Cadillac's SRX has grown beyond its sporty wagon pretensions and is now targeting the heart of the luxury crossover market. The strategy seems to be working, as it's already selling much better than the outgoing model (which, we should note, won a few Automobile Magazine All-Star awards in its time), and yet, it seems Cadillac isn't quite ready to give up on having some high-roof fun. To that end, the premium model featured here has ditched the wheezy base 3.0-liter V-6 and standard front-wheel-drive configuration in favor of a turbocharged, 2.8-liter V-6 producing 300 hp and torque-vectoring all-wheel drive - the same setup found in the Saab 9-3 Aero and Opel Insignia OPC. Given these macho specs, we thought it was time to measure the SRX against the best in its class, which, in our estimation, means the Audi Q5. The Q5 won our three-way crossover shootout
last year and has since become a well-regarded member of our Four Seasons fleet for its sporting demeanor, handsome exterior, and, yes, Audi-like interior. Does it have what it takes to fend off the brasher and more powerful Cadillac? Read on for our impressions.
Eyes on me
Audi has risen from something of an also-ran to a luxury leader over the last decade thanks largely to its expressive design language. The Q5 continues Audi's winning streak, successfully scaling down the shape of the handsome Q7 and flashing high-dollar cues like LED daytime running lamps. Of course, Cadillac has enjoyed a design renaissance of its own in recent years and hasn't let up with the SRX. From some angles the styling can appear a bit busy, but overall, the trademark angular design does a great job of visually shrinking a vehicle that's actually eight inches longer and more than an inch wider than the Q5. Really, there's no wrong choice here - both crossovers carry out the distinct, premium language of their brand without being stale - but we'd give the slight edge to the fresher Cadillac.
Interiors should be seen, not heard
Of course, luxury crossovers trade more on the design of their interiors. Traditionally, this would have been an easy, decisive advantage for Audi. And yet, glancing about the cabins of each vehicle, it's hard to declare a winner straightaway. To be sure, the Q5 is laid out and executed to the brand's typically high standards, but the SRX, for its part, will look familiar to anyone who's sat in a CTS, and that's a good thing. Cadillac's materials are hard to fault, also. Both of our test vehicles came equipped with all manner of electronic conveniences, along with panoramic sunroofs, and the pricier Cadillac adds a rear-seat entertainment system. The array of buttons and a displays that make up Audi's latest Man-Machine Interface [MMI] look impressive, but if your ego can handle asking for directions, Cadillac's OnStar-backed system will at the press of one button connect you with a representative who can find just about any point of interest and beam them to your nav screen. (OnStar is free for the first year, and then costs $299 annually).
Which vehicle is more comfortable depends entirely on how many passengers you intend on bringing along. Though the Q5 is the smaller vehicle, it's actually more comfortable for one or two adults in back thanks to the deeply sculpted front seatbacks. It's only when loaded with five passengers that the Cadillac asserts its size advantage, and its flat rear floor makes the middle rear seat far more livable than the kids-only middle seat in the Q5. Loading goods into either vehicle is a synch, thanks to their similar power liftgates and underfloor storage compartments. The SRX has an ultimate cargo carrying advantage of nearly four cubic feet when the second-row seats are folded.
So, the SRX interior looks about as nice, has a more intuitive nav system, and, in the real world, can cart around more people and goods. And yet, everyone who spent time in both vehicles agreed the Audi had far and away the better interior. Before you leave a comment accusing us of being German-loving sycophants, consider one word or, more specifically, one onomatopoeia: "squeak." Pitch the SRX over a rough stretch of pavement and all manner of odd noises will tell you that this Cadillac, assembled in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, could use some more attention in the fit and finish department. The Q5, on the other hand, delivers the perfection we've come to expect from Audis when it comes to the precision of every gap and the utter silence in which it shrugs off even the most teeth chattering of potholes. The SRX's cabin might make just as good a first impression with its attractive design and terrific telematics, but given a choice of which interior we'd prefer to live with over the long haul, especially on rutted Midwestern roads, there's no question - Audi wins.
