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Cadillac SRX 3.6 V6 AWD Sport Luxury

Click to view picture galleryThe SRX, Cadillacs first-ever
  luxury crossover, has now crossed
  over from America. It drives well
  on British roads, delivers luxury
  and space in a sharply-styled seven-
  seat package that
s big on value —
  and it will get you noticed

THANKFULLY WE DON'T all like the same things. Which is great news when it comes to the cars we drive. As much as one might admire, for instance, the MINI, image a world in which there was only one car to buy confusing can't begin to describe it. So, while it's easy (and sometimes downright enjoyable) to criticise what isn't our own personal choice, it does mean that whoever you are and whatever your taste, there is likely to be a car that suits you as closely as if you'd had a hand in designing it yourself.

Cue Cadillac's SUV for Europe, the SRX. It's one of a kind and if you like to stand out from the crowd then you'll already be hooked on the SRX because you don't see many of these on UK roads.

For a start, the SRX is undeniably big but — given it's American roots, it's no colossus. And where you may have been expecting 'rapper bling', the SRX is decidedly restrained. Cadillacs, traditionally, are sharply hewn from the metal with square-cut looks defined by razor-sharp crease lines as straight as perfectly-ironed trousers. The SRX complies and its distinctive bodywork, striking vertical taillights and headlights and V-shaped front tapering into the classic Cadillac grille give it more than a fair share of road presence. No danger, then, of missing your 'Caddy' in the car park.

The SRX actually sits lower than you'd expect for a large SUV, adding to the impression that it's more an XXL size estate. However, the top of its roof is still level with a six-footer's eyes. Cadillac refers to it as a 'crossover' or, to use their unedited soundbite: 'a true luxury crossover with the heart of a sports saloon'. We'll see…

Once inside, first impressions are good. Our test car was a 257bhp 3.6 V6-powered model in top-grade Sport Luxury trim. The alternative is the same but with a 315bhp 4.6 V8 under the hood… sorry, bonnet.

Sport Luxury specification means a lot of 'comfort and convenience' kit as standard, including dual-zone automatic climate control air conditioning with a dedicated rear air conditioning system, cruise control, power adjustable pedal set, electric front and rear windows that all have auto one-shot up/down, speed-sensitive power steering, power-folding third row seats, power-operated opening/closing rear hatch, 8-way electrically-adjustable leather heated (3-stage) seats with power adjustable lumbar support, a driver's seat memory package, multifunction steering wheel controls, driver information centre, and radio/CD with 8-speaker BOSE Premium surround sound audio system, auxiliary port for MP3/iPod connectivity and in-dash 6-CD autochanger.

Technical kit includes auto-levelling Xenon headlights, heated, power adjustable, power-folding, auto-dimming door mirrors, 18-inch alloys, rear park assist, Cadillac's ESP-style StabiliTrak dynamic stability control, ABS, EBD, Emergency Brake Assist, Traction Control, Magnetic Ride Control real-time variable damping, a tyre pressure monitoring system, auto-dimming rear view mirror and six airbags including two full-length curtain airbags.

Bearing in mind the on-the-road price for all this is just £32,100, it's a pretty tasty deal. Settle back in the roomy command-view chairs and look around the spacious cabin, where you'll spot plenty of echoes of the angular external design. But that's no bad thing.

Emphasising the large amount of passenger space is the optional and giant Ultra View electric glass sunroof. Front to rear it measures 41 inches and it is 24 inches wide. Fully open (a large pop-up wind deflector keeps it wind-roar and buffet-free at legal motorway speeds), you and your passengers can enjoy open-air driving. For convenience it has one-shot open/close operation as well as a powered sunblind, if you really don't feel like catching some rays. That's a lot of light it's letting in, and it improves the already great environment in which you're travelling.

Darkly-tinted side and rear glass provides privacy for those sitting in the theatre-style seating behind the driver and his front passenger. The very accommodating second row seats are 5cm higher than the first row while the third row seats rise 12cm above the second, resulting in a better view out through the deep side windows — or a better view of the (optional) rear multimedia entertainment system. Middle-row passengers are especially well catered for with 10cm of fore/aft travel and a class-leading 10.4cm of legroom.

Seven seats there surely are, but only five are for adults. Note that seats 6 and 7 — the rearmost pair — are best left to the children. Getting in and out of these can only be done from the car's offside because only the second-row seat behind the driver slides for access.

The polished real wood trim — an African hardwood called Sapele Pomelle — works well in this particular cabin; probably because there's not too much of it. Chrome and brushed aluminium highlights are, likewise, restrained and as a result fit in well and lift the cabin's plastics which, while perfectly acceptable, are not in the Audi class (few are). Build quality, we should mention, is good.

And there are some neat touches, too, such as the pedal set that slides fore and aft at the touch of a button and which makes up for a steering wheel that adjusts for tilt but not for reach. The driver's seat memory function stores and recalls two sets of personalised settings for seat (including 'easy exit'), brake/accelerator pedals, mirror and steering wheel positions.

Something else to like is the large degree of customisation available for a range of functions, from automatic door locking/unlocking/delay, exit/approach lighting, warning chime volume, parking assist, powered easy exit seat and memory seat recall and auto dip for the door mirrors (for easier reverse parking) — choose one, both or none.

Other useful information, such as average mpg, tyre pressures and remaining oil life can easily be called up. There's also lots of room to rest your left foot beneath the foot-operated parking brake. The SatNav features a touch screen display and the only thing you need to get used to is the softly-spoken American-accented female telling you where to go.

Incorporating one of the longest wheelbases in its class (2,957mm) within its overall almost five metre length (4,950mm) ensures legroom for the front two rows. When it comes to load lugging, the SRX offers up to 1,968 litres of cargo space with the rear and 60:40 split middle seats folded down. With just the rear seats folded into the floor (simply press a button and they disappear automatically into the floor) cargo volume is still a useful 918 litres.

Used as a seven-seater, the SRX's boot takes 238 litres. The SRX runs on 18-inch 255/55 Michelin Pilot tyres and, should you need it, you'll find a space saver spare mounted externally under the boot floor. Using the remote, the rear tailgate also features 'touch button' power opening and closing.

Fire up the engine and move the selector lever out of Park and back into Drive — ignoring for the moment that the SRX also offers clutchless sequential manual shifting including a Sport mode — use your right hand to release the foot-operated parking brake — then it's foot down and away. With 250lb ft of torque and 257bhp, step-off is a lot sharper than you'd expect from a five-door, seven-seater that weighs in at two tonnes. For the record, the top speed is 125mph with 0-62mph acceleration taking 8.1 seconds.

The next big surprise is the shift quality. If you were expecting a typical American slush 'box you're out of luck. The five-speed auto mated to the 3,564cc V6 is a smooth operator. Upshifts are clean and unfluffed, giving seamless progress — the only real clue that you've just stepped up another gear is the drop in the engine note. Downshifts are equally quick and well-timed.

The downside is that you will pay for all this smoothness at the pumps. The 3.6's fuel consumption is, perhaps, too richly American for our European tastes — the official miles-per-gallon figures are 15, 21.1 and 27.7 respectively for urban, combined and extra-urban. Over a week's mixed road testing we averaged 15.2mpg and it didn't get a lot better: the best we saw was 18.6mpg. Ouch! And with a 317g/km CO2 emissions figure, road tax is £400 per year.

Not that the SRX's full-time four-wheel drive helps much when it comes to economy. However, it does add valuable stability in all weather conditions, which is good news in wet and windy Britain. Its 4x4 system doesn't make the SRX a proper off-roader in the mould of, say, a Range Rover — the Cadillac has neither the ground clearance nor the low gear ratios for that. But it will obligingly and happily tow a boat or a horsebox wherever it needs to go, be it across a soggy field or a slippery slipway.

And there's yet more good news: with a proper independent suspension set-up beneath the bodywork and Magnetic Ride Control electronically taking care of the damping (it adjusts 1,000 times a second and is said to be the world's fastest reacting suspension control system), the big SRX rides fluently. Make no mistake — we're not talking soft or sloppy here. For a big seven-seater, the SRX demonstrates good grip and decent body control with minimal roll.

It handles in a reassuringly composed manner, at the same time soaking up the bumps and serving up a very stable and agreeable ride. Add to that effective sound insulation, and the SRX proves to be a car in which, ensconced in its big, soft, shapely and supportive seats, you can travel pleasantly all day long.

There's good stopping power, courtesy of the ventilated discs fitted all round. For such a large car, the SRX has a fairly tight turning circle and the speed-sensitive, variable-assist power-steering, despite feeling a tad over-assisted, does ensure the SRX goes where it's pointed.

Reasons for buying this luxury crossover American alternative to a Mercedes ML-Class or BMW X5 — apart from on purely pragmatic costs grounds — include its striking looks and decent handling as much as its seven-seat layout, generous equipment tally and the fact that it's also comfortable, easy to drive and a relaxed cruiser. If you hanker after attention then the SRX will generate that, too — admit to owning a Mercedes, BMW or Jaguar these days and they'll just nod and carry on talking. But mention that you drive a Cadillac and suddenly you're no longer extraordinarily ordinary! — MotorBar

Cadillac SRX 3.6 V6 AWD Sport Luxury
| £32,100
Maximum speed: 125mph | 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds | Overall test MPG: 15.2mpg
Power: 257bhp | Torque: 250lb ft | CO2 317g/km | Insurance group 17E