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First Drive: 2012 Cadillac SRX


My fellow editors weren't too kind to the Cadillac Srx when they first sampled the crossover in 2009, dinging the 2.8-liter turbo-six's lackluster performance and the suspension's jittery ride. Customers apparently felt the same way -- at least about the 2.8-liter -- which is gone and won't be missed. Despite the early hiccups, the CADILLAC SRX was Cadillac's best-selling model in 2010 and only slightly behind the CADILLAC CTS so far in 2011. We're betting the soon-to-arrive 2012 Cadillac Srx we just took for a spin will push it back to the top in no time.

On the engine side, the 3.0-liter six is also gone, at least in the U.S. (it remains in export models due to displacement-related taxes in several overseas markets). Taking over as the SRX's only motivating force is the 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6 we've seen for years in the CADILLAC CTS and other GM models, with 308 horsepower and 265 pound-feet on tap in the SRX. But the numbers aren't everything - the power curve is smooth and linear, while the torque curve is almost as flat as Ford's EcoBoost V-6, with peak torque available from 2400 to 5300 rpm. The 6T70 six-speed automatic transmission is the only one offered and it can route power to either the front or all four wheels, depending on configuration. An eco button remaps shift points and increases the time that fuel is cut off during deceleration, slightly improving fuel economy. The optional all-wheel-drive system is no slouch, by the way. Equipped with an electronic limited-slip differential, it can route as much as 85 percent of the power to the rear wheels and can even send power individually to the left or right wheels, similar to Acura's SH-AWD system. And it adds just 176 pounds to the total curb weight to boot.

Meanwhile, a number of suspension tweaks have smoothed out the ride considerably. It is still on the sporty side for the segment -- Cadillac is trying to be more Bmw than Lexus, after all -- but definitely luxurious. Two suspension setups are offered, a softer setup under the technical designation "FE2" and the sportier "FE3" setup that also comes with variable-effort, speed-sensitive power steering. These were definitely more fun to throw around the rough, twisty backroads during our test drive near Santa Barbara, California.

Given that the overwhelming majority of CADILLAC SRX miles will be on freeways and smooth suburban boulevards, we're betting the extra handling ability will be used extremely sparingly -- but it's nice to know it's there. Another sporty touch on the CADILLAC SRX is the non-eco transmission programming. In manual mode, it will hold a gear all the way to redline, even if it means bouncing off the limiter. Steering -- variable-input and fixed-input alike -- is quick and responsive, though feedback is somewhat lacking. Only the spongy-feeling brakes deserve any real criticism.

 The cabin is nicely isolated from the outside world, with wind noise almost non-existent and tire noise absent except on horrid pavement like the sort that lines large segments of coastal U.S. 101. Inside, there aren't any changes for the 2012 SRX. The dash still features Cadillac's familiar pop-up navigation, the cargo area still has the funky U-Rack storage system, and the sound system is still an eight-speaker Bose setup.

Despite the extra power, fuel economy is comparable to that of the 2011 with the 3.0-liter and slightly better than that of the 2.8-liter. Front-drive models are rated at 17/24 mpg city/highway and all-wheel drive models slightly lower at 16/23 mpg city/highway. Not exactly miserly, but fuel-economy isn't a big concern in the luxury segment.

Batch number one of the 2012 CADILLAC SRX just got loaded onto a train and the updated crossovers are on their way to dealerships worldwide. The first units should show up on American dealer lots sometime in mid-August. Pricing starts at $36,060 including destination and goes up to just north of $50,000, though the complete pricing breakdown has not yet been announced. With the new engine and suspension tweaks, the only obstacle standing in the way of the SRX's mission to take down the Lexus Rx is inconsistent levels of service at Cadillac dealers, something the brand's brass is working hard to fix. Once that's sorted, production capacity at the Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, plant where the CADILLAC SRX is built will be the limit. Fortunately for GM, there are plenty of plants here in the States - and plenty of willing workers - that can be used to help meet demand should that become a necessity.

.hdr {color:#ffffff;font:bold 12px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#343434;} .hdr1 {color:#000000;font:bold 09px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#aba9a9;} .hdr2 {color:#000000;font:09px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#dddddd;} .hdr3 {color:#000000;font:09px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#FFFFFF;} 2012 Cadillac Srx Base price $36,060 Vehicle layout Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV Engine 3.6L/308-hp/265-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6 Transmission 6-speed automatic Curb weight 4300-4450 lb (mfr) Wheelbase 110.5 in Length x width x height 190.3 x 75.2 x 65.7 in EPA city/hwy fuel econ 16-17/23-24 mpg CO2 emissions 0.99-1.05 lb/mile Energy consumption, city/hwy 198-211/140-147 kW-hrs/100 miles On sale in U.S. 40756 ft

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