Posts Tagged ‘SUV’

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Rolling and Profiling In the Cadillac SRX

March 13, 2012


By Roger Witherspoon

 

            For much of the last decade, there seemed to be a rule in Detroit that all one needed to have a successful, popular SUV was to make it big. It could be ugly, uncomfortable, and drink gas like an alcoholic robot and, the belief was, it would sell if it was BIG, ugly and uncomfortable.

But times changed, and the folks who wrote the old rules at General Motors took a long overdue hike when the government stepped in to finance a structured reorganization. The result was a new look, style, and feel in the GM fleet. That change was particularly noticeable in the Cadillac line, which no longer resembles the “hogs” of olden days and relies on style rather than just a venerated name to lure buyers. And in the SUV department, the new look is particularly evident in the five-passenger, mid-sized SUV, the Cadillac SRX.

Cadillac had to put quite a lot of thought into the SRX, as it entered a tough division anchored by the Lexus RX, Audi Q-5, Acura MDX, and the high-powered BMW X-5 and Porsche Cayenne.

            On the outside, the SRX has a profile closest to the Lexus RX, with a low roofline sloping to the rear.  But that’s as far as the resemblance goes. This generation of Cadillacs takes its styling cues from the angular lines of stealth aircraft, with intersecting triangles and sharp edges.  There is nothing soft about its appearance, though it is defiantly sleek and windswept. The front is angular and no nonsense, slanting downwards over the 20-inch wheels towards the street, as opposed to the sharply rising front of the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X-5.

Powering the SRX is a 3.6-liter, aluminum V-6 engine producing 308 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. The car is not built for racing a Porsche, and takes time to get up to speed. But once it is moving, there is more than enough power to propel the SRX towards the triple digit mark on the speedometer.  And if you really want to spent part of your vacation in a fast car, the SRX can tow 3,500 pounds – which  means you can bring your Porsche or Dodge Charger along with you.

The SRX’ power plant is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with a smooth-shifting, electronic manual mode and all wheel drive. The SRX’ never quite feels like a car when you are driving it particularly on sharp, hairpin turns. But it hugs the roads and even at high speeds, with its wide stance and traction control, you don’t have the fearful sensation of being at the mercy of a runaway truck.

Ed Welburn, the artist in charge of GM’s crayons, put a lot of thought into the riding experience. Upon entering, the first thing you notice is the wide, double sun roof which opens the interior to the sky and adds both light and a feeling of spaciousness that makes the SRX feel larger than it actually is. There is a power sunscreen which can cover the rear or both skylights. The front skylight is also powered and can be tilted for more air or completely opened.

The interior décor is primarily two-toned, double-stitched leather with wood accents on the doors.  Each door has thick, leather, padded armrests and two, long  trays: a shallow one just under the arm rest to hold cell phones or other small items, and a deeper, wider one near the floor which runs the full length of the door and can hold a 12-ounce water bottle and enough maps for a cross-country drive.

For comfort, the front set of thickly padded seats are wide, power adjustable and can be heated or air cooled.  In the front section of the driver’s seat can extend up to six inches for great support of long-legged drivers. In the rear, there is enough leg room for three average sized adults or a pair of basketball players pushing the seven foot mark. These seats can be heated and either laid flat to enlarge the cargo area, or laid back for a comfortable snooze.

In the entertainment sector, the SRX covers the lot. There is an easy to use navigation system with an eight-inch touch screen. The SRX’ electronic offerings include XM radio – which also provides traffic and weather updates – as well as a CD and MP3 player, USB and iPod ports. There is a 40-gigabyte hard drive to install your personal collection of a few thousand songs or movies; and a 10-speaker Bose sound system. The back of the front seats have built-in screens for watching movies or playing video games, using wireless headsets so as not to interfere with the music emanating in the front of the car. Or, if the car is sitting still, the front occupants can also watch the videos.

As with most GM vehicles, there are two cell phone communications systems on the SRX: Bluetooth and OnStar. The Bluetooth system is easy to set up and if you have a smartphone can be used for voice communications as well as playing your stored music through the car’s sound system. OnStar, GM’s satellite driven communications and service network, can handle calls in areas where there are no cell towers, and can provide turn-by-turn navigation instructions. There is also live concierge service, which can connect to emergency police and medical responders, or make reservations at a restaurant in the next town.

For a top level SUV, GM has offered a lot for $51,000. But given the quality of the other luxury, mid-sized SUVs on the market, Cadillac had to step up to a demanding marketplace, or stay out of it. The market has yet to determine the winner in this four-wheeled competition. But the 2012 SRX is likely to be a competitor.


2012 Cadillac SRX

 

MSRP:                                                                        $51,055

EPA Mileage:                        16 MPG City                          23 MPG Highway

Towing Capacity:                                                      3,500 Pounds

 

Performance / Safety:

 

3.6-Liter cast aluminum DOHC V-6 engine producing 308 horsepower and 265 pound/feet of torque; all wheel drive; 6-speed automatic transmission; 4-wheel power assisted disc brakes; independent strut front suspension; linked H-arm rear suspension; 20-inch aluminum wheels; stability and traction control; heated outside mirrors; fog lamps; back-up camera; adaptive xenon headlights; driver and front passenger front & side impact airbags; rear side head curtain airbags.

Interior / Comfort:

 

AM/FM/XM satellite radio; 10-speaker Bose surround sound system with 40 gigabyte hard drive; CD and  DVD player with wireless headsets and 2 rear seat screens;  MP3, USB and iPod connections; Bluetooth; OnStar; tilt and telescope, leather and wood, heated steering wheel with fingertip audio, phone and cruise controls;  heated and air cooled, front leather seats; heated rear leather seats; front and rear climate controls; powered sunroof and sunshade; satellite navigation system with 8-inch touch screen.

