2013 Cadillac SRX Road Test and Review: Introduction
Since the current version of the Cadillac SRX debuted for the 2010 model year, it has undergone a nearly continual program of improvement. This year, Cadillac has turned the 2013 SRX into a luxury crossover suv that is either more appealing to you or less appealing to you, depending on your comfort level with technology.
In addition to a number of minor upgrades designed to further refine the SRX, the SUV is equipped with a standard Cadillac User Experience (CUE) center control panel and 8-inch LCD touch-sensitive display screen with proximity sensing and haptic feedback technologies. If you feel as though that last sentence started off in English but then trailed off into unintelligible gobbledygook, you should probably start thinking about shopping for a different vehicle, because if you can’t get along with CUE, the 2013 Cadillac SRX won’t get along with you.
Additionally, the new SRX is offered with a number of new safety-related technologies to help it gird for competitive battle against the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Infiniti FX (soon to be Infiniti QX70), Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Lexus RX, Lincoln MKX, Mercedes-Benz GLK, and Volvo XC60.
2013 Cadillac SRX Road Test and Review: Models and Prices
Cadillac sells the 2013 SRX with a choice between front- and all-wheel drive, equipped with “Collections” of features, which are essentially trim levels called Standard, Luxury, Performance, and Premium. The base price for the Standard model without any options is $38,050, while a Premium model with all the factory-option boxes checked wears a price tag of $58,225.
My test vehicle was the SRX Premium with front-wheel drive, dipped in new Silver Coast Metallic paint. The Premium model is the most expensive version of the SRX, starting at $48,620. Compared to the Performance model, the Premium model adds a triple-zone automatic climate control system, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, and a Driver Awareness Package containing a Lane Departure Warning system, a Forward Collision Alert system, and a Safety Alert Seat.
Additional standard equipment highlights for the SRX Premium include Cadillac User Experience (CUE) technology, a navigation system, a premium Bose Centerpoint audio system with Bluetooth streaming audio, and an UltraView sunroof. This model also comes standard with heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power liftgate with memory height settings, and keyless passive entry with push-button ignition.
Safety equipment for the Premium model includes a reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers, Side Blind Zone Alert technology, front and rear parking sensors, and one free year of OnStar Directions & Connections service including Automatic Crash Response. Like all Cadillacs, the SRX is covered by a Premium Care Maintenance plan good for four years or 50,000 miles, and which includes all scheduled maintenance and service during that time.
Options on my test SRX included polished 20-inch aluminum wheels and a dual-screen Blu-Ray rear-seat entertainment system. The total came to $50,710.
2013 Cadillac SRX Road Test and Review: Design
- Redesigned grille
- Restyled wheel selections
- New side vent design with LED light pipe accents
- LED light pipe accents added to taillights
- New steering wheel and shift knob design
- Redesigned gauge cluster
- Cadillac User Experience (CUE) center control panel
- Three new exterior colors
- One new interior color combination
Previously, I’ve asserted that the SRX is an attractive SUV equipped with a face two sizes too big for its body. For 2013, subtle styling updates improve the visual relationship of the front lighting and grille elements with the rest of the vehicle’s design, while at the same time lending the SRX a more upscale appearance.
The result is an undeniably handsome – and unique – luxury crossover, styled with classic Cadillac cues executed in a thoroughly modern way. Identifiable at a glance, the SRX looks like nothing else on the road, a crisp and refreshing departure from a bland crossover SUV design norm. Among its direct competitors, only the Infiniti FX and Range Rover Evoque carry as much visual presence.
Inside, the 2013 SRX gets a new gauge cluster, steering wheel, and CUE center stack, which collectively modernize the SUV’s cabin. The quality of the materials meets expectations for a vehicle of this price, and the textures and tones create a Germanic look and feel with chrome detailing, piano-black accents, and genuine wood trim delivering appropriate levels of American glamour.
