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THE NEW CADILLAC

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 Wed, Nov 11, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

THE NEW CADILLAC By John Grafman

The word from up high is we need change. As our economy is fumbling, our automotive priorities have done a complete 180-degree turn. Bigger was better. Gas was cheap. Mediocre handling was acceptable. Imported cars were the norm. This in a new age, and Cadillac is here to meet the challenge head-on. The new SRX is no longer an oversized wagon, or an also-ran in the small SUV / crossover category. This makes-up for all prior sins. This is no longer chasing the competition, the SRX is the competition. Cadillac is actually ahead of the curve with this product. The brand is pushing hard to retain its youth appeal, and it's working. Smaller, nimble, and fun to drive, plus the SRX has character. Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel) in Pulp Fiction claims, just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character. After a hundred or so miles behind the wheel, I believe the team at GM understands this well. While it would be easier to take the manufacturer on its word that this is more than just a pretty face, some behind the wheel canyon driving through the hills of Malibu for a few hours should be the real test. For those unfamiliar with the area, these roads provide all the diversity one could ask for, and the penalty for a lack of capability by the driver or the machine can be a plunge down to the bottom of a ravine, or into the side of a hill. If the Cadillac can't make the grade it will be readily apparent. The rustic hills of the old west twist and turn like a doodle that children draw. Being a veteran of this neck of the woods I'm familiar with everything this area poses from rockslides to coyotes. But, I am caught off guard by the abilities of the new crossover.

Cadillac brings out two variations on this model, which should be able to attract those looking for affordability or those that want all the bells and whistles. The base model offers a 3.0-liter, direct injection, V6 and two-wheel drive, and the step-up comes with a 2.8 liter, turbo with all-wheel drive standard. The garden variety provides acceptable levels of grip, even with the all-season tires. However, having the power radiate from all corners allows for more aggressive driving, even with loose gravel. Furthermore, this lets us feel more relaxed in geographically diverse areas that can otherwise raise the hairs on the back of one's neck, especially in an unfamiliar car. The terrain is as tough as any paved road out there. If the drive isn't challenging enough, try keeping focused with vistas that are breathtaking. Mile after mile the new Cadillac keeps insisting that it's a sports car. And it is very persuasive with intuitive braking and steering and body roll that belies its size. The composure of this new crossover is in part due to the electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD) in the AWD version. This modulates the power to the wheel with the most grip, which then allows drivers to hammer on this harder than they thought possible. The steep grades don't require mashing down on go-pedal, although we like to simply out of habit. In the turbo with an estimated 300 ponies it's so very gratifying. The surprise is that this isn't a much larger engine. This is smooth and plays the part of a luxury crossover well. This is also moderate when it comes to gas mileage as well, with a driver adjustable "eco-mode" setting. The smaller, normally aspirated motor doesn't have the same gusto as it's powerful brother, however at 265 horsepower this still has some kick. Once behind the wheel of the turbo it's hard to go back. However, the relative bargain price keeps the standard model from being a write-off. The fuel economy on this is 25 on the highway, so this might not be the perfect commuter vehicle in terms of gas mileage. It should be noted that this is really remarkable as this smaller engine returns more power in a smaller size along side a 10-15 bonus in economy. Both engines are mated to 6-speed automatics, albeit sourced from different companies. In the manual mode these are engaging and allow the driver to have some added fun be it carving up the canyons or tearing up the shopping mall parking lot. Properly equipped these can haul around 3,500 pounds.

