GMC normally shares its SUV and light-truck platforms with Chevrolet. For the midsize Acadia sport-utility vehicle, which launched as a 2007 model, the sharing takes place with GM's Saturn division: specifically, the also-new Saturn Outlook. Acadia also is related to the coming-soon Buick Enclave.
Unlike previous GMC SUVs, the Acadia is considered a "crossover" model, blending attributes of a sport-utility and a passenger car. GMC ads claim that the Acadia "looks and acts like an SUV, but handles like a luxury sedan." Ordinarily, such assertions can be dismissed; but in this case, it's not so far off the mark.
Driving a six-speed automatic transmission, the Acadia's 3.6-liter V-6 engine develops 275 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. Front-drive is standard, but "intelligent" all-wheel drive is available for both the SLE and SLT editions.
Don't expect low-cost motoring, at least in urban use. With front-wheel drive, the Acadia earns an EPA fuel-economy estimate of 18 mpg in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway (using the 2007 calculation method). Four-wheel drive drops the estimates to 17/24 mpg. Properly equipped, an Acadia can tow as much as 4,500 pounds.
On the road, the Acadia ranks as one of the most appealing and enjoyable General Motors vehicles issued in recent times. Easy to maneuver, with satisfying steering feel, this quiet and gentlemanly SUV delivers energetic throttle response with refined transmission operation. A tight turning circle helps the Acadia's maneuverability in around-town driving, and the vehicle feels tight and solid throughout.
Although the ride is less than gentle, and rougher spots definitely are felt by occupants, the road experience is quite well controlled. Every roadgoing aspect is smooth and civilized, as the suspension copes admirably with most imperfections.
Shapely on the outside, the Acadia contains an attractive dashboard. There's plenty of room inside, with easy access to the rear between the separated, individual bucket seats in the second row. Third-row access will be more restricted if an optional second-row bench is installed. Second-row headroom and toe space are excellent, though legroom depends upon that sliding seat's fore/aft position as well as the closeness of the seat ahead.
For a three-row vehicle, cargo space is reasonably good. On the down side, Acadia is not the easiest vehicle to judge while parking. Instruments are not big, but they're brightly red-lit for super legibility. Visibility is fine all around, except for the fact that the third-row seatbelts hangs from the ceiling, in the driver's field of rearward vision.
GMC's Acadia competes against the Honda Pilot, Nissan Murano, and Toyota Highlander, as well as the Ford Freestyle (renamed Taurus X for 2008). Prices start at $29,990 (including destination charge) for the SLE edition, which includes seven-passenger seating, foglamps, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, and 18-inch tires on aluminum wheels. Four-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the tariff.
General Motors gets - and deserves - criticism for some of the models it's released in recent years. But with the Acadia, which is a far cry from traditional GM trucks, the corporation got it right. This is one SUV that owners might look forward to driving, not merely tolerate.
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