First Look: 2012 Cadillac SRX

First Look

Cadillac is quickly regaining its luxury brand reputation in terms of quality and refinement, which the 2012 SRX proves so well.

The current generation Cadillac SRX is sort of reflective of the New GM: leaner, lighter, and smarter. The previous SRX was rear-wheel-drive, had a V8 option, and was based on the Sigma platform, which also underpinned the previous generation CTS. Although it wasn't a strong seller, it was regularly put on the favorite lists of many automotive publications. But now we're in the world of crossovers and that architecture is ancient. I mean, really, who would ever want to go off-road in a Cadillac?

Enthusiasts loved it, but it didn't appeal to the general public. The second generation SRX was unveiled in 2010, now based on the all-wheel drive Theta Premium platform and sales have been excellent ever since. I guess owning a crossover is now trendier than saying you drive an SUV. It was originally available with either a turbocharged 2.8-liter or 3.0-liter V6, neither of which were extremely impressive. Fortunately, Cadillac dumped both for the SRX's 2012 mid-cycle refresh by making a 3.6-liter V6 with 308hp and 265 lb-ft of torque standard.

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It's similar to the V6 in the CTS sedan and coupe, although engineers have redesigned it to fit the SRX's transverse layout. The six-speed automatic from the old 3.0-liter remains, but it's also been upgraded with features such as an 'eco mode' pushbutton that remaps shift points and improves fuel economy by 1mpg. Doesn't sound like much, but Cadillac is proud of the fact that even with the more powerful engine, the SRX's fuel economy (when not in eco mode) remains the same as last year's model, rated at 17/24mpg city/highway for front-wheel-drive and 16/23 for all-wheel-drive models.

In addition, premium fuel is no longer required and it's also flex-fuel capable. Engineers have also reworked the suspension with new bonded bushings up front, redesigned upper shock mounts, and re-valved struts. The rear suspension has new tube shocks which have been upgraded with variable damping. But the question now is whether the SRX is better than its arch-rival, the Lexus RX. What's given is that the refreshed model has been nicely improved, but is that enough to take on the vehicle that literally began the crossover segment over 10 years ago? Fewer changes have been done inside, but that's because Cadillac got so much right the first time in 2010.

Compared to just a few years ago, the overall quality of the materials and fit and finish has improved so much that it's almost hard to believe that GM is quickly narrowing the gap between them and their once unbeatable Japanese rivals. The cabin provides excellent isolation with wind and tire noise almost non-existent. No other changes have been made to the dash, which features Cadillac's easy-to-use pop-up navigation screen and an eight-speaker Bose sound system. Cadillac has been working extremely hard the past few years to regain its "standard of the world" status.

The leaps and bounds progress made from the previous generation models to the current ones is clear proof the brand is back on track. However, there's still more work to be done and Cadillac officials are convinced victory is near. For example, back in 2009, the SRX was ranked ninth in sales in the mid-size luxury premium SUV segment. Now it's number two, just behind the RX. The 2012 Cadillac SRX, with its new V6 engine and further overall refinement, is verified proof that Cadillac clearly understands what's needed to take on their rivals. They're quickly becoming the benchmark, which in our book is the standard of the world.