First seen in 2005, the SRX was an early American take on the BMW X5/Mercedes-Benz ML train of thought that delivered a degree of off-road hardware and practicalites in a more driver-focused package. But we are talking a big, heavy, US-built quasi off-roader here, so take that ‘driver focused’ under some advisement.
What was perhaps most surprising at the time was that Caddy’s engineers seemingly managed to conjure a moderately competitive 4x4 from the same rear-drive Sigma platform that underpinned the CTS saloon. It was also impressively quick to find its way to the market.
The SRX’s styling, too, is a fine example of Caddy’s creases ’n’ chrome, so-called ‘Art and Science’ ethos. The grille is suitably bold and the bodywork distinctive while inside the interior is similar to the CTS’s. And since the first models arrived on our shores huge advances have been made with the SRX in the quality of its cabin. Its fascia is now much more appealing to the eye and covered in carefully-stitched leather and soft-touch plastics. Material quality is high, too, and it can all be enjoyed from a suitably lofty seating position.
Early UK versions were left-hand drive and V8 only. That’s since been rectified on both counts, to the point that all – or rather both – UK models are V6-powered. The two versions available are the lesser Elegance model, and the better equipped Sport Luxury. The 2997cc V6 engine makes the same 270bhp in each version, delivered at an eyebrow-raising 7000rpm; peak torque of 222lb ft appears at 3200rpm. Both drive through a six-speed automatic gearbox. Combined economy and CO2 figures are 25.2mpg and 260g/km for the Elegance model, and a marginally less favourable 24.6mpg and 267g/km for the Sport Luxury.
And on the road, in the Elegance model we tested, it's a pretty impressive package. Barring a little poor refinement at high revs, the V6 was smooth and gave up its power freely and works well with the car's four-wheel drive system.
The car-like driving position makes the SRX feel more agile than you're expecting, and the clever magnetic damping counteracts body roll well without sacrificing comfort.
It feels very much like a Jaguar in fundamental dynamic character; there's a lightness to the control weights, and a gentle lope to the ride quality that's instantly familiar, and there's plenty of enjoyment to be had in using the car's four-wheel drive system to find traction where others wouldn't, and in flowing from corner to corner. The telling factor is that, when you get out of it, the SRX's size surprises you because, from behind the wheel, its bulk is masked very well.
This is one of the most broadly talented car Cadillac currently makes. The design is modern and eye-catching and if you don't object to low 20mpg fuel economy even with moderately enthusiastic use, it might well be your cup of tea.
The SRX certainly stands out from the me-too premium SUVs and it’s priced strongly against competitors, but Cadillac’s limited dealer network and high running costs mean it will never be more than a minority taste. An SRX probably won’t hold its value like an XC90, but it will definitely make an appealing alternative to taller 4x4s and more conventional MPVs.