Out German the Germans
We fully expected the SRX to get blown away in terms of driving dynamics by the excellent Q5, but again, it put up a stronger fight than we anticipated. For one, it has better steering, thanks to a precise, smooth ZF rack that's far more natural than the Q5's overly ambitious variable-effort setup, which at times feels as if someone is actually fighting with you for control of the wheel. GM engineers have also managed to out German the Germans in terms of the suspension tuning, as the SRX both rides better and is less prone to body roll than the Q5, which is itself a very buttoned down crossover. Some of the credit goes to the SRX's Haldex-developed electronic limited-slip differential, which can instantly transfer torque from front to back and between the rear wheels. This helps the SRX power out of turns where the Q5 takes a slight, yet definite lean. We must note that the Audi was wearing snow tires versus the SRX's all-seasons, and that our Q5 lacks the optional Drive Select, which brings on adjustable dampers and steering effort. Still, the fact that Cadillac has baked enough poise into its crossover to outdance an Audi is impressive.
Unfortunately, the SRX's advantages in the lateral motion department simply can't make up for its glaring deficiencies when it comes to accelerating or stopping. The turbo V-6 reads like a fine engine, as it offers significantly more power and torque than the Q5's larger 3.2-liter V-6. Alas, it's a paper tiger. Through most of the rev range, it provides less satisfying grunt than it does unrefined groaning, never feeling like it's serving up the promised 295 lb-ft of torque. In contrast, the Audi six, despite being rated at 270 hp and a mere 243 lb-ft of torque, always seems to be in its sweet spot, providing easy, smooth thrust no matter how fast you're going. No surprise, then, that in our previous testing the Q5 has accelerated to 60 mph a full second faster than the SRX and maintains this advantage through the quarter mile. It also stops shorter, with responsive, grippy brakes that instill much more confidence than the underboosted pedal on the SRX. Did we mention that the Q5 is also more efficient (18/23 mpg versus the SRX's 15/22 mpg)? Some of this owes to the Q5's near 300-pound weight advantage, but there's no getting around the fact that the Cadillac is stuck with an inferior powertrain and poor brake tuning. The 2.8-liter, originally developed by Saab, is not long for this world, as it does not meet upcoming emissions requirements. We say good riddance.
You're probably noticing a theme here. The Cadillac SRX Turbo has lots of charm and does many things well, but it also suffers from a few substantial weaknesses. And though none of these flaws necessarily make the Cadillac SRX a bad vehicle, they become all the more glaring when compared with the Audi Q5, which is every bit as charismatic and has the quality and substance to back it up. A few tweaks to address interior quality, better brakes, and a stronger powertrain would make the SRX a clear champion, but until then, the well-rounded Audi Q5 remains our crossover of choice.
Cadillac SRX Turbo AWD
Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
| Base price/as tested: || $52,185/$53,480 |
| Engine: || 2.8L turbocharged V-6 |
| Power: || 300-hp @ 5500 |
| Torque: || 295-lb-ft @ 2000 |
| Transmission: || 6-speed automatic |
| Curb weight: || 4595 lb |
| Wheelbase: || 110.5 inches |
| L x W x H: || 190.3 x 75.2 x 65.7 in |
| 0-60 mph: || 7.6 sec |
| Quarter mile: || 15.9 sec @ 90.7 mph |
| Braking, 60-0 mph: || 128 ft |
| Lateral acceleration: || 0.82 g (avg) |
| EPA city/hwy econ: || 15/22 mpg |
| Tires: || Michelin Latitude 235/55R20 |
Audi Q5 3.2 Quattro
Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
| Base price/as tested: || $38,175/$45,225 |
| Engine: || 3.2L V-6 |
| Power: || 270 hp @ 6500 rpm |
| Torque: || 243 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
| Transmission: || 6-speed automatic
| Curb weight: || 4310 lb |
| Wheelbase: || 110.5 inches
| L x W x H: || 182.2 x 74.0 x 65.1 in inches |
| 0-60 mph: || 6.6 sec |
| Quarter mile: || 15.0 sec @ 93.6 mph |
| Braking, 60-0 mph: || 120 ft |
| Lateral acceleration: || 0. 0.85 g (avg)
| EPA city/hwy econ: || 18/23 mpg
| Tires: || Michelin Latitude Alpin 235/60R18 |