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Rolling in GM’s Little Truck

July 18, 2010

By Roger Witherspoon

The northeast had been blanketed by a slow moving snow storm which dumped from a foot to nearly 30 inches of dry white powder and turned interstate highways into four-lane slip-n-slides.

The meandering road through Bear Mountain, in the lower Hudson River Highlands just south of West Point, provided a beautiful vista of snow-covered forests dotted with frozen lakes. But the drive itself could be tricky since the black-top was now white and more suited to sledding than driving. And it was getting dark, which meant Bambi and her cousins would be out mindlessly foraging in the frozen wilderness.

I rounded a Highlands curve at 1,200 feet in a GMC Terrain and was enjoying a great view of the valley below, leading into Seven Lakes Drive when I spotted three deer about 100 feet ahead walking towards me in the left lane. I swerved to the right – hoping the deer wouldn’t bolt, hoping the 18-inch wheels would hold onto the snow-blanketed roadway, hoping General Motors knew how to design all wheel drive, and hoping I wouldn’t wind up in the trees below – and rolled on past, wishing the Bambis a Happy Meal somewhere much hotter.

After that, I could lean back in the heated leather seats, look through the panoramic sunroof at the snow covered hills around and above me, crank up Miles Davis on the CD player and enjoy the ride. Snow covered forests and frozen waterways are gorgeous if you’re not dodging deer.

It also helps if you’re in a vehicle which can provide a comfortable sojourn while handling bad weather. In this case the ride was provided by the 2010 GMC Terrain, General Motors’ entry into a select, small-SUV market dominated by the Nissan Murano, Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Honda CR-V. That’s a pretty tough market, more or less created by the Nissan Murano and expanded by the eclectic Ford Edge. The Murano is particularly versatile in bad road conditions and the Santa Fe rivals the smaller Lexus for inside comforts. But the new GM, which has long prided itself for a line of big, powerful, pick-up trucks, belatedly decided it would not cede the small SUV market to everyone else. Hence the Terrain, an unmistakably arrogant, $30,000, GMC mini-truck with the ride and comforts of larger, more expensive SUV models.

GM’s SUV line eschews what it’s designers consider the “soft” curved, flowing lines of most of the mid-sized competition, and strut a distinctive, square-jawed, rather boxy shape – though its sharp angles have been rounded off somewhat. GM design chief Ed Welburn wanted its SUV line to have its own distinct look, and he has managed to distinguish it from the regular SUV pack.

Under the hood is a 3.0-liter V-6 engine cranking out 264 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque, which is more than enough to keep the Terrain ahead of traffic while towing 3,500 pounds. There is a base model with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine cranking out just 182 horsepower and an anemic172 pound-feet of torque. While the smaller engine is adequate, the base model Terrain is sluggish when accelerating, the engine strains at highway speeds, struggles going uphill, and tows just 1,500 pounds – a ton less than its bigger brother.

The difference in price, at about $1,500, is relatively low for similarly equipped vehicles. There is a greater difference in fuel economy, however. The four-cylinder Terrain gets an EPA estimated 22 miles per gallon in city driving and 32 MPG  on the highway, while the six-cylinder model gets 17 miles per gallon on city streets and 25 on the highways. Both models feature a six-speed, smooth-shifting, automatic transmission

The interior has its strengths and weaknesses. It is extremely pleasing to look at. and designed for functionality.

But the décor is heavy on plastic which, on the doors, can look cheap in what is otherwise an upscale vehicle. The test models did not have navigation systems – something motorists might expect in this price range – but it does provide GM’s OnStar communications system which provides turn-by-turn directions. While that is a workable system, you are listening to a robot speaking from thousands of miles away telling you where to go and, since there is no map to look at, you haven’t a clue as to where you are. For some motorists, a map is a needless distraction and being told where to go works just fine.  For those who need more, a navigation system with a 7-inch touch-activated screen is available for about $2,100.

The Terrain does have an easy to use Bluetooth cell phone connection, however, with the sound emanating from the eight Pioneer speakers. The Terrain is heavily baffled, keeping out wind and roadside noises regardless of speed and enabling the sound system to envelope the passenger cabin with in a moving wave of music. The standard system comes with XM satellite radio, a single disc CD player, a USB port, both iPod and MP3 connections,  and a 10 GB hard drive to store your music or video library.  There is also an option for a rear seat DVD system with two separately controlled screens.

There is ample leg room in the back for the average six-footer. But if the passenger is in the NBA, the rear seats are built on rails and can slide back another eight inches. The mobile leather seats are a useful innovation whether one is transporting extra cargo or extra large friends.

The small SUV segment is a tough market to crack. But the late entry Terrain sold nearly 100,000 in the first six months of this year, an indication that a lot of motorists like the way in rolls.

2010 GMC Terrain SLT -1

Front Wheel Drive

MSRP:                                                                                   $31,775

EPAMileage: 17 MPG City                                                  25 MPG Highway

Towing Capacity:                                                                   3,500 Pounds

Performance / Safety:

3.0-Liter DOHC, cast aluminum V-6 engine producing 264 horsepower and  222 pound/feet of torque; 6-speed automatic transmission; independent front and rear suspension; power front and rear vented disc brakes; anti-lock braking system; 18-inch aluminum wheels; stability and traction control; fog lamps; backup camera;  dual frontal airbags; side impact & head curtain airbags.

Interior / Comfort:

AM/FM/XM satellite radio; CD player; USB port; 10 GB hard drive and Pioneer sound system with 8 speakers; Bluetooth  and OnStar communications systems; leather wrapped, tilt & telescoping steering wheel with fingertip audio, phone & cruise controls; heated front seats; folding, sliding, & reclining rear seats with 60/40 split; power sunroof; power liftgate; roof rack.

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