2013 Cadillac SRX Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
- Standard Active Noise Cancellation technology
In addition to a modernized appearance combined with a luxurious look and feel, the 2013 SRX’s interior gains standard Active Noise Cancellation technology. The result is a noticeably hushed cabin, especially at freeway speeds, adding an extra measure of refinement previously lacking from Cadillac’s little crossover.
I call the SRX little, despite its hefty 4,277-lb. base curb weight, because it isn’t very big inside. Front seat occupants sit on firm, comfortable, supportive chairs, and there is plenty of room for two large adults. The driver grips a new steering wheel, which looks terrific and is comfortable to hold for long periods of time.
The rear seat is designed to hold three people, but is best used for two. Even with taller people sitting in front, rear seat legroom and foot room are adequate, but the narrow cabin, dark-tinted glass, and tall front seatbacks can instill a sense of claustrophobia in rear seat occupants.
Behind the rear seat, the SRX provides 29.9 cu.-ft. of cargo capacity. Fold the rear seat backs and there’s a total of 61.1 cu.-ft. of volume. Both figures are smaller than most of the Cadillac’s direct competitors, but represent slight improvements over the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon.
2013 Cadillac SRX Road Test and Review: Features and Controls
- Standard CUE technology
- In-dash storage bin behind CUE faceplate
- Standard HD Radio
- Center console adds USB ports, and SD card slot, and an auxiliary audio input jack
- Updated headphone and remote control designs for optional rear-seat entertainment system
At first glance, the 2013 Cadillac SRX model’s control layout and displays appear simple, clean, modern, and high-tech. And they are. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to use, or that they belong in a vehicle’s dashboard.
Unfortunately, the new-for-2013 Cadillac User Experience (CUE) technology is standard on the SRX rather than optional. Modeled after popular tablet technology, CUE combines a sophisticated touch-screen display with a touch-sensitive control panel, and is used to operate the Cadillac’s infotainment and climate control systems. The system offers proximity sensing and haptic feedback technologies designed to call up menus and provide confirmation that it has received the user’s touch commands.
In a society in which smartphones and tablets are commonplace, CUE represents a predictable and logical effort to extend the same technology and functionality into a vehicle. The difference is that when people use smartphones and tablets, they’re typically not simultaneously commanding a 2-ton vehicle and navigating through vehicular and pedestrian traffic. And if they are, they’re likely violating some rule designed to eliminate the problem of distracted driving.
Call me old school, but I find CUE infuriatingly difficult to understand and operate – or not operate, as the touch-sensitive controls are frequently unresponsive to my futile dashboard stabbing. Apple does intuitive touchscreen technology right, but even so, I would never attempt to use my iPhone or iPad while driving a car. Cadillac should be commended for its attempt to develop CUE in-house, but the interface falls short and is the single most compelling reason that buyers might wish to skip the SRX for another entry-luxury crossover.
2013 Cadillac SRX Road Test and Review: Safety and Ratings
- Optional Side Blind Zone Alert
- Optional Rear Cross Traffic Alert
- Optional Driver Assist Package
- Optional Driver Awareness Package
For 2013, Cadillac dramatically improves the SRX model’s safety-related technologies. All versions except the standard SRX are equipped with new Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert systems, the former a blind-spot warning system and the latter designed to let the driver know when vehicles are approaching from the side while the SRX is reversing.
Additionally, a Driver Awareness Package is optional on the Luxury and Performance models and standard on the Premium model. It adds a Forward Collision Alert system, a Lane Departure Warning system, and a Safety Alert Seat that vibrates to get the driver’s attention when danger might be present. A Driver Assist Package is optional on all except the base SRX, and adds an Adaptive Cruise Control system that operates across a full speed range, an Automatic Collision Preparation system that actively engages the brakes to avoid a crash or limit impact velocity, and a Front and Rear Automatic Braking system designed to automatically halt the SRX in an effort to avoid low-speed collisions when the driver might not be paying close attention.
Given how distracting CUE is, I strongly encourage SRX buyers to option their new crossover suv with both of these safety packages. In the event you choose one without these technologies, rest easier knowing that a full year of OnStar Automatic Crash Response service is included, and will put the SRX in touch with a human being in the event of an airbag deployment so that help is sent right away.
