2012 Cadillac SRX: Driven

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The 2012 Cadillac SRX seems at least in one respect to be going against the grain. As a number of luxury vehicles have had engines downsized—and even the BMW 5-Series is going four-cylinder, for instance—Cadillac has instead swapped a larger engine, with slightly lower gas mileage, into its SRX crossover.

It’s easy to rush to conclusions, but the truth is that the current SRX fits in much more clearly with the luxury-crossover mainstream. And, having just driven the new SRX 3.6, it makes a lot more sense than either of the previous powertrains. Overall, the SRX is neither a particularly rewarding vehicle to drive, nor as a particularly space-efficient or fuel-efficient one, but its strength is as a vehicle with a lot of style and feel-good luxury comforts, and a distinct cabin ambience that’s more distinguished than other luxury crossovers in this price range.

And besides, the SRX really needed some more muscle. In our review of the 2011 SRX, we called it merely adequate with the 3.0-liter, and sluggish with the added weight of all-wheel drive. The former engine made a respectable 265 horsepower, but it seldom felt that, as its torque was higher up the rev band than you’d like in this kind of vehicle. In place, the 308-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 hits its 265 pound-foot torque plateau at just 2,400 rpm, so what you get is an engine that, at least in theory should be more relaxed.

More confident, refined

For those who drove the previous SRX and thought it too sluggish—but didn’t want the expensive turbo model—the SRX 3.6 hits the right spot. Its powertrain feels more relaxed—and it can move the SRX to 60 mph in just over seven seconds. The new engine settles to an almost imperceptible purr at idle, while it revs with a silky tenor, and none of the intake gurgle and whoosh of GM V-6s of the not-so-distant past.

That 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6 that was the stronger choice last year, is gone, too—but no big loss. In a drive of this engine in the closely related Saab 9-4X last year we found that choice to be last year we found it to be torquey and quick off the line, but surprisingly slow (and delayed) in on-off throttle conditions. The 3.6-liter simply feels brawnier than that engine once it’s revving—and the turbo was even thirstier.

All that said, at least initially it feels nowhere near as sprightly as the V-6s in the Acura MDX, the Lincoln MKX. or even the Lexus RX 350, but that’s because its throttle is calibrated quite conservatively (and we like that). And because of the SRX’s heft (nearly 4,500 pounds), rather tall gearing that keeps revs around the 2,000-rpm mark at 70 mph, and the lack of serious low-end grunt, you’ll notice the transmission downshifting frequently for even mild grades and gradual overtaking.

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