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2012 Test Cadillac SRX

Cadillac SUV bests German rivals by a landslide Add to ...

Okay, a couple of quick questions:

First, which of these crossovers did not rank among the top three in their class in the latest J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study: Cadillac SRX, Infiniti FX, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz ML?

Second, which of these brands ranked highest in the overall IQS: Cadillac, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, BMW?

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The answer to the first question is the ML, the second Cadillac. So how many of you budding luxury crossover buyers have the SRX on your radar screen? Been for a test drive? Priced out head-to-head an SRX versus, say, a comparable FX, RX and ML? How many? Really and truly, how many?

True enough, we can quibble and argue about the strength of the respective brands, that if you want a Caddy in Canada you must buy it in a showroom also loaded with Chevy Sparks and GMC Sierra pickups. You can point out that the premium ownership experience is better at the others because every Lexus, Infiniti and Merc is sold at a standalone dealership, while GM’s four brands for the most part are lumped together under a single dealership roof.

I agree that the lack of a separate Cadillac dealership network in Canada is a big problem for General Motors’ premium, top-of-the-line brand. I don’t agree, however, that when it comes to the SRX, Cadillac takes a back seat to the likes of the FX, ML and RX, to name three.

And when it comes to pricing head-to-head, the Caddy wins. I know this because I’ve done it here with the help of my Autodata comparison software. I can tell you that the exercise is quite a revelation. Shocking really. And Caddy wins by a landslide. Why? So much is standard in a $54,740 SRX Premium model with all-wheel-drive.

This means that if you want to bring an FX35 Premium up to an equal equipment level, add more than $8,000 to the $53,350 base price. The RX350, with its hugely appealing $44,950 base, needs some $14,500 in extras. Do that and you not only wipe out the basic sticker price advantage, you are left with an options-in RX at $61,445. That gives the SRX an overall all-in edge of more than $5,000.

The ML350 from Mercedes? To make it an equipment match to the SRX Premium, you must start ticking the options boxes at the Merc dealer. When you’re done ordering $13,900 in options, the $57,900 ML350 becomes a $72,500 ML350. Advantage SRX. By – sit down -- $16,165.

Of course, until this year, until Caddy fixed the SRX’s engine problem, I would not have felt it fair to make a head-to-head comparison such as this. But the SRX’s new 3.6-litre direct-injected V-6 (308 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque) makes a world of difference. Last year’s base V-6, an over-matched 3.0-litre V-6, lacked needed torque and refinement and the 2.8-litre turbocharged upgrade, while more powerful, was a jumpy, jittery, less than luxurious performer.

This new V-6, however, is modern and willing, right down to its continuously variable valve timing. This six replaces both engine choices from 2011; it is the standard engine for all SRX models and it’s a good one – with peak torque arriving at a quite low 2,400 rpm.

Some might argue the Caddy’s six-speed automatic – even with its driver-selectable Eco feature – falls short of the seven-speeds in, say the FX and ML, and that’s a fair quibble. But in refinement and output, the Caddy is right there in the game – and bests the V-6 in the Lexus (270 hp/248 lb-ft).

Where the SRX goes entirely its own direction, however, is in the design. Up front is what Caddy calls a “multi-piece shield grille” with vertical headlamps – headlights with adaptive lighting that aims the lamps in the direction of the front wheels. The sheetmetal is edgy and angular and like nothing else. This crossover has a wide stance, minimal overhangs front and rear, and wheels pushed to the corners. All together, the SRX has presence, right down to the 20-inch wheels that were standard on my Premium tester.

Inside, the cabin is modern and racy, right down to the front door sills that light up Cadillac script logos when you open the front doors. The audio and navigation system has voice recognition and in the Premium model includes Bose 5.1 surround sound with 10 speakers, a 40-gig hard drive and USB with audio connectivity. The Premium model’s automatic climate control is managed by simple, effective controls and there is a useful driver information system that is standard on all models.

My big criticism of the cabin is the leather seat surfacings. The leather is smooth and almost slippery, which means that when you roll hard into a corner, you are inclined to slide around a bit. But at least you want to hit those corners.

That’s because the SRX’s four-wheel independent suspension system and standard rack-and-pinion hydraulic steering system – hydraulic, not electric! – makes for a tight handling package. While the SRX has a tall stance, in most respects this crossover handles more like a sporty sedan. Just in case, the list of standard fare ranges from stability control to airbags everywhere and a rearview camera system.

There’s a lot here, so a last question: why isn’t the SRX on more radar screens?

Tech specs

2012 Cadillac SRX Premium AWD

Type: Mid-size premium SUV

Base price: $54,740 ($1,595 freight)

Engine: 3.6-litre V-6

Horsepower/torque: 308 hp/265 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.2 city/8.8 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Infiniti FX, Lexus RX, Acura MDX, BMW X3 and X5, Mercedes-Benz ML and GLK, Audi Q5, Lincoln MKX, Volvo XC60 and XC90

jcato@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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