Engine: 2.5L 4-cyl; 3.6L V6
Power: 193 hp/188 lb-ft; 310 hp/271 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 21/26 (2.5 FWD); 21/25 (2.5 AWD); 18/25 (3.6 FWD & AWD)
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 11.0/9.2 (2.5 FWD); 11.2/9.4 (2.5 AWD); 13.0/9.3 (3.6 FWD); 13.3/9.5 (3.6 AWD)
US Price: Starts at $29,995 (SL FWD)
CAN Price: Starts at $34,995 (SLE FWD)
In any segment, there are always outliers at the extremes of the spectrum, while the majority sit somewhere in the middle.
The GMC Acadia and its platform twins were at the larger end of the spectrum, with one of the bigger footprints and interiors in the “midsize” crossover segment. It was so large that it managed almost minivan-like cargo space and seating capacity, but lumbered along with the feel of a large SUV. It drove well, but it was just plain big.
That is all about to change.
GM is spreading out its range, with GMC inheriting this smaller midsize platform from the Cadillac XT5 and delivering proper five-seat compacts like the Envision, while Chevrolet and Buick are sticking with larger midsizers like the current Traverse and Enclave. With the Acadia shrinking, logic dictates that the Terrain will similarly shrink to retain the same spacing between models in the GMC lineup, and the Envision’s slightly smaller platform is a perfect fit for the GMC brand.
With the 2017 GMC Acadia, GM is targeting the middle, and perhaps even going to the opposite extreme, chopping more than seven inches from its length and wheelbase and almost four inches from its width and height to land at the smaller end of the segment. At 193.6 inches long and a wheelbase of 112.5, it’s shorter than anything in the segment except the Kia Sorento, and one of the narrowest (75.4 inches wide) as well.
The size reduction has resulted in huge weight savings and added maneuverability. At a starting weight of 3,956 pounds, the Acadia is 700 lbs lighter than its predecessor, which offers huge benefits in the fuel efficiency and handling departments, and with a turning radius almost two feet smaller, it is now far better suited for city life. While it’s no MINI, the far more compact footprint was a relief when driving through Vancouver, B.C., a city with notoriously narrow lanes and tight roads.
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In three-row models, space behind the third row is limited to 12.3 cubic feet, with only the Kia Sorento offering less volume when all seats are up, and about half what the 2016 Acadia offered at 24 cu-ft. With the third row folded, cargo space grows to a respectable 41.7 cu-ft, which is respectable in this segment. Maximum cargo capacity is 79 cu-ft, again hitting the middle of the segment.
If you’re looking at a five-seat model, the Acadia with the rear seat stowed holds its own against other five-seaters like the Murano, Outback, and Edge. Beyond the volume, GMC offers a tracked divider system that allows you to support and brace various bags and packages in the trunk, but only for cars without third-row seating.
With the significant size and weight reduction, GMC is able to offer a more modest powertrain option in addition to a V6, which was the only way to get the previous generation. The base powerplant is a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder making a modest 193 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque. This engine is new to GMC, but previous experience in other GM models equipped with the same powertrain showed its smoothness and power should be good for the Acadia’s much more modest weight. This is, of course, the more efficient option for those who want to minimize fuel expenses, and it is estimated at 21 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway in FWD trim, and with AWD, the highway number drops to 25 mpg.
For those who want more power or need to tow, the V6 is the way to go. Although displacement is the same, this 3.6L V6 is an entirely new product, redesigned to deliver better efficiency and refinement. Cylinder deactivation, which can shut down two cylinders when the car is under a light load, has also been added.
The drive from Whistler to Vancouver was a perfect route to see the cylinder deactivation in action, as the descents allowed the engine to take it easy and only run on four pots. Of course, it was the ascent that proved the real value of the V6, with 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque making easy work of any steep climbs, and living up to GM’s refinement claims as it quietly went about its business even when accelerating hard up an incline. We did not test the 4,000-lb towing capacity, but the power certainly felt sufficient, while its balanced, stable ride also should contribute to comfortable trailering. GMC also has an available “Tow Vision Camera” that is meant to help line up the trailer hitch with the trailer.
The Acadia continues with a six-speed transmission that performed flawlessly during our brief time with it, but GMC did add some other powertrain tech to help with fuel efficiency, namely auto stop/start for both the 2.5L four-cylinder and 3.6L V6, and the V6’s cylinder deactivation. The V6, which is likely to account for the bulk of sales, is estimated at 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway in either FWD or AWD. It’s a big improvement over the previous generation’s 15/22 mpg rating, and competitive with segment leaders like the Toyota Highlander (18/24), Honda Pilot (19/26) and beats the sales champ Ford Explorer (16/23) while offering more power and torque than any of them.
