The big news for 2012 is a new engine: The SRX is finally getting the direct-injected 3.6 liter V6 that powers many of General Motors' cars and SUVs. This is actually an improved version of the 3.6 that turns out 308 horsepower. Last year's SRX had a 3.0 liter V6 that didn't produce nearly enough power; with the new 3.6, the SRX accelerates strongly, as a luxury SUV should, and it tows up to 3,500 lbs when equipped with a $445 trailering package. EPA fuel economy estimates are 17 MPG city/24 MPG highway with front-wheel-drive and 1 MPG less with all-wheel-drive, which is about equal to its rivals -- but while most of the SRX's competitors run on premium fuel, the SRX burns cheap 87-octane gas, a benefit of its high-tech direct fuel injection system.
I sampled three SRXs during our press preview: A base model with 18" wheels and front-wheel-drive, a top-of-the-line SRX Premium with front-wheel-drive, and a second Premium model with all-wheel-drive. I was impressed with the comfortable ride and tight car-like handling of all three, although I preferred the firmer feel and better response over bumps that came with the 20" wheels. I did find the brakes a bit disconcerting; there's a good deal of pedal travel and then they bite rather suddenly, which took some getting used to.
The SRX doesn't have the hewn-from-granite feel typical of German crossovers; it shares some of its basic components with lesser GM SUVs, and that comes through in the way it drives. That said, it has way more personality and a much higher fun-to-drive factor than the Lexus RX350. It's no BMW, but I think most buyers will be satisfied with the way the SRX cruises down the highway and hustles through the curves.