Turbocharger.

Torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive.

Computer-controlled active suspension.

Must be Cadillac’s latest crossover.

Wait, what?

The 2011 Cadillac SRX is an all-new luxury CUV that’s aimed to take on best-selling models like the Lexus RX in a way that the old rear-drive, V8-powered, seven-passenger stationwagony SRX could only dream of. The critical favorite never much of a hit on the sales charts.

So much for counterprogramming.

Instead, the new SRX strikes a more compact, five-passenger pose that matches up better with the competition while standing out with a design that’s anything but jellybean.

Are those tailfins? No, they’re brake light housings shaped like fins, but close enough.

The rest of the exterior is draped in Cadillac’s edgy “Art and Science” design language. Translated, that means lots of beveled edges, chrome, and, in this case, a steep character line along the side that starts below the grille and ends near the top of those brake lights. If you were small enough, you could ski down it.

In a somewhat refreshing departure for Cadillac, style even takes precedent over substance in many places. The low cut rear doors can make loading in the kids a bit of headbangers ball, while the thick, sloping rear roof pillars cry out to be paired with a blind-spot warning system, which is oddly not found on the options list.

Neither is adaptive cruise control, which seems like it should be standard issue these days on a luxury vehicle with a base price that ranges from $34,665 to $52,685, but there’s plenty to make up for it. The design of the cabin is very much in line with that of the Cadillac CTS sedan. The leather-trimmed dashboard is scooped-out in front of both seats giving it a roomy feel, while controls on the center stack are laid out in a way that is both ergonomic and fashionable, even if the overall effect is a little too similar to the one in the seen in the slightly more affordable Chevy Equinox.

Rising from the top of it is the touch-screen monitor for an optional infotainment system that features a 40gb hard drive which can store music for one of a number of available audio systems, including the crisp 10-speaker Bose setup found in my Premium trim level test car. Another high-res screen resides in the center of the speedometer and displays info from the car’s computer, navigation directions, and reminds you what the speed limit is...bummer. It also tells you if one of the back seat passengers isn’t wearing their seatbelt, using icons to show you exactly which member of your brood should be the target of your ire.

Steering is adjustable for rake and reach, and the pedals move, too. Put them as far forward as they’ll go, slide the seat all the way back, and you are provided with plus-size space. The seats themselves are big and comfortable, with extendable thigh support, an uncommon feature at this price point.

Second row legs don’t have it so well, nor do the noggins of the very tall, as things are on the cramped side back there. An optional dual-screen DVD system can be ordered to ease some of the pain, and a panoramic sunroof visually opens things up, but children and petite department shoppers are the only ones who will find true happiness.

Cargo room isn’t tops in class, either, but 29 cubic feet is still better than anything with a trunk. The compartment itself is nicely-trimmed, with moveable chrome tie-down cleats and a compartment under the floor with a lid that locks in the open position. Dig deeper and you’ll find a flat fixing kit complete with an air pump. For $995 you can swap the extra storage space for a compact spare.

Opt for the base version of the SRX, in either front or all-wheel-drive and powered by GM’s underwhelming 3.0-liter V6, and you end up with a comfortable, but unexciting grocery getter that undercuts the price of a Lexus RX by a couple of grand. The lackluster motor somewhat overtasked with having to move around two tons of style.

However, unlike Lexus, which offers a greenie hybrid version of the RX as its step-up model, the SRX is available with all of the previously mentioned performance goodies, and what a breath of fresh air they are. A big, deep breath of 11 psi forced-induction air.

For a starting price of $50,140, Cadillac stuffs a super-smooth 2.8-liter turbo V6 under the hood, the first turbocharged engine the company has ever sold in the United States. With 300 hp, and 295 lb-ft of torque that kicks in at just 2000 rpm, the motor transforms the SRX from a soccer mom-mobile to one better suited to a hockey mom hoping to body check her way into the White House parking lot.

All-wheel drive is standard on this one, but it’s a different system than the base model uses. Not only does it juggle power front and rear, but also has an electronic limited slip differential that can direct extra torque to the outside rear wheel when you’re going around a turn for better handling.

Driven in the sort of way that induces this effect, the SRX responds much more like the old rear-drive model than you’d expect from a vehicle that traces its lineage to the Saturn Vue. It’s a very different beast than the marshmallowy Lexus. A suspension that automatically adjusts to the road surface and your driving style works in concert with the drivetrain to further enhance its abilities, but never to the point that it fools you into thinking the SRX is a coupe. The high driving position and considerable body roll always there to remind you that the SRX isn’t meant to be a replacement for the Eldorado.

Instead, it is a visual tour de force in a segment that needs one, with enough dynamic chops to back up any first impressions it might make. The only problem is that the bottom line on the window sticker makes it a challenging prospect for any prospective buyers.

A loaded Acura MDX can be had for less than $50G, with similar power, more technology, a third row of seats, not to mention a touch of medieval styling to its grille. Meanwhile the Lincoln MKT offers all that and a 355 hp twin turbocharged V6 tucked in behind its own dramatic facade. But the SRX may face its toughest competition in its own dealerships, at least if you're comparing performance people carriers.

The top of the line CTS Sport Wagon is nearly as large inside as the SRX, costs less, is more fuel efficient, handles even better and is powered by the same 304 hp 3.6-liter V6 found in the Chevy Camaro. Of course if Americans actually liked station wagons the way they used to the new SRX wouldn't even exist.

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. The sweet, turbocharged flow.

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Cadillac SRX Turbo AWD Premium

Base Price: $51,360

As Tested: $54,475

Type: 5-passenger, front-engine, all-wheel-drive five-door crossover

Engine: 2.8-liter V6

Power: 300 hp, 295 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

MPG: 15 city/22 hwy