is raspy and rough when prodded, which it is at all times because otherwise you will get rear-ended merging onto the highway.

Normally I adore a short, firm brake pedal response and this has that, but it’s wooden. The inch of travel it has is spongey before encountering an apparent brick under the pedal. The braking performance is solid, but braking feel is woeful. In fact, it was downright disconcerting.

With four-wheel independent suspension and Cadillac’s reputation for soft rides the SRX should be a pillow on the road but isn’t. In an effort to get a little more sportiness from the suspension it’s tuned to be firmer than necessary. In the race for the middle ground Cadillac misses the mark for ride comfort and sportiness, returning a rattley ride that is unforgiving over potholes and road seams and fails to keep it composed in corners. To its credit there’s limited body roll and pitch, so that’s something.

One of the main reasons people buy these SUVs is for the confidence a high seating position affords the driver. Unfortunately, style compromises forward visibility greatly in the SRX. The high beltline, small windows, massive A-pillar, large wing mirrors and forward searing position, as well as the steeply curved A pillar and door frame all combine to lock out a large chunk of the front quarter visibility.

In short, our positive first impressions during our walkaround weren’t borne out by the driving experience. It’s a beautiful car to sit in, but out on the road the SRX’s age is beginning to show.

Warranty:
4 years/80,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 6 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 6 years/110,000 km 24-hour roadside assistance

Competitors:
Acura RDX
Audi Q5
BMW X3
Infiniti QX50
Lexus RX
Lincoln MKC
Mercedes-Benz ML-Class
Volvo XC60

2015 Cadillac SRX Luxury Collection AWD
2015 Cadillac SRX Luxury Collection AWD
Base Price $50,830
Optional Equipment Luxury Collection package - $1,450, Driver Awareness Package (forward collision alert, lane departure warming, intellibeam auto high beam, driver alert seat) - $525.
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,800
Price as Tested $54,705
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 6.6
7 Exterior Styling
5 Performance
8 Interior
6 Comfort
7 Fuel Economy