2013 Cadillac SRX Crash-Test Ratings:
In the event that the Driver Awareness and Driver Assist option packages cannot help to avoid a collision, it is good to know that crash-test ratings indicate that the 2013 SRX is a safe vehicle.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) calls the 2013 SRX a “Top Safety Pick,” but as this review was written the organization had not subjected the SUV to its new small overlap frontal impact test.
The NHTSA gives the 2013 SRX a 5-star side-impact rating and a 4-star rollover resistance rating, but refrains for assigning a frontal-impact rating or an overall rating. In 2012, the structurally identical SRX received a 5-star frontal impact rating and a 5-star overall rating.
2013 Cadillac SRX Road Test and Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- No changes for 2013
Every Cadillac SRX is equipped with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine generating 308 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 265 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,400 rpm. This V-6 is perfectly matched to the SRX, providing ample low-end grunt with thrilling high-end power, and thanks to the crossover’s new Active Noise Cancellation technology, the sometimes unrefined sounds that have historically emanated from this motor are eliminated from the cabin.
A 6-speed automatic transmission with Driver Shift Control manual gear selection delivers the power to the front wheels. An all-wheel-drive system with an electronic limited-slip differential is optional. According to the EPA, my SRX should have returned 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. I managed to extract 15 mpg in primarily city driving, despite the fact that the transmission defaults to “Eco” mode when the SRX is re-started.
2013 Cadillac SRX Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
Though the Cadillac SRX is a relatively heavy front-wheel-drive vehicle with 59% of its weight over the front wheels, it feels quite athletic from behind the steering wheel.
The direct-injected V-6 is powerful and loves to rev, emitting a visceral note at higher rpm. Abundant torque, always ready to rock, easily spins the inside front tire when accelerating out of a corner. In its “Eco” driving mode, the 6-speed automatic transmission occasionally delays downshifts and feels like it is stumbling. Slap the gear selector into Sport mode, and the SRX is instantly cured of any indecisiveness.
The SRX’s steering is sublime, communicative and capable of delivering exactly the right amount of effort level regardless of speed. The new steering wheel is perfectly sized and shaped, a quality piece of hardware entirely appropriate in this vehicle.
Suspension tuning is almost miraculous, effectively masking the SRX’s front-biased weight distribution at all but the most imprudent speeds. The big 20-inch wheels and 235/55 tires certainly help in this regard, but the SRX is also an effective communicator, letting the driver know well in advance of a loss of adhesion that its probably time to think about getting off the throttle.
Grip and progressive roll control don’t come at the expense of ride quality either, and while the SRX provides a firm ride, it never feels stiff or harsh. The ride and handling mix is very European in this regard.
The flaw in the SRX’s driving dynamics rests with the brakes. Pedal feel and response is terrible, reminding me of times when I’ve tried to stop a vehicle with power brakes when the engine was not running. Plus, when running hard on a mountain road during cool weather, the brakes heated up enough to exhibit some fade and shudder. Really, given the ventilated discs, the SRX’s driver certainly deserves better.
2013 Cadillac SRX Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
The Cadillac SRX is a flawed beauty. It looks terrific inside and out, drives well in most respects, is comfortable for four adults, and is quite safe in the event of a collision. However, the standard CUE interface is distracting, fuel economy is disappointing, the size-to-value ratio is difficult to justify, and the brake pedal could use recalibration. Would I recommend one? Yes, but with the caveat that new owners need to spend a whole bunch of time playing with CUE before actually making a purchase.
2013 Cadillac SRX Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- Exterior styling
- Interior design and materials
- Powertrain performance
- Ride and handling
- Crash-test ratings
- Free scheduled maintenance
- Distracting CUE user-interface
- Disappointing fuel economy
- Small cargo area
- Poor brake pedal feel and response
Cadillac supplied the vehicle for this review
2013 Cadillac SRX photos by Christian Wardla