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Click to view picture gallery“Not everbody will
  want one of Cadillac’s
  first-ever luxury
  crossover vehicles —
  the SRX. But those
  who like its distinctly
  American looks and
  who fancy a four-wheel
  drive luxury 7-seater
  SUV will be more than
  happy to drive one...”

ENTERING the fleet market with the help of parent company GM and using their expertise and proven selling power may be just the solution in establishing Cadillac as a credible brand in the UK.

Discussions between GM Europe and Cadillac's European importer, the Dutch based Kroymans Corporation, in conjunction with the current UK retailer group Stratstone — who have been responsible to date for UK distribution and sales of the American marque — are being held in a bid to raise the profile of the brand, to increase sales and to improve residual values.

Since the brand was re-launched in the UK over two years ago, it has struggled to get itself established. It now has ten outlets in England and Wales, but none in Scotland. Stratstone has revised its business plan and is still working towards a target of 20 outlets, but there are no sales forecasts for this year.

With just one model in 2005, the UK network sold around 200 cars out of 2,100 in Europe and last year, with 12 dealers and a four-model line-up, it exceeded 400 sales. During the same period, Continental registrations rose to 3,000.

However, slow sales in Swansea and Cheltenham led to the closure last year of these outlets. The UK Stratstone Cadillac network now con-sists of showrooms in Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Derby, Hagley, Birmingham, Cardiff, Luton, London and Reading.

A spokesperson for Cadillac Europe said last week that getting Cadillac accepted by British customers may take longer than expected, but that they are in this for the long term. Having the structure in place to sell Cadillacs through an established fleet sales operation like GM and Vauxhall would help significantly. He added that they are in the third and final phase of the re-launch of the Cadillac brand and by the end of the year will have introduced two further models — in addition to the SRX crossover 4x4 being launched now. In 2008 we can expect to start to see replacement models for the existing range.

Nearly all UK Cadillac sales have been to private buyers. Fleet or company-assisted purchases are extremely low. While it is believed the niche nature of Cadillac should appeal to business buyers and users, clearly they would prefer dealing with a manufacturer rather than a retailer.

This is considered necessary to boost credibility of the brand's long-term commitment to the UK and to lift residual values (from under 30 per cent after three years), with more cars being seen on roads and getting into the pre-owned market.

Logistics aside, the fight-hand drive Cadillac SRX 4x4 has now joined the saloon BLS, CTS, STS models and the convertible XLR.

Only petrol engines are available at the moment. Cadillac said earlier this year that a diesel engine would be developed and fitted, but that this will not be available for a couple of years — even though this is another factor which has hindered corporate and private sales across Europe.

Launching a large seven-seat American-built 4x4 — even a crossover sports utility type — with the anti-4x4 lobby in full voice (not to mention CO2 issues) is not exactly perfect timing for Cadillac; especially as the newcomer is only available with V6 and V8 petrol engines.

A diesel engine, as already mentioned, is still some years away, but an announcement is expected this week at the Geneva Motor Show as
to whom the supplier will be. The VM Motori company is hotly tipped to be involved.

In the large 4x4/SUV market sector over 80 per cent of sales are accounted for by diesel models. So much so that some manufacturers have even stopped selling petrol versions because demand is so low.

However, the Cadillac SRX could score with limited numbers of British buyers for several reasons: the exclusivity of the Cadillac brand; the seven-seat layout; and the huge array of executive specification at competitive prices — 27,995 to 36,895 — in its sector. The March UK launch coincides with the introduction of the 2007 model year specification changes as up until now the SRX has only been available in left-hand drive markets.

Bearing in mind Cadillac refuses to give any UK sales forecast for their entire range for this year, we have no idea how many SRX models could find homes in Britain. The only certainty is that it will be small numbers.

Cadillac claims the SRX combines the sporty exterior and driving dynamics of a luxury estate car with the all-wheel drive and interior space of a sports utility vehicle. First launched in 2004, the crossover SRX boasts a redesigned interior, improved powertrains, an enhanced V8 Northstar model with six-speed automatic gearbox and a Sport Package.

