Cadillac SRX V-6

Cadillac SRX V-6 Cadillac SRX V-6
Short Take Road Test

In keeping with its mission as a performance SUV, the Cadillac SRX was introduced with the division's 320-hp Northstar V-8 (C/D, March 2003). In that form, we grew enamored of its excellent blend of speed, handling, style, and utility-so much so that we not only picked it the winner of a comparison last November ("Big-Box Sports Cars") but also declared it the best Luxury Sport-Utility Vehicle in our 5Best Trucks selections in March '04.

The majority of SRXs, however, will not be sold with the Northstar V-8, but with a V-6 engine, which was introduced a few months after the V-8. It's been the pattern with other luxury SUVs, such as the BMW X5, the Mercedes ML, and the Infiniti FX. Many customers willingly trade the 300-plus-hp V-8s for a break of roughly 10 grand off the sticker price.

In the case of the SRX, the base price drops from $47,290 to $38,690 when you opt for the V-6. What you get is GM's newest engine, the 3.6-liter V-6 VVT. As expected of engines in this class, it sports double overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, variable intake- and exhaust-valve timing, and the usual other modern, high-tech mechanical and electronic marvels. It all adds up to 260 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 252 pound-feet of torque at 3200 rpm.

Coupled to GM's 5L40-E transmission and unburdened of 152 pounds that the V-8 must bear, this V-6 moves the SRX very nicely. Rest to 60 mph arrives in 7.2 seconds, and the quarter-mile blows by in 15.7 seconds at 88 mph. Those times are only 0.5 and 0.6 second slower, respectively, than the SRX V-8's times. Moreover, the V-6 SRX is actually quicker than some V-8 competitors, such as the Lexus GX470, the Lincoln Aviator, and the VW Touareg, and leaves behind all six-cylinder competitors that we've tested.

In the process, the Cadillac V-6 sounds a bit more guttural than your typical Lexus powerplant, but the sound is hardly intrusive. The five-speed automatic is hard to fault, with seamless shifts occurring exactly when you want them. In the current style, there's a shifter gate for manually selecting your gears, although the transmission will continue to upshift and downshift even in this "sport" mode. On the other hand, the powertrain does employ Cadillac's "Performance Algorithm Liftfoot," which prevents untimely upshifts and downshifts during enthusiastic driving.

At 194.9 inches, the SRX is as much as a foot longer than some of its competitors. In exchange for this size, it offers a roomy back seat and enough space behind it for an optional third-row seat, which our tester had.

This third row is power-operated, but its flip-and-fold monkey motion takes about 25 seconds, and you must manually remove the headrests before folding the seat, which counteracts the benefit of the motorized operation. Access to this seating position is via an easily folded right-side second-row seat, but it's still an awkward shuffle to get in and out.

On the other hand, it's a comfortable place for a couple of kids, as long as they haven't sprouted much beyond five feet. And this accommodation isn't available in competitors such as the X5, the Porsche Cayenne, the Touareg, and the FX35/45.

Best of all, this additional utility causes no compromise in agility or road manners. The SRX's Sigma platform (shared with the CTS and the upcoming STS) delivers accurate and responsive steering and a taut, controlled ride that never turns punishing, even when the pavement does. Grip is modest (0.73 g) with the standard 17-inch wheels, so you might consider the upcoming optional 18s if you like to play skidpad on entrance ramps when the family's at home.

One unusual feature is the $1800 Ultraview sunroof, which, with a transparent area 25 by 40 inches, must be one of the largest in the industry. Then there's the optional DVD player that 10-year-old Madeline Csere praised for its "clear and bright screen" and described as "easy to use without the manual."

For anyone who wants a mid-size luxury SUV that combines a sporting bent with useful family hauling, the SRX is the best choice on the market. And if you go the V-6 route to save several grand up front and a few dollars' worth of gasoline down the road, you won't even take a big hit in performance.