GMC Acadia Road Test
Smaller dimensions, less weight help it better match competitors--but something's missing
Buyers familiar with the previous-generation Acadia might feel somewhat short-changed by the new one. Basically a minivan wearing SUV clothes, the 2007-2016 Acadia (which carries on as the 2017 Acadia Limited) delivers the space of a big truck-based SUV (think GMC Yukon) while driving like a good car. Unfortunately, it also drinks fuel like a modern-day pickup, a legacy of its 10-year-old design. Competitors typically get four to six miles per gallon better than the outgoing Acadia's 16-mpg overall as measured in our testing.
Seven inches shorter in overall length, the 2017 Acadia redesign no longer provides three rows of adult-sized seating, but there are certainly benefits to the new smaller package. Shrinking dimensions make it considerably easier to park. Trim and lean from both the tidier footprint and an engineering-based diet, over 600 pounds were cut to improve fuel economy when comparing V6-equipped versions. EPA estimates point to a three mpg combined improvement over a comparable 2016 Acadia AWD.
As a signpost that the 2017 GMC Acadia was designed when gas prices were over $4 a gallon, the base engine is a 193-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder. This isn't much power for a midsized SUV--other four-cylinder SUVs of this size usually sport a turbocharger--and accordingly, GM expects sales of this engine to be modest.
Most Acadias will come with a 310-hp, 3.6-liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic. Power is in ready supply, but the engine sounds a bit gruff, especially at start-up. We're surprised that this new clean-sheet design comes with just six forward gears, as competitors are starting to have eight or nine. But GM says there just aren't enough eight-speed transmissions to go around. Regardless, fuel economy indeed appears to be better; we saw 22-23 mpg in mixed driving using the trip computer. (We'll more accurately measure fuel economy when we purchase our own Acadia.)
Not many owners take their SUVs off-road, but many want to look like they do. Hence the Acadia All Terrain, a five-passenger version with "black chrome" trim, different wheels, and added all-terrain and hill descent programming for the all-wheel-drive system. Acadia owners who tow might notice that maximum tow capacity is down from 5,200 pounds with the previous model to 4,000 pounds with the V6. That falls below the 5,000-pound ratings for the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Highlander.
Inside, the practical cabin proves well-suited to family duty. Depending on seating configuration, the Acadia can fit five, six, or seven people. Many will have second-row individual bucket seats that recline and slide back and forth, granting more legroom to those stuck in the third row. Despite that olive branch, adults won't care for those those low and small seats. Some clever touches add utility, like a big pull-out drawer under the center console and levers in the cargo bay that can remotely fold the second row seatbacks to make more room.
Sitting up front, smallish windows make the cabin feel more closed in than a Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Edge, or especially the terrarium-like Pilot. Controls are familiar GM stock, with easy-to-use dials and buttons for climate and a straight-forward IntelliLink touch screen infotainment system. USB ports seem to be everywhere, both front and rear.
Buying an Acadia can get expensive, following GMC's "professional grade" brand posturing. An all-wheel-drive SLT1 with leather, blind-spot monitoring, navigation, and sunroof stickers for $44,665. That price approaches upper-level versions of the Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot that pack more safety equipment. Going for a full-zoot Acadia Denali easily pushes the price to $50,000, including the desirable safety gear, HID headlights and ventilated front seats. Despite real wood and aluminium accents, the Denali lacks the interior richness--and height-adjustable front seat lumbar support adjustments--that we expect for that kind of coin.
All in all, the Acadia gives GM the right-sized SUV that it needed, filling a hole in the corporate lineup. But we can't help but feel somewhat underwhelmed. Other recently designed GM products, like the Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Corvette, and the Cadillac CT6, have been more compelling and distinctive to drive. For better or worse, in this crowded field, the new Acadia feels like it hits average on more than just dimensions.
All cars come with basic warranty coverage, also known as a bumper-to-bumper warranty. This protects consumers against unexpected problems with non-wear items. Powertrain warranty protects against engine and transmission troubles. Rust through, or corrosion warranty, covers rust to non-damaged components. Roadside aid provides on-location assistance in case of a breakdown and may include limited towing services.
Extended warranties provide peace of mind. Owners of models known to have worse-than-average predicted reliability can mitigate risks with an extended warranty. Generally, we recommend buying a model with better-than-average reliability and skipping this expensive add on. If you do buy an extended warranty, it is key to read the small print to understand what is covered and where you can bring the car for repairs.