The interior is well appointed, as one would expect from the brand that all but invented luxury. This is comfortable and has a material quality that is reminiscent of some German products, such as the Hand-cut-and-sewn coverings on the instrument panel. However, the styling is anything but conservative like that found in the same European crossovers. The design is more angular, and fresh. But, the bold design is apt to be too radical for older Cadillac die-hards. The reality is most of those from an older generation probably aren't interested in a crossover, regardless of the interior design, as long as the brand still has a sedan that fits their needs. This might also be a tad smaller than expected for those used to Escalades or larger SUVs, but the trade-off in size is a gain in user-friendliness. The wood and leather do remind us that this is a premium vehicle, yet those cues are not enough in today's world. Cadillac was wise to include features that are not easy to replicate with aftermarket parts. The readouts are a perfect example as those are cleverly integrated into the gages, like a Mercedes Benz, but more detailed. Even less technical features like the Cargo Management System that features a U-Rail track systemThe adjustable cargo fence segments the cargo area to contain smaller items, and it also retracts beneath the load floor when not in use. It looks like Cadillac is taking a lesson from itself. For years others took the ideas that Cadillac initially created, some that worked and some that didn't, and improved upon them. Now the tables are turning. The advantage is not only does this allow for refinement, but this also provides real world test marketing to see just how the public reacts, all at the expense of the competition. This does offer the features that we are looking for such as Bluetooth compatibility, OnStar, a pop-up Nav system, adaptive headlights that swivel in synch with vehicle steering. The power liftgate with programmable height setting is a nice feature especially with low garage heights. The SRX has an integrated hard disc drive for audio storage and a dual-screen system for rear entertainment. Plus, the Cadillac script logos in the front door sill plates illuminate when the doors are opened, and ambient lighting details. Looking at this from an exterior design standpoint, this is by far the most youthful Cadillac in years. The exterior is a distant cousin perhaps to the Pontiac Vibe, but without being hamstrung by a tight budget. Even elements like the back glass have a flair and style that are well beyond what the Vibe or Toyota Matrix offered. The Caddy does come straight from the factory with 18-inch wheels, but 20s are optional. The vast majority of the SRX is a step in the right direction. But, few cars are perfect, and this has a few parts that ask for some attention. Certainly, the fact that this is manufactured in Mexico will be problem for those looking to spend money on products that are made in America. A couple of glaringly awkward pieces are the small side chrome plated trim pieces that are just aft of the front wheel-well. These parts look like the plastic pieces they are, and detract from the total package. In movies the term suspension of disbelief allows you to forgo the unimaginable and accept the unbelievable. In automotive terms, an ungainly flaw can marginalize the advancements that the brand has made. Fortunately, Cadillac is on the right path. This is new ground, and it looks like the SRX is able to hold its own. With a few modifications this could dominate the field. This is the new look of Cadillac, unrestrained, and boasting unbridled passion. The home team is now back in the game.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT The Cadillac SRX is the new standard in crossovers for the rest of the world to measure up to. For more go to www.gm.com

SPECIFICATIONS Price: Base $34,155 EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: TBD Engine type: 3.0L DOHC V-6 direct injection, variable valve timing, four valves per cylinder. Optional - 2.8L DOHC turbocharged V-6, four valves per cylinder Horsepower: 265 @ 6,950 rpm. Optional - 300 @ 5,500 (EST) Torque: 223 lb.-ft @ 5,500 rpm. Optional - 295 @ 2,000 (EST) Drive configuration: Front engine / front-wheel drive. Optional - all-wheel drive Transmission type: 6T70 Hydra-Matic six-speed transverse, electronically controlled, automatic overdrive transmission. Optional -- AF40 Aisin Warner six-speed transverse, electronically controlled, automatic overdrive transmission Suspension: Front: independent, strut-type, specifically tuned coil springs, direct-acting stabilizer bar (hollow); hydraulic ride bushings Rear: linked H-arm, hollow stabilizer bar; real-time damping available Wheels and tires: Front: Standard: 18-inch aluminum, 235/65R18, Optional - 20-inch aluminum, 235/55R20 Rear: 18-inch aluminum, 235/65R18, Optional - 20-inch aluminum, 235/55R20 Brakes: Front: Vented discs 13.6" X 1.2" diameter Rear: Vented discs 12.4" X .9" diameter all-speed using engine torque reduction and brake intervention, four-wheel power-assisted disc with ABS (and ESC); vented front and rear rotors; cast iron front calipers (two- Dimensions Overall length: 190.3" Overall width: 75.2" Overall height: 65.7" Curb weight (lb): 4,224, Optional - 4,307

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