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Cadillac SRX barely holds its own against competitors

The Cadillac SRX targets the heart of the

The Cadillac SRX targets the heart of the luxury crossover segment.

Cadillac's redesigned SRX is a likable contender but one that barely holds its own among very tough competitors. Cadillac can do better - and it has in recent years as it has revamped its entire model lineup and won back the respect of critics and consumers.

Prices starting in the mid-30s make it attractive. It handles competently and rides comfortably and quietly, as you'd expect from a Cadillac.

Within weeks, Cadillac says, there will be a choice of engines. The standard 3.0-liter engine I sampled delivers 265 hp. - adequate, even considering 4,200-pound-plus weights. A 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6 will put out 300 hp.

And Cadillac and its dealers score consistently well above average in ratings of vehicle quality and customer satisfaction.

Consider the SRX if your shopping list includes sport utility vehicles like the Lexus RX, Acura MD-X and Lincoln MKX - especially if there's a Cadillac dealer you want to patronize.

My only serious gripe about the tester was the automatic transmission's tendency to shift into top gear too readily. I'm sure it's programmed that way for max fuel economy - and the 20 miles per gallon average I observed isn't bad for a six-cylinder SUV - but it results in many annoying and unnecessary downshifts. You can eliminate it by placing the transmission into sport mode.

Another, less annoying flaw: soft brake pedal feel. And one more: a big blind spot to the right rear.

On sale since August 2010, SRXs begin at $34,155, with freight, in front drive. All-wheel- drive versions start at $40,230.

A comparison on the Ed Web site shows the new SRX about 4 inches shorter than its predecessor, 2.6 inches wider and with a wheelbase 6 inches shorter. The new model holds 9 cubic feet less cargo, and it can tow 750 pounds less - or 3,500 pounds max. It's about as roomy inside, with one big exception: The 2010 model has 4.7 inches less rear-seat legroom. The new SRX also has less rear-seat legroom than the MDX, RX and MKX.

The Lincoln's V-6 engine delivers the same horsepower but more torque than the Cadillac's. Both the 300-hp. MDX and 275- hp. RX outgun the Cadillac.

Except for a power doorlock switch oddly located among the heater and stereo switches, most controls are well placed and intuitive in their functions. The SRX interior is richly trimmed, befitting a luxury model.

All four of these luxury SUV contenders are rated highly by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in both cases for their protection of occupants in crashes.

Specifications for 2010 Cadillac SRX

Vehicle tested

Engine: 3.0-liter V-6, 265 hp.

Fuel: regular

Transmission: six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive.

Safety: Six air bags; four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock and stability control; heated outside mirrors; rearview camera; front and rear obstacle detection and warning; OnStar telematics with automatic crash notification; fog and daytime running lamps; tire pressure monitoring.

Place of assembly: Ramos Arizpe, Mexico

Cargo room, minimum and maximum: 29.2 cubic feet and 61.2 cubic feet.

EPA fuel economy estimates: 18 mpg, city; 25 highway

Price as driven: $46,015 with freight

Bottom line: Likable but not the segment leader.

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