Updating an already successful vehicle is stressful enough to make engineers chew Tums by the mouthful. Go too far and lose a strong customer base. Don’t go far enough and lose them to boredom.
Fortunately, GMC strikes the right balance with the updated 2013 Acadia by keeping the good and improving the rest. The result is a vehicle that will be familiar to its customers, with enough upgrades to impress them.
|1. A 3.6L V6 makes 288 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque.
2. EPA fuel mileage estimates are 16 mpg city and 23 mpg on the highway.
3. The Acadia is rated to tow up to 5,200 lbs.
4. Pricing starts at $34,050 with Denali models from $45,945.
Looking at the 2013 model year beside last year’s car, you might be tempted to think this is an all-new vehicle, but it isn’t. Despite that, you won’t be able to miss the drastic – and handsome - exterior style changes. GMC borrowed cues from its Terrain crossover here, and is offering a boxier-looking car with harder angles and a modern, luxurious front fascia.
Specific items helping to deliver that look include updated headlights, a large, square grille and pronounced fenders. The lower fascia has integrated fog lights, and LED running lights appear for the first time alongside either standard projector beam or optional HID headlights. Newly styled 18- or 19-inch wheels also help the Acadia escape its old image, while it’s hard not to notice the wraparound rear glass that looks suspiciously like leftovers from the now-dead Saturn Outlook.
Beyond body styling, GMC also improved the cabin. It looks and feels more luxurious and more fitting for a vehicle in this price range. Two trim levels – SLE and SLT – divide the car into less or more luxurious appointments respectively. They’re also split into “1” or “2” levels, so an SLT-1 (AutoGuide’s test car) is less expensive than an SLT-2, but still costlier than either the SLE-1 or SLE-2.
So-equipped, the test car cost $47,165 including delivery. That package brings standard heated leather seats for the driver and front passenger. As a unique feature, you can choose to heat the seatback, bottom or both.
For that price, you also get the equipment to tow a trailer, navigation, the entertainment system, a moon roof and attractive “Crystal Red Tintcoat” paint.
Improved for this year is the placement of soft touch surfaces on the door sills and arm rests, center slide-forward console and dash, which all owners will appreciate. The dash gets a rearview camera with a sonar backup warning system. Brushed aluminum accents and faux wood inserts also add to the cabin’s aesthetic appeal, but you’ll need to spring for the Denali version for real tree flesh.
A storage cubby on top of the dash offers USB connectivity and a handy alternative to stashing cell phones in cup holders. Other standout features include a large touch screen display and touch-sensitive climate and radio controls.
You’ll also be able to get GM’s IntelliLink system, which offers voice activation for smartphones and access to apps including Pandora radio.
Rear seat passengers can control the entertainment system by hand or with the remote control. Headphones also come with the system so your kids can listen to Disney while you enjoy not hearing it for the thousandth time. Those headphones also have a storage compartment behind the center console where you’ll also find a 12-volt and 112-volt outlet.
This isn’t an SUV in the literal sense of the name because it doesn’t ride on a truck frame. But most buyers aren’t worried about that. They care about space, and that’s something the Acadia offers.
Of course the rear 60/40 split bench folds flat as do the captains chairs so you can have a huge cargo area, of 116 cu-ft. But even with all the seats deployed, the Acadia has the most cargo room behind the third row of any vehicle in its class, at 24 cu-ft. And all that cargo space is accessed by an electric lift gate for convenience.
There is an abundance of leg and headroom for all passengers. In fact, the third row offers 33.2 inches of legroom, which is 1.7 more than the Dodge Durango. Headroom there decreases by 0.4 inches over the second row but still beats the Dodge. Depending on what you need, the second row can come as either a bench or two captain’s chairs.
It’s surprisingly easy to reach the third row too. Tilt the second row seatback forward and the whole seat slides towards the front of the vehicle leaving a good size opening. Or just slide across the chair, and slip through the space between the two seats (on model’s so equipped) to reach the rear. Kids and teens will do it with ease and it’s not all that difficult for an adult either.
All Acadia’s, whether front drive or all-wheel-drive, come with the same 3.6-liter V6 engine that puts out 288 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. It is rated for 16 mpg city and 23 highway, which is lower than many of its competitors. A six-speed automatic transmission with a rocker switch manumatic feature, puts the power down. That manumatic is good for towing or managing slick roads, but disappointing for aggressive driving because of how slowly it responds.
And by the way, towing capacity is a healthy 5,200 lbs. Another nice feature when towing is that each of the outside mirrors has a silver dollar sized convex insert, so if you are pulling something wider than the vehicle, you get extra rearward vision. It’s a small touch, but is welcomed if you’re hauling a trailer.
While 288 horses doesn’t sound like much, it moves the 5,000 pound Acadia away from stop lights with more than enough power. Passing will require the automatic to kick down a gear or two, but again there is enough grunt to get the job done.
It’s a big vehicle, so there’s plenty of body lean in hard turns, but the StabiliTrak keeps everything on course. The ride is comfortable and nicely balanced, and it has a handling edge over more than a few of its rivals.
A base front wheel drive Acadia starts at just over $34,000 while the top of the line Denali model starts at $46,946, and there are many trim levels in between. Our very well appointed SLT-1 has a base price of $41,780. The Nav and rear set entertainment package cost $2,240, and $1,400 buys the moonroof/skylight. Trailering equipment cost $525, and 395 for the Crystal Red Tintcoat paint. Add destination charges and the sticker shows $47,165.
GMC’s fresh-faced Acadia offers slightly more people space than the Dodge Durango, while losing the towing game and only manages to keep pace with that truck’s fuel economy while trailing other crossover competitors.
Still, with large amounts of passenger and cargo room, the Acadia’s many updates and perhaps most of all its styling, make it stand out in a lineup of suburban anti-vans.