Cadillac’s Art & Science design philosophy has evolved nicely since it was first presented to the public, in concept form, as the 1999 Evoq. The look’s production implementation traces back to the edgy, second-generation Escalade. Having skipped a year, the eager 2002 model Escalade launched in January, of 2001, and quickly catapulted the badge to the head of the class. Its monumental headlights and oblique surfacing not only introduced the general public to Cadillac’s new look but also helped escalate sales (sorry, I had to). Then, looking chiseled and ingot-solid, the original CTS bowed for 2003; Cadillac’s first ground-up, production application of A&S. Next, A&S gained legitimate performance credentials, in 2004, via the all-new and outrageous XLR, and new brute V-Series option on the CTS.
Through the radiance of Cadillac’s new-found brashness and athleticism, if you squinted, you could see the all-new SRX. No less a visual standout in its segment than those other Cadillacs but, being an SUV, its best merits related to practicality, instead of brashness or sport. Overall, it was practical, a little brash, and sporty. Though, maybe a bit compromised in each for the tastes of the segment’s buyers. Indeed, the players on the rugged yet manicured-turf field had grown in number by the time SRX arrived. It faced early adopters, such as the Lexus RX, Acura MDX, and BMW X5, and late bloomers, like the Lexus GX, Infiniti FX, and even Lincoln’s Aviator. CTS and XLR opponents were fewer in number and more clearly defined.
As were some of those potential competitors, the SRX was rear-wheel-drive-based, with full-time all-wheel-drive available. Marking a critical break from tradition, its platform didn’t originate from a truck or—more importantly—another brand’s model. It was based on Cadillac’s exclusive, exceptional, and expensive-to-build Sigma platform which also underpinned the CTS and subsequent STS. As a result, it has a wonderful (and increasingly rare) cab-rearward design that lends a touch of laid-back swagger to the profile and rear quarter angles.
I lament this generation not catching traction with the buying public because the first SRX is quite possibly my favorite of all the early A&S executions, including the XLR (oi, the names). To my eye, the SRX’s proportions allowed sufficient canvas, and the ground-up effort enough freedom, for the A&S theme to fully play out. It’s a rare case where everything makes sense and nothing really nags at me
(apart from the depth of the front parking light assembly but it’s hardly worth the mention).
You know, this all started the other day when a well-maintained model made a rather prolonged U-turn at the intersection in front of the house. The sun was positioned to beam light from just the right angle so contrasting lines were individually highlighted as it rotated. It couldn’t have been better displayed on a turn table. There were no blinding shimmers from the geometric panels because they are virtually void of brightwork. Since that day, I’ve been noticing them on the roads (funny how that happens) and, despite the age of the design, they still look fresh.
Looking back, as a marketing campaign, A&S has come and gone, and come again (and possibly gone again, I’ve lost my place). However, in terms of product design, Cadillac has unflinchingly stayed the course, growing it into an ever richer language and, subsequently, building a stronger heritage for the brand.
Here are some more pictures of the first generation of SRX.
This piece is opinion based. Please feel free to express your own opinions below but, despite possible differences with me or other commenters, let’s keep it friendly.