Last month, we sampled the 2010 Cadillac SRX in naturally aspirated, 265-horsepower guise, and after a week behind the wheel we are convinced General Motors' luxury brand finally has a competitive crossover to take on the segment-defining Lexus RX. Along with Cadillac's unique angular styling and a full complement of amenities, the SRX surprised us with an edgy chassis that wasn't afraid to cut the rug when pulled onto the dance floor.
But while the SRX has some moves, the direct injected 3.0-liter V6 isn't exactly Fred Astaire. It provides just enough motivation for daily driving, but for customers that need more – particularly for those who want to fully enjoy the SRX's underpinnings – Cadillac has decided to offer a second, more aggressive engine to the mix. But with 300 horsepower, the 2010 SRX 2.8T – the first production Cadillac in the US fitted with a turbocharger – aims to please buyers looking for more pop in the pedal... a bit more skip in their step. Does the boosted Caddy deliver? We went to the Milford Proving Grounds to find out.
While Cadillac has high expectations for the sporting performance of the SRX 2.8T, its sales goals are far more modest. Cadillac expects only 10% to 15% of SRX buyers to opt for the turbocharged version, and those that do will pay a premium for its increased capabilities. The 2.8T option will only be available in Performance and Premium trim, and all-wheel drive, moonroof and navigation are all standard.
The turbo'd SRX utilizes the same FE3 suspension found in uplevel 3.0-liter models, though it has its own Aisin-Warner six-speed automatic transmission. We'd estimate the 2.8T's extra power will yield a 0-60 time of 7.5 seconds; about a second faster than the 3.0-liter model. Even with the 2.8T's improved performance, Cadillac still expects similar fuel economy to the 17/23 numbers of the non-turbo 3.0-liter mill, with city/highway numbers of 16/23. Although final pricing hasn't been announced, Cadillac tells us the 2.8T will carry a $3,000 premium versus a similarly equipped 3.0-liter model, so the MSRP is likely to max-out around $53,000 if all the boxes are checked.
Normally, when we get an invite from The General to test one of its more subdued offerings, we're relegated to a test track normally used to evaluate suspension setup, NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) and general driveability. With the SRX 2.8T, we received a bit of a surprise. Instead, we were escorted to the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1's stomping grounds, affectionately referred to as the "Lutz 'Ring."
Bob Lutz' signature track takes cues from some of the world's most impressive circuits, combining hairpin turns, significant elevation changes, blind crests and aggressive straightaways into a course designed to test the mettle of GM's high performance offerings. A select group of test drivers are qualified to attack the track at full throttle, and the training regimen requires pilots to cut their teeth with a Pontiac Solstice before graduation to bigger game. If they come within a few tenths of John Heinricy's times, they get certified. Needless to say, not an easy task.
Evidence of the track's victims are peppered throughout the course, with long, thick skid marks exiting the cement surface and disappearing into the grass. Our track guide (and certified badass) Matt Satchell told us some of the markings were the result of ABS failures on test mules and other pre-preproduction issues, although we're sure that's only part of the story. Regardless, those black stripes gave us pause. We've tackled the Lutz 'Ring in Chevy's world-beating, 638-hp ZR1, but a luxury crossover? This was going to be interesting.
After Matt gave us a quick tour of the grounds, we settled in behind the wheel and headed out on the track with the gearbox set to automatic. No surprise, the extra 74 lb-ft of twist provided by the turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 was a revelation over the torque-challenged 3.0-liter mill. Turbo lag is minimal, and with 295 lb-ft available from 2,000 RPM, any mid-corner temerity (or stupidity) can be wallpapered over upon exit thanks to the SRX's newfound thrust.
And when the time came to attack those bends, we were greeted by the same dynamic chassis we enjoyed in the standard SRX. Although the crossover's relatively high center of gravity dolls out minimal body roll in both the tighter turns and high-speed sweepers, the suspension and chassis feel at home when driven aggressively. When we overstepped the boundaries of physics and the rear tires lost adhesion, the Haldex AWD system quickly regained traction before the stability control stepped in to govern our fun. Unfortunately, the SRX's thrones aren't bolstered enough for track duty, so staying firmly behind the wheel requires plenty of forearm exercise.
On our next go 'round, we slipped the SRX into Sport mode by bumping the shifter into its Manual setting, allowing us to pick our preferred ratio or let the transmission figure it out. In Sport, the SRX becomes slightly racier. Shifts are held longer, downshifts are more aggressive and the suspension reacts accordingly. We didn't notice any major differences with the steering or throttle, but the higher revs make the SRX easier to drive quickly.
After seven runs around the L-Ring, we left the Milford Proving Grounds to get a sense of how the SRX handles real-world conditions. On public roads, the SRX showed its civic side, staying comfortable and compliant across a myriad of surfaces in stereotypical Caddy fashion. Again, the extra oomph provided by the boosted six was more than welcome, and cracking the window let the 2.8's siren song into an otherwise quiet cabin. Although the force-fed V6's note is slightly more refined in the Cadillac than it is when installed in the (less-powerful) Saab 9-3 Turbo X, the added gruff of the exhaust urges you to push a little harder, something noticeably missing in the segment.
Even with its advanced capabilities, the SRX 2.8T has little business on a high performance test track, yet it never embarrassed itself (or us) around the circuit. When we reviewed the naturally aspirated SRX, we felt it was an aggressive powertrain away from being outstanding. With the addition of the 300 hp 2.8T to the SRX llneup, Cadillac's new crossover has taken its game to the next level. There are plenty of luxury crossovers with "me-too" styling and the driving feel of a Barcalounger, so it's refreshing to see Cadillac has taken the road less traveled with the SRX 2.8T.
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