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A STATION WAGON FOR THE 21st CENTURY

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Apr 11, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Cadillac SRX

A STATION WAGON FOR THE 21st CENTURY By ZORAN SEGINA

They were bulky, somewhat ungainly, but practical. They were serving moms before there was soccer. They were workhorses of the newly developed suburbias, hauling kids and groceries. They came with the names like LTD and Custom Cruiser. You could drive them like a car, but in the back there was room for stuff. They guzzled gas, but so did anything else, and gas was cheap, and with a full tank you got a free wash.

They were considered a necessity, not a luxury. If yours was a GM family, you were looking at the Chevrolet and Oldsmobile brand, not the Cadillac. Because Caddy did not make them. And because you were looking for automotive equivalent of a Clydesdale, not a thoroughbred. Something that served its purpose and was discarded when it did not. And the gas was still cheap. For most of them don't look in the classic, collectible and special interest car appraisal guides. More likely try the Recycler. But that was before the appearance of the letters S and V separated by every vowel imaginable. Before the Europeans brought Volvos, Mercedes and Audis, and the Japanese put leather and cherrywood into family haulers. Today everybody makes them, even Porsche! Nowadays they have fancy names - sport and activity, and this and that. They are loaded with computers and gadgets, turbocharged, and will go over 150 miles an hour. But fancy pedigrees cannot hide the family history, i.e., that they are still workhorses of the newly developed suburbias, hauling kids and groceries, and that you can drive them like a car, but in the back there is room for stuff.

If you still prefer a GM product you can now go to the top. The Cadillac SRX is a new breed of family hauler. At 4400 pounds it appears bulkier than it is, but a press on the pedal will wake up 320 ponies in a V8 Northstar engine and this new century workhorse quickly turns into a racer. Slide the floor shifter to the right and in an instant you are in full control of the manual, electronically controlled gearbox. Suburban moms never had so much fun. There are outside thermometers, pre-programmable driving information electronic panels, internal compass, leather covered seats, and steering wheel made in part of fine grained wood. A push on the button above the rear view mirror turns the family mover into a Griffith Observatory. The entire front part of the roof peels away allowing for astronomy lessons by dad and romantic stargazing by mom and dad after the kids fall asleep. There is no moonroof thought. Gone is the simplicity of the days past. The SRX comes with a four-hundred and forty page manual that contains the following: "The car is equipped with a stabilitrak system which activates when the computer senses a discrepancy between your intended path and the direction the vehicle is actually traveling. Stabilitrak will selectively apply braking pressure at any one of the vehicle brakes to help steer the vehicle in the direction which one is steering. . . Come again?

It also has a panic brake assist system that "monitors the intention of the driver while braking. If it senses that the driver has applied hard fast pressure to the brake pedal the system will generate additional pressure making it easier for the driver to maintain brake application." The manual advises: "When this happens the brake pedal will feel easier to push. Just hold the brake pedal down firmly and let the system work for you." Huh? Mom may not care. Dad may feel over-controlled. Jimmy (the oldest one who borrowed the SRX for the night) may find out that the system does not work for him. He maintains brake application because there is a discrepancy between his intended path and a curb toward which the vehicle is actually traveling at, say, sixty miles per hour. On the more existential level, the SRX user's encyclopedia contains the following gem: "One of the biggest problem with city streets is the amount on traffic on them." This is deep, man.

All this comes at the price. The pre-programmable driving information panel shows you the average fuel consumption while doing errands in town. The number preceding the letters MPG stubbornly hovers around 12, and the fuel gauge keeps going down so fast as though it is weighted by lead. The SRX drinks premium as it befits luxury cars. Unfortunately, the gas ceased being cheap long, long time ago. Then there are annoyances. The shiny metal base of the floor shifter looks and feels luxurious, but at certain time of the day reflects the sun directly into the driver's eyes. Ditto for the wood-grained top of the steering wheel. And why, for example, the sound system can be conveniently operated by the buttons on the steering wheel but the cruise control is mounted on the same historic black stalk on the left with the push button and a lever that seem outright primitive. The SRX we drove costs over $51,000, and is not the top of the line models. The Clydesdale unquestionably turned into a thoroughbred, but there is now a Secretariat price tag attached to it. Will moms and dads be ready?

See also Harvey Schwartz's road test and specifications of the Cadillac SRX AWD V8.

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