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AUTO REVIEW: A Cadillac truly worthy of the family crest

Perhaps the most famous Cadillac advertisement ever written perfectly captured the brand's position in the luxury-car market -- in 1912, that is. "The leader is assailed because he is a leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of...

Perhaps the most famous Cadillac advertisement ever written perfectly captured the brand's position in the luxury-car market -- in 1912, that is. "The leader is assailed because he is a leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership," the ad said.

For decades, that was true. But as challengers assailed its leadership in the 1980s, Cadillac stumbled. Its products aged along with its clientele while attempts to lure younger customers had all the youthful appeal of a bad toupee and a loud sport coat.

As the century turned, Cadillac regained its bearing by tapping the brand's heritage, opting for qualities that had disappeared from too many Detroit products: distinctive styling, comfortable accommodations, lots of toys and ample acceleration.

The resulting cars were some of the finest to bear the wreath-and-crest logo in 30 years. First came the Escalade: big, brash, confident and lined with luxury. Then came the first small Cadillac worth talking about, the CTS. Other products followed, including Cadillac's first crossover, the 2004 SRX, which was only a modest success.

Six years later, with the CTS firmly entrenched as a competitor among the world's great sports sedans, and the Escalade holding its own, it seems Cadillac has tapped the right formula for success. Now, it has spread some of that magic to the 2010 SRX.


Decidedly smaller than the model it replaces, the SRX has lost 5 inches in length, one row of seats and 31.4 cubic feet of interior volume.

Despite the smaller size, Cadillac stylists have picked up all of the chiseled styling cues that have made the CTS sedan a standout. Like great Cadillacs of the past six decades, the SRX is very much the style extrovert. And get this: The top of the tail lights are shaped like vestigial tail fins.

Inside, they've tastefully channeled Cadillac's inner Elvis. Little chrome V's accent the seats. The car's radio and navigation monitor rises from the dashboard with all the splendor of a concept car. The instrument panel is logically arranged, and the switchgear has a quality feel. And whereas Cadillac interiors of yore might have been styled with all the restraint of a bordello, or blindly mimicked Lexus, the SRX's style is handled with an appealingly youthful vigor.

This feeling translates once you open the door.

Like many crossover SUVs (that's an SUV body shell topping a car platform), the new SRX comes with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive system features a Haldex electronic limited-slip differential, which distributes torque from the front to rear axle and, uniquely, also side-to-side across the rear axle. This enhances grip in all conditions, not just snow or ice.

A 265-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 engine is standard, and a 300-horsepower 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 is optional. It's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually.

Given that the SRX weighs north of 4,200 pounds before adding occupants and their stuff, you won't zip off the line with the standard engine's 265 horses. But there's more than adequate power for participating in the pokey parkway stoplight grand prix. Power builds gradually and, like the recent snowstorm, enough is unleashed to make you take notice.

Handling is competent, and the SRX possesses the excellent manners first seen in the Cadillac CTS. It's just that the SRX is taller. The vehicle stays well controlled in corners unless you really push it. Then, the suspension reveals some softness. The tires grip well, and the steering returns enough feedback to make driving fun. The brakes are impressively strong. If you're not used to tactile responses from a Cadillac, you have to drive this one.


Unlike the 2009 SRX, which felt as if you were driving a hallway, the 2010 model's size is pure Goldilocks: just right. It's spacious yet intimate. Shorter drivers will appreciate the tilt/telescopic steering wheel, power adjustable foot pedals and power driver's seat.

Overall, there's lots of room for four -- five if they're friendly or young. Rather than having an extra row that might never get used, Cadillac instead has fashioned a large cargo hold. The space features sturdy chrome tie-down hooks that slide along a floor-mounted track. It includes an adjustable cargo fence that segments the cargo area to contain smaller items.

Safety features include side-head curtain airbags, anti-lock disc brakes, tire-pressure monitoring, rollover mitigation sensors, trailer-stability assist and stability control.

There also are the expected toys: rear-seat DVD player, GPS navigation, satellite radio, mood lighting, ventilated seats and tri-zone automatic climate control, among others.

Alas, like an increasing number of new vehicles, there's no spare tire, merely a tire inflator kit.

The base SRX starts at $33,330. The test vehicle, a top-of-the-line, front-drive Premium Collection model, starts at $43,895 and features one option: the rear seat entertainment system for $1,295.

So how good is the 2010 SRX? I'll close by quoting that old ad again: "That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial."




What we say: World-class Caddy

Pro: Incredible styling, thoughtful design, perfect size

Con: A little more oomph wouldn't hurt


Engine: 3.0-liter DOHC V6

Wheelbase: 110.5 inches

Length: 190.3 inches


Weight: 4,224 pounds

Cargo space: 29-61 cubic feet

Towing capacity: 2,500 pounds

EPA rating (city/highway): 18/25 mpg

Fuel economy: 21 mpg

Fuel type: Regular unleaded

Base price: $43,895

As tested: $46,015

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