Driving Made Easy
The powertrain was smooth and refined on our way up to Whistler, and it was matched by a quiet interior that made conversation easy and the interior a relaxing place to be. Likewise, the ride was appropriately targeted towards comfort without being sloppy when driving quickly even through hilly terrain on twisty roads. The suspension was redesigned to improve road feel and reduce noise. Denali models gain GM’s magnetic adjustable dampers should you want a more comfortable or more sporting ride at any given time.
But the most dramatic improvement for this Acadia is its maneuverability. The new Acadia’s shorter length means it is far easier to navigate in the city, and slotting into a parking spot will be a much simpler task, especially if you opt for a model equipped with the 360-degree parking monitor system or front and rear parking assist. Advanced safety systems are also on the options menu, including front pedestrian braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, lane change alert with side blind zone alert and forward collision alert.
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Even the steering is much improved, appropriately light for a mid-size SUV but thankfully not rubbery when you turn the wheel, and the truck responds smartly and accurately to input. The vehicle did well when we tasked it with an emergency avoidance maneuver, remaining stable and responding to changes in direction quickly.
The throttle and braking are also well suited to a large vehicle, and it’s a champ on the highway, needing little fiddling to keep it centered in its lane and effortlessly and quietly cruising even at 80 mph.
Most models feature a fairly standard AWD system with a disconnect feature at the front differential for greater efficiency in normal conditions, but also Snow, Towing, Off Road and Sport modes for specific purposes. All Terrain models get a twin-clutch system that splits torque to each of the rear wheels independently, allowing more precise and variable torque distribution, and even torque vectoring between the rear wheels that gives it a slightly more sporty attitude.
As most parents know, however, it’s not the driving that poses the greatest challenge when taking the family on an adventure; it’s getting everyone and all their gear into the car.
We’ve already covered the cargo space, which should be good for a travel stroller and some luggage if all three rows are up, and room for a full camping expedition or massive Costco run with the rear seats stowed.
The sacrifice of interior and cargo space will certainly challenge current owners that may have chosen the first-gen Acadia for its copious storage and generous seating. Speaking of seating, the third row is now optional in the Acadia, and it is available with five, six or seven seats. That third row is very tight, and even short trips would be a struggle for adults, with barely any space for feet and knees. Bench seats are standard for the second row, but a pair of comfortable captain’s chairs are optional. Front seats are also all-day comfortable, and top trims get ventilated seats.
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The second row is designed with a feature that will be much appreciated by parents with kids in full car seats: the passenger-side seat slides and tilts forward without the need to remove a seat that is anchored in with the LATCH system. It’s a small thing, but a relief if you need access to secure a toddler and your older kids like riding in the third row. The Acadia also has a “Rear Seat Alert” feature that pings as you leave the car if it detected the rear door opening upon departure, just to make sure you have forgotten about a peacefully snoozing toddler in the backseat.
Bigger kids (and parents) will appreciate the onboard wifi, 120V outlet, and USB charging points (there are even USB ports in the third row) in the center console and the driver will really appreciate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which mirrors the primary functions of your smartphone on the car’s touchscreen. Even if you don’t have a compatible smartphone, GMC’s Intellilink is a well-designed interface with a combination of physical buttons and touchscreen controls. Menus are clearly organized and icons and text are easy to decipher, with shortcuts at the top of the screen for common applications.
Beyond functionality, the GMC Acadia’s interior is a nice place to be, but the quality is significantly improved, with high-quality materials and sturdy switchgear. The Denali, in particular, receives the makeover that it deserves, with genuine aluminum trim and real wood around the center console, creating a more authentic feeling of luxury that this trim has come to represent for the GMC brand.
The Verdict: 2017 GMC Acadia Review
The midsize SUV market is crowded with competitive options, so it will be a challenge for the GMC Acadia to stand out and lure people away from sales leaders like the Ford Explorer. While GM is giving up the practicality card to the Explorer, the Acadia now competes with the leaders in the segment for fuel efficiency, cargo space and more closely matches the pricing of the proper midsizers, starting at $29,995 in SL FWD trim, and ranging all the way up to $47,485 in Denali AWD.
GM is chasing the heart of the market that wants a moderately spacious, efficient and practical crossover that’s not too big, and the 2017 GMC Acadia is firmly in the middle of the segment and offers exactly the mix of capability and convenience that consumers are looking for in a midsize crossover segment.