2012 Cadillac SRX Premium Collection road test: Luxury crossover is even better than before

2012 Cadillac SRX crossover utility vehicle

2012 Cadillac SRX crossover utility vehicle

The buyers and critics have been somewhat at odds since its introduction, but the sales figures have proven the wisdom of General Motors ways, and the upgraded 2012 Cadillac SRX luxury crossover vehicle should remove the biggest objection of the naysayers.

What the critics didn’t like, at least at first, was that Cadillac down-sized the luxury crossover, changed the drive wheels from back to front, and eliminated the strong V-8 engine.

Buyers, however, had no such concerns and bought the distinctive SRX in big enough numbers to move it into second place on the sales charts, behind only the Lexus RX 350.

Cadillac SRX instrument panel

Cadillac SRX instrument panel

After a while, a lot  of the criticism subsided, but the second-generation Cadillac’s engines — a standard 3-liter V-6 with 265 horsepower and 223 pound-feet of torque and an optional turbocharged, 2.8-liter V-6 with 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque— failed to ignite the reviewers’ enthusiasm.

To be honest, I didn’t find much lacking in the original, non-turbo V-6 engine. It wasn’t particular powerful, but it was smooth and it was adequate for moving a 4,200-pound, front-wheel drive SRX through the hilly sections of north-central New Jersey, where I lived at the time.

For the 2012 model year, both of those engines have been banished, replaced by a single 3.6-liter V-6 engine with direct fuel injection that generates 308 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque.

As before, the 2012 Cadillac SRX test vehicle is teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission. Both old and new have 3,500-pound towing capacities and the 2012 Cadillac SRX weighs in about 75 pounds heavier than a 2011 model.

Cadillac SRX cargo space

Cadillac SRX cargo space

In my week of driving on the mostly level roads near Charleston, SC, I found the new engine to have more power in all situations, but there was no dramatic change in performance.

Oddly in these fuel-conscious times, the updated Cadillac SRX is a bit less efficient than its predecessor. The front-wheel-drive 2012 model is EPA-rated at 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway, while the 2011 returned an estimated 18 mpg city/ 25 mpg on the highway.

Overall, I averaged about 20 mpg in both vehicles. Perhaps that is because I spent a lot of time driving in the new-for-2012 driver-selectable Eco mode. It alters shift points to improve fuel efficiency and Cadillac officials say that can add up to an extra mile per gallon.

Frankly, I don’t believe that buyers of a near-$50,000 vehicle are going to worry a lot over minor differences in fuel efficiency. What they want is a distinctive crossover with ease of drivability, sufficient practicality and a generous amount of luxury features.

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Nick has been an avid observer of all things automotive almost since birth and has been writing professionally about cars, trucks and the industry for more than 30 years. He is the author of The Essential Hybrid Car Handbook and was the long-time automotive editor for the Reading (Pa.) Eagle and Times. His articles have appeared in a variety of magazines, including The Robb Report and Men’s Health, and he has written for a variety of auto industry-related Web sites. He is also a member and former director of the International Motor Press Assn., a New York-based organization of more than 500 automotive journalists and auto industry executives.