General Motors and its GMC division are back on a roll. They had been making excellent trucks and SUVs for years, which brought big bucks into the company, but when gas prices shot up to $4.00 per gallon in 2008, sales of their big vehicles shut down like a blown fuse. All of a sudden, people were only looking for small high-mileage cars, and the SUVs were stacking up on dealer lots like cord wood.
|1. The GMC Acadia is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 with 288-hp and 270 ft-lbs of torque, with a tow rating of 5,200 lbs.
2. The Acadia offers room for seven or eight, with 24.1 cu.-ft. of cargo room, which expands to 68.9 cu.-ft. with the third row folded or 116.9 cu.-ft. with both rows folded.
3. Fuel economy is rated at 17/24-mpg (city/hwy) or 16/23-mpg for AWD models.
4. New for 2010, the Acadia is now offered in a high-end Denali trim.
But America’s love affair with larger vehicles didn’t go away for long. When the economy hit the skids, people were driving less, and gas prices came back down. Soon folks were coming back into the showrooms and looking at GMCs again. Only this time they were pleasantly surprised to find that there are now more models fitted with much more fuel efficient engines. So for large families that need the space of larger SUV, its towing capacity, as well as some decent luxury amenities, the new offerings from GM hit the sweet spot again.
The 2010 Acadia is GMC’s version of the Crossover Lambda platform that includes the Buick Enclave and Chevy Traverse. It provides the benefits of a large SUV, but with more family friendly road manners and amenities, plus better fuel economy. There are three trim levels and all are available as either front wheel or all-wheel drive. And all come with the same 3.6-liter V6 engine. My test car was the pricier all-wheel-drive SLT-2 version. The V6 is rated at 16-mpg city and 23-mpg highway, with a combined average of 19-mpg. My gas mileage experience was 15-mpg city and 20-mpg highway.
The V6 is rated at 288 horsepower with 270 ft-lbs of torque. I found it was more than adequate to handle any driving situation, whether merging into traffic entering the highway, scooting away from a stoplight, or passing on a 2-lane road. And the engine is quiet as it delivers the power through a 6-speed transmission. That transmission has a toggle switch on the gearshift lever that when placed in the L gear, allows the driver to choose and maintain a specific gear. It’s not meant to be used as a true manumatic, but it will come in handy when towing a trailer on hilly roads to keep the vehicle’s transmission from hunting back and forth between gears.
The suspension is tuned for a comfortable boulevard ride, and it’s quite good at soaking up the potholes and busted pavement left over from a long Chicago winter, aided by a 119-inch wheelbase and 20-inch wheels and all season tires. The Acadia tips the scales at nearly 5,000 pounds, so all that mass and comfort-tuned suspension will allow it to lean over in turns more than I would like. However, the standard traction control and stability control work behind the scenes to keep the Acadia planted and secure. The 4-disc, anti-lock brakes are excellent for both feel and stopping power while the variable assist power steering works well on the highway so that the Acadia doesn’t feel twitchy at speed and there’s no need to be constantly correcting straight line driving with steering input.
The cabin is quite spacious for all passengers, with 154 cubic feet. The test car came with second row captain’s chairs instead of an available bench seat, so this model seats seven instead of eight. One very slick feature is the innovative Smartslide second row seats. They’re on tracks so they adjust fore and aft to provide more legroom to the third row passengers. They’re also unique in how the seat bottoms of the captain’s chairs fold up and forward allowing the seat to collapse against the front seats – offering a very wide opening for passengers to get in and out of the third row. And it all can be operated with one hand and one lever. The wide door opening and relatively low step in height also make it easier to reach that third row.
There is ample leg and headroom for both the second and third row passengers, although the middle seat in the last row will prove to be a bit cramped for adults. And both rows of seats can be folded flat to provide 116.9 cubic feet of cargo space, which make it more spacious than the competing Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot. Trunk cargo room is rated at 24.1 cubic feet and 68.9 cu.-ft. with the third row folded. The rear deck lid is electrically operated from either the key fob, or a button on the deck lid itself.
The cabin is quiet on the road unless you have the moonroof open at highway speed. There is a second non-opening skylight over the second row of seats, so the cabin has a bright and airy feel. All materials are first rate, with soft perforated leather seating surfaces, and the driver and passenger get 3-position heated and cooled seats with 8-way power adjustment with dual memory functions. There is also a button to push the drivers seat all the way back for easy in and out.
The dash is handsome and well laid out. Two large dials for speedometer and tachometer are in front of the driver’s view, with an information screen set between them. Just the right amount of brightwork surrounding the gauges, AC outlets, gearshift gate and door handles, gives the interior a formal and elegant feel. The test car had the $1,000 Technology Package, which includes cargo area audio controls, high intensity headlamps, and a nice heads-up display that projects either the digital speed only, or you can add a tachometer to the display, and the outside temperature. And if you’re using the navigation system, it will show you the distance and direction to the next turn.
Speaking of the navigation system, the screen is large and has excellent resolution, and offers some good peripheral information such as the time, radio station, points of interest, etc. And best of all, it’s easy to input and store address into it. The voice commands are good and call out the name of the streets or highways as you travel. A back-up camera is also integrated into the system.
Another option on the Acadia was the $1,445 Bose stereo and dual play DVD and CD system for the second row seats. The rear passengers have their own audio and heating controls. The two headsets and remote control are stored in a bin beneath the center console, with has a nice fore and aft sliding top to make it very usable as a comfortable armrest for the front passengers. The tilt and telescope steering wheel has controls for the Cruise Control, audio modes, volume and Bluetooth phone integration. The key fob includes a remote start, which will even activate the heated seats on cold days so they’re toasty by the time you enter the vehicle.
The exterior styling cues are all GMC inspired. The Acadia is sleeker and sportier looking than the more boxy Terrain and Yukon models, which makes it look smaller on the outside than it really is. The fender bulges are more subtle than those on the other vehicles, but the Acadia still has a brawny look to it, especially with the 20-inch chrome wheels.
The GMC Acadia is an excellent vehicle for families who want something more than a minivan. It can tow 5,200 pounds, and transport either a lot of passengers, or a lot of cargo in style and comfort, with decent gas mileage. It also has the suspension and ground clearance for some light off road duty. Plus, it has the highest 5-star government safety ratings for frontal and side impact crashes, and earned 4-stars for rollover protection. You can get a front wheel drive version starting at only $31,740 and that vehicle is nicely equipped.
My all-wheel-drive SLT-2 started at $42,185, and with all the options, finished at $49,740, so you can equip one with all the bells and whistles and turn it into a luxury vehicle. It’s a worthy competitor in this segment, and worth looking into.
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