In order to be a solid player in the automotive world, a manufacture’s model line up can not be considered complete without some sort of crossover SUV. Around the late 1990s, many automakers who carried pride for building fantastic cars found themselves losing sales due to the lack of a tall utility vehicle. Because of that, brands who had never once had anything taller than an average person were forced to produce a SUV that wasn’t necessarily an SUV. Thus, the premium crossover was born and with the segment came a massive influx of competitors. The Germans came out with offerings such as the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz ML-Class and the VW Touareg. The Japanese fought back with the Acura MDX, Lexus RX and Infiniti FX while America took notice, building the Ford Edge and defunct Chrysler Pacifica. One American in particular hit the market with not only its own unique style and swagger but some solid engineering to back it all up. Now in its second generation, the 2012 Cadillac SRX is out to play it cool in one of the most heated segments known to the automotive industry.

Introduced in 2010, the current SRX varies fairly drastically compared to first edition from 2004. The 2012 crossover rides on GM’s Theta Premium platform, a subtly modified version the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain SUVs. This is basically the same underpinnings for the Saab 9-4X as both the Cadillac and Swede share a 110.5 inch wheelbase. The SRX’s overall length is 190.2 inches, just on par with the Acura MDX and BMW X5. It is however shorter than the first generation vehicle which rode on GM’s rear wheel drive Sigma platform. Sometimes, bigger isn’t always better as the 2012 is overall more efficient while being just slightly smaller than before. It’s tidy size has also garnished more profit for Cadillac as 2010 (the second generation’s first offical model year) earned the SRX namesake its highest ever U.S. sales.

For our time spent with the Cadillac of crossovers, we did so in an All Wheel Drive Premium Collection. Base MSRP is $48,785 and with that, a buyer gets a wealth of standard features. Items such as navigation, Bose supplied surround sound stereo, eight inch touchscreen media controller with a 40GB hard drive, bluetooth, XM radio, heated seats all around with ventilation for the front, tri-zone climate control, rear back up camera and Xenon HID headlamps with adaptive movement. The only added options to our tester were the $1,395 rear seat entertainment system and a $495 coat of Black Ice Metallic paint. Final asking price with destination charge: $51,550.

As mentioned before, the 2012 SRX rides on the Theta platform, which is a front wheel drive layout with the option for all wheel drive. This may mean that there is no longer the option to smoky, rear wheel drive powerslides like in the older SRXs, but it doesn’t mean that the current generation is a slouch. Powering our AWD tester is GM’s now tried-and-true LFX 3.6 liter V6. New for the 2012 model year, the 3.6 liter was introduced to the SRX model line to fill the void left behind by the discontinued 2.8 liter turbocharged V6 on 2010 model year vehicles. Featuring direct injection, variable valve timing and a high compression ratio, this DOHC design puts out a stout 308 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. Putting its power to the ground via GM’s Hydra-Matic six speed automatic, the SRX’s powertrain is smoother than silk. Nothing gets in the way of forward motion as the 3.6 is eager to rev but produces enough low-end grunt that a driver’s right foot doesn’t have to get too close to the firewall. It may offer a sport-shift mode, but the six speed automatic is so good that leaving it in drive is really all that is needed. This is easily one of the best automatics GM has ever produced and it does a fantastic job of hauling around the SRX’s very crossover-like 4,500 lb curb weight.

Loaded out as the highest tier trim level, our Premium features the FE3 sport suspension with an electronic limited slip differential. Using stiffer tuning with active dampers, a variable-speed steering rack and 20-inch wheels with Michelin tires, the SRX handles in a similar fashion to its looks: razor-sharp. The transmission controls the two modes: comfy and sport. In race-car mode, the Cadillac stiffens up and turn is quick and confident. The AWD makes sure traction is always there and even though its big, the SRX is fairly entertaining in the twisties. Compared to its Equinox and Terrain brothers, the Cadillac is the most athletic of the Thetas but even still, it could stand to lose a few pounds. Its weight can induce understeer if pushed too hard but then again, who really is going to autocross a Cadillac SUV anyways.

It may be dynamically sharp, but the SRX truly shines around town and on the freeway. With one of the most crystal clear stereos in all of GM’s line up as well as excellently crafted seats, the inside is truly a place of envy. Like the other Thetas, the SRX is well laid out and everything is placed just where it should be. The navigation system is located in the dash and pops up when needed so the center console isn’t cluttered. More of a passenger vehicle than a driver’s, our tester with its rear seat DVD system is a much more efficient alternative to the other Cadillac people hauler, the dinosaurian Escalade. Unless a family is so large that it warrants a bus, there is no reason why a full-size behemoth should be picked over the SRX. There is enough room and comfort to haul the kids and their gear across the nation in quietly strong style and comfort.

General Motors has truly hit a home-run with its Theta platform vehicles. Like their bigger Lambda siblings, the midsize crossovers are proof that when done properly, component sharing does work. The differences between the Equinox, Terrain and SRX are substantial enough to warrant their variations in price but not so much so that one vehicle out-shines the other. Each truck has its purpose and market and the Cadillac does an excellent job of fighting tooth-and-nail with the other premium crossovers. It’s looks are innovative enough that it stands out in a remarkably crowded crowd even though it does, for some odd reason, look substantially smaller than the first generation model. Blame can be placed on the 2012’s short overhangs but its long wheelbase allows for a similar level of interior volume. Not a bad thing at all as the 2012 is simply easier to maneuver and park than the 2009. All-in-all, the Cadillac is a standout premium crossover with reliability to boot. Just like its siblings, there is nothing that gets in the way of a potential adventure. It just so happens that in the 2012 Cadillac SRX, that adventure will be embarked on with absolute style and class.

Photos: © Copyright 2011 Ossamah Shabbir

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