2007 Acadia is first crossover SUV for GMC

Friday, January 12, 2007

Looking for a roomy vehicle with seats for seven or eight, a pleasing ride and impressive handling?

Don't miss the 2007 GMC Acadia.

Though GMC is known for its "professional grade" trucks and truck-based sport utility vehicles, the Acadia is something different -- and special.

As the first crossover SUV at GMC, the Acadia has carlike unibody construction and is based on a new platform that's not from a truck.

Indeed, the Acadia has arguably the best handling dynamics of all GMC vehicles. Its styling and five-door, tallish wagon shape are appealing, and while the Acadia is larger than many other crossovers, it's still sized so it doesn't feel too big.

I just wish Acadia prices weren't so high.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $29,990, which is $2,695 more than the starting price for a GMC Envoy SUV. The base Acadia is a two-wheel drive SLE with 275-horsepower V-6.

An Acadia with all-wheel drive starts at $31,990, and the test vehicle, an uplevel Acadia SLT with leather-trimmed seats and optional sunroof, power rear liftgate and rear parking sensors, among other things, topped out at near $39,000. It did not have four-wheel drive.

Acadia competitors include other V-6-powered crossover SUVs that offer three-row seating, such as the 2007 Honda Pilot, which starts at $27,690, and the 2007 Mazda CX-9, which starts at $29,630.

The Acadia is one of three new crossovers designed off the same platform by GMC's parent company, General Motors Corp. The new, sibling crossovers are the 2007 Saturn Outlook, which starts at $27,990, and the 2007 Buick Enclave. Enclave pricing hasn't been released yet.

The Acadia is sold in two trim levels -- SLE and SLT -- and each is offered with or without four-wheel drive.

Standard features include six air bags, including curtain air bags and front seat-mounted side air bags, as well as traction control, stability control and antilock brakes.

There's no head restraint for the middle person in the third row, though.

There's one Acadia engine -- a 275-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing. It's mated to a new, six-speed, automatic transmission that gets power to the wheels quickly, particularly in the low gears. Most of the time, the shift points were barely noticeable in the test vehicle.

Maximum torque rating is 251 foot-pounds at 3,200, and some 90 percent of the peak torque can be had between 1,500 rpm and 5,800 rpm.

The Acadia's performance numbers are higher than those of the Pilot and Mazda's CX-9. The 3.5-liter V-6 in the CX-9, for example, is rated at 250 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque.

GMC officials say the Acadia can tow up to 4,500 pounds, which is more than many other crossovers. But buyers who need towing capacity may want to explore a V-8 choice, too, which the Acadia doesn't offer at this point.

Reportedly, though, there is room for a V-8 under the Acadia hood.

With the V-6, Acadia's estimated fuel economy is 18 miles a gallon in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway for a front-wheel drive model.

This is a bit better than the 18/24 mpg rating for a two-wheel drive Honda Pilot with 244-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6.

I had a difficult time meshing the obviously consumer-oriented personality of the Acadia with GMC's "professional grade" marketing slogan for its trucks and truck-based SUVs that has run for a half dozen years in TV commercials.

So I just ignored the old marketing slogan and enjoyed the comfortable driving experience.

With coil-over-strut front suspension and independent multi-link rear, the Acadia tester handled stably and took mountain twisties with surprising composure. It felt heavy, not flimsy -- it weighs nearly 5,000 pounds. But with one to three passengers, it never was lumbering. The rack-and-pinion steering had decent on-center feel.

As in other crossovers, passengers in the Acadia sit up from the pavement. For example, I looked over the roofs of cars and through the windows of some other SUVs in front of me as I drove the Acadia.

Yet it didn't convey any tippiness, even when pushed on curvy roads. In fact, the Acadia felt wonderfully poised and stable on aggressive twists and turns.

The interior of the Acadia, named after the Acadia National Park in Maine, was as quiet as a car's, and I noticed the plastics and finishes inside looked high quality. Indeed, fit and finish on the test vehicle was excellent.

GMC thoughtfully installed pull straps on the backs of the split 60/40 third-row seatbacks so short-statured people like me can more easily pull up the seatbacks from the cargo floor, when needed. But I still had to stretch and reach way inside to push those seatbacks down fully flat to tuck them into the floor area when I wanted more cargo space. They don't fall down flat by themselves.

Maximum cargo space with second- and third-row seats folded flat in the Acadia is an impressive 119.9 cubic feet. This is way more than the 87.6 cubic feet in the Pilot.

And the Acadia is 13.1 inches longer, overall, than the Pilot.

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