GM said Cadillac's engineers tested the system during more than 600,000 miles of driving on roads all over Europe, in all kinds of weather, as well as on test tracks.
The system starts the vehicle off with power to the rear wheels, which allows the car to perform like a rear-drive sport sedan. No front-wheel slip needs to be detected by the system before power is sent to the rear, GM said, which is unusual for a system that otherwise would be biased toward front-wheel drive.
On twisty roads, the all-wheel drive "is programmed to help the driver keep the car stable, splitting drive torque to counteract oversteer or understeer situations when cornering," the automaker said. On dry pavement, half the power automatically goes to the rear wheels during full-throttle operation, which helps eliminate wheel spin.
But on slippery surfaces, the system detects which wheels have the best traction, and power is sent to those wheels as needed to keep the car moving, even on glare ice, GM said.
The limited-slip rear differential can send up to 85 percent of the rear torque to one of the wheels, whichever has the best traction. GM says this is beneficial during hard cornering or when making a high-speed lane change.
Smaller and more carlike than the current SRX, the new model is similar in size and appearance to the segment-leading Lexus RX 350, which will be the Cadillac's biggest competitor.
Positioned as a midsize luxury model, this is the second generation of the SRX, whose first model was essentially a wagon-style version of the midsize CTS sedan.
While the first SRX came with rear-wheel drive in base form, this new version will have front-wheel drive as the base system, with the all-wheel drive as an option.
Others in the class include the Acura MDX and Lincoln MKX, as well as the BMW X3 and X5, Infiniti FX and Mercedes-Benz M-class.
As with the RX 350, the new SRX will have seating for only five; the first generation came with a third seat and room for seven. The five-passenger layout allows for more than 29 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat.
There will be a choice of two six-cylinder engines that GM says are new to Cadillac. The V-8 from the current SRX will not be offered. The base engine will be a 3.0-liter direct-injection V-6 rated at 265 horsepower and 223 foot-pounds of torque.
A 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6 that provides 300 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque will be optional.
GM says both engines have a direct fuel-injection system that allows for a 25 percent reduction in hydrocarbon emissions. Highway fuel economy in the mid-20s is expected, GM said, but no official ratings have been announced yet.
The all-wheel drive system is not designed for serious trail driving but will be capable of limited off-road use.
The new SRX will be able to tow trailers of up to 3,500 pounds with an optional towing package or 2,500 pounds without the package.
While the overall shape is similar to that of the RX and several others in this class, the SRX's exterior design is bolder than most, building on the new look of Cadillac that also can be seen in the latest generation of the CTS, which debuted for 2008. GM calls the design theme "art and science."
The grille is much like that of the CTS, what GM describes as a "multipiece shield." The car has a wheels-to-the-corner design with minimal overhangs, which helps maximize interior space.
Wheels that are 18 inches are standard; 20-inch wheels are optional. There are chrome front fender vents that include side-marker lights, and there is an integrated spoiler on the rear edge of the roof.
Inside, there are hand-cut-and-sewn coverings on the instrument panel, GM said, along with ambient lighting. There is a center instrument-panel stack that holds the climate and audio-system controls. The optional navigation system has a screen that pops up from the top center of the instrument panel.
Among other special features and technologies are headlights that turn slightly in the direction the vehicle is turning, a power rear tailgate with adjustable height setting, a hard-disc drive for audio storage and dual screens for the rear-seat entertainment system.
Standard safety features include a body structure and chassis designed to absorb crash energy; electronic stability control with traction control; four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes; roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for both rows; front seat-mounted side air bags, rollover mitigation sensors and trailer stability assist.