Double-Take: SRX Turbo

Having a vehicle for a week is often long enough to form meaningful impressions. But, sometimes, you get value from having a second go-round some time later. In some cases, opinions are reinforced. Other times, you might form a new opinion having the advantage of time. For context, take a look back at our previous review of the 2010 SRX Turbo for our original thoughts on the SRX in it's 2.8l turbo form. Unusually, Cadillac put out another example of this, now discontinued powertrain, in the media fleet. We now know that the normally aspirated 3.6 will replace this and the base 3.0 next year. Turbo SRXes are rare birds, available just the inaugural year and some change, and then only making up around 10% of sales prior to its cancellation, with worse economy than buyers expected and not enough extra oomph to make up for it. However, especially in the mountains, where elevation robs non-turbo engines of their power to the tune of 3% per 1000 feet, the SRX with the 2.8 should actually far outperform the coming 3.6. For example, if the new engine puts out a rated 300hp, just driving in Denver (5000+ feet above sea level) will see a 15% power loss or about 45hp (leaving it with 255hp). The 2.8 also sees some loss, but maybe more like 5% total or 15hp lost from it's 300hp baseline (leaving it with 285). Additionally, the turbo engine has a much beefier torque curve that further exaggerates the power advantage at altitude. So, what did we notice in our second week with the lame duck SRX turbo? 1. StabiliTrak in the snow is fun. Our first time behind the wheel saw Colorado in rare snow-free form for early in the year. So, it was not common to invoke the stability control. This time around, we had some of the white stuff. StabiliTrak allowed us to lay into the power and feel the computers doing their magic to keep things under control. Once we trusted it to do the right things - tromping on the power and marveling at it doing its thing was kind of fun. 2. Sport mode - still way too subtle. In our 2011 model, the experience from before where we noticed the transmission aggressively kicking down when slowing to a light was smoothed away vs. our 2010 model last year. Now there is almost no sign that you are in the sportier driving mode. 3. Brakes - unlike our previous model, it seems that the brakes are dialed in a bit better this year. This could have been a quirk in our 2010 test car or a running change - but the prior experience with brakes being non-linear just didn't appear to be hold with our latest tester. 4. Infotainment - still a lot clunkier to use than we'd like. 'Nuff said. However, in testing out the audio quality, we found the stereo to easily go much louder than we would normally go without anything we'd identify as distortion. I certainly wouldn't go more than 80% volume before chickening out. It's loud. So, ultimately, the rough edges of the first year SRX seem to have been polished away in year 2. This is pretty impressive given how many manufacturers would leave things like this alone until a mid-cycle refresh 3+ years into the run. This suggests that Cadillac is serious about making the SRX a real contender in this space. We will lament that a turbo powertrain is no longer available in the SRX. We will also eagerly await an interior/electronics refresh with Cadillac's version of the MyLink system debuting in the rest of GM's brands. However, the fact that the list of niggles is getting shorter year by year is a promising sign and we look forward to how good the SRX will be when it finally does see its mid-cycle changes for 2013 or so.