SUVs are evil. Evil I tell you! They represent all that’s bad about America: greed, sloth, gluttony, selfishness, arrogