In a move to bolster its product line, Cadillac has expanded its range of SUVs to include the new '04 SRX. The SRX is available in rear or AWD and can be optioned with a V-6 or V-8 engine. What perplexed some of our testers was the SRX's tall and narrow proportion, which made it look more wagon-esque than SUV, even though it has nearly the same ground clearance and overall height as the competition. The driving position is also more car-like than any of the other SUVs tested this year.

Not everyone was in love with the look of the SRX, but the styling is inline with Caddy's current art and science design theme. The edgy design draws attention from most people, but the steeply raked windshield causes blind spots in the A-pillar area. Out back, the LED taillights complement the design well and are trick when lit up.

Our Cadillac tester came to us with AWD and a powerful 4.6L DOHC Northstar V-8. This drivetrain runs hard and fast, and the automatic transmission fires off smooth, quick shifts. Some testers noted that the SRX's Northstar engine transmitted vibrations to the cabin above 4,000 rpm, and that the raspy exhaust didn't provide the expected DOHC scream.

In handling maneuvers, the SRX excelled, taking everything we threw at it without ever upsetting its rigid chassis. However, we did feel that the Cadillac allowed more NVH into the cabin than did most of the competition in its price class. The ride is taught, and the brakes offer excellent feel and fade resistance. The SRX's steering is the newest version of Magnasteer, and while this was the best calibrated Magnasteer product we have tested to date, it still isn't perfect, as it adds a layer of artificial feel to the driving experience.

Greeting you when you open the door is a snug cockpit with basic gauges and a navigation system. Our testers felt that the interior had too many contrasting plastics and textures, and not enough wood for the price class. Those complaints aside, the SRX proved to be a comfortable long-distance cruiser.

If you are looking for a powerful and corner-carving SUV without the bulk of the traditional SUVs, look no further than the Cadillac SRX. It has American panache combined with European reflexes and holds its own with the best in its class.

From the Logbook:
The SRX has an excellent powerband, smooth and powerful.Feature Editor Travis Noack

Of course it handles well; it's a sport wagon with an SUV title.Associate Editor Dan Ward

Overall it is a nice package, but it needs an aftermarket exhaust to really bring out the Northstar's exhaust note.Associate Editor Sean P. Holman