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Cadillac continues to surprise with the SRX

January 09, 2004|by JASON STEIN/Wheelbase Communications

Just when you were getting used to the idea of a Cadillac truck, a two-seat roadster and a 400-horsepower CTS-V sedan, along comes the company with another surprise: a mid-sized sport-utility vehicle.

The Caddy of today is hardly the Caddy you knew.

The new-for-2004 SRX is a vehicle that defies definition and invites interpretation. As one of first of the S-series of models, the SRX foreshadows and shares the automotive DNA of future Cadillac vehicles, such as the 2005 STS sedan that will replace the current Seville.

If the SRX is any indication, the future looks utilitarian - as useful as your mother's station wagon, but nothing like anything that ever hauled groceries or the family dog. That's Cadillac's intention: keep breaking with convention.

Marketed by General Motors as a "medium luxury utility vehicle," Cadillac has aimed the SRX at the Lexus RX300, Acura MDX, BMW X5, Lincoln Aviator and Infiniti's FX45, all radical interpretations of the family-wagon theme. Like much of the competition, the SRX is proudly passenger-car based, riding atop the same platform as the CTS sedan.

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In keeping with its theme of being unique, Cadillac hopes the SRX stands apart. A quick look from the curb confirms that much is true.

All of Cadillac's new vehicles have adopted the "art and science" design philosophy - a belief that every new Cadillac should take a daring approach to style. The SRX's styling stands out in a sea of boxy sport-utility vehicles and minivans that fill mall parking lots from sea to sea. And like its family members, the SRX arrives with that crisp, creased look that resembles its concept-vehicle predecessor, the Vizon, which was shown in 2001.

What drives the SRX is your choice of two engines: the next-generation 320-horsepower, 4.6-liter Northstar V-8; and an all-new 255-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6. Each powerplant is mated to its own specific five-speed automatic transmission, both of which allow for clutchless manual shifting.

Rear-wheel drive is standard - as are four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock - or you can specify all-wheel drive.

Of course, performance is an important part of the SRX package and part of that Cadillac nod to the future. The CTS sedan was one of the first applications of the Sigma architecture, a platform that features a near 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, a stretched wheelbase and a low center of gravity.

With those benchmarks as a starting point, the SRX has a slightly different agenda to fulfill than the CTS: space. The SRX can accept up to seven people with the optional third-row seat. For extra cargo capacity, the second-row seat folds flat and the third row power-folds into the floor at the push of a button. An optional rear "cargo management system," available as an alternative to the third-row seat, offers three rear compartments and includes a removable storage bin.

Do you need a reminder that the SRX is still a Cadillac? Around the interior there's a blend of wood and leather that extends from the steering wheel to the shifter knob. And there are still all the creature comforts as well as the kind of technology you'd expect in a Cadillac: an optional DVD-based navigation system; a Bose premium sound system and traction and stability control. Magnetic Ride Control, which essentially uses electric current and liquid metal to provide constant and variable shock dampening, is also available. And, you can specify the optional UltraView five-plus-foot-long glass roof with power retractable shade.

As with some of its competitors, the price begins at $37,995. Loaded up (somewhere in the $60,000 range) the SRX is in keeping with its rich and affluent heritage.

For that price, Cadillac promises plenty. What it delivers, and how, will say a lot about what drives the future.

© 2004, Wheelbase Communications

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