The SRX — built alongside its Cadillac CTS, CTS-V, STS and STS-V stablemates at GM's Lansing Grand River Assembly Centre in Michigan, USA — is Cadillac's first-ever luxury crossover vehicle. It sports distinctive, crisp sharp-edged looks, striking vertical headlights, bold front side sections and a V-shaped front tapering into the classic Cadillac grille.

The SRX is available with a choice of two engines. A 3.6-litre V6 VVT powerplant that develops 254bhp at 6,500rpm and 250lb ft of torque
at 2,700 rpm. This 60-degree dual-overhead cam 24-valve engine has electronic throttle control, variable valve timing and multi-port fuel injection. It is coupled to a five-speed automatic gearbox.

The 4.6-litre, 32-valve V8 Northstar engine, extensively re-engineered and mounted longitudinally in the first all-wheel drive application of the Northstar family, generates 321bhp at 6,500rpm and 315lb ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. It uses a new six-speed automatic transmission.

SRX has the latest four-channel StabiliTrak active suspension control and a segment-first option of Magnetic Ride Control. Cadillac says this uses electronically-controlled magnetic-fluid based real-time damping to create the world's fastest reacting suspension control system. Speed-sensitive variable effort steering, four-channel ABS braking with Panic Brake Assist and traction control are all standard.

Significant changes to the 2007 SRX's redesigned cabin include softer surfaces, new flush-mounted switches and controls along with en-hanced storage capacity — including a 'hidden' storage compartment on the passenger side of the instrument panel. The wood trim on the passenger side opens to reveal a wide, additional storage bin above the existing glove box.

The SRX cabin utilises Cadillac's new 'cut-and-sew' interior process that combines technology with the hand-rendered precision of expert craftsmen. Coverings for components such as the instrument panel, centre console and door trims are cut, sewn and wrapped mostly by hand.

At 2,960mm, the Cadillac SRX has one of the longest wheelbases in its class and provides ample rear legroom. For the UK, the SRX is fitted out as a seven-seater and offers a spacious cargo area. The rear and middle row seats can be folded down, increasing the cargo volume to over 1,960 litres. In order that the cargo bed can still be used when-ever required, the third row seats can be power-folded into the floor at the touch of a button. The rear tailgate is also operated electronically.

An optional feature for the SRX is 'Ultra View' — a huge, power-operated glass sliding roof that gives a light-flooded interior or, when open, the pleasure of a genuine open-air driving experience.

The latest SRX comes with enhanced in-vehicle electronics and enter-tainment, including a Bose 5.1 cabin surround digital audio system. Another option for SRX buyers is a 'theatre' package consisting of Bose 5.1 cabin surround, DVD navigation and rear-seat DVD entertainment.

In addition to the standard Elegance specification for the V6 model, the SRX also has a Sport Luxury package which is standard for the V8 models and available for the V6 version. This adds 18-inch aluminium wheels, sport grille and dual chrome exhaust tips.

In this review, I have concentrated on what the SRX has to offer in the way of passenger accommodation and value-for-money specific-ation because these are obviously its main strengths. It is a big vehicle with lots of equipment and distinctive looks. As far as performance
and driving dynamics go, it brings nothing new to the market. In fact
it falls some way behind the majority of the European and Japanese competition.

At the UK press launch, we only had the V6 model Sport Luxury model to drive — fortunate in a way, because it is likely to be the best selling version. The engine is strong and responsive, although the five-speed automatic transmission saps its power, and the fuel economy — at 15.7mpg — is not realistic and just shows the real need for a diesel engine. Official figures are, for the record, 14.8, 20.2 and 25.7mpg respectively for town, combined and touring.

The SRX's handling was comfortable but not very precise for road-holding or steering feedback. It's also going to be expensive to run until the provision of a decent diesel engine. But it's not all bad news. In its favour it offers customers a comprehensive specification at competitive prices with seven seats and a large load space, all-wheel drive and an imposing road presence. So while the SRX is a big, comfortable 'barge' of a luxury estate car with distinctive all-American looks that's exactly what some people will want. — David Miles

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Cadillac SRX 3.6 V6 Sport Luxury | 31,995
Maximum speed: 125mph | 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds
Overall test MPG: 15.7mpg | Power: 254bhp | Torque: 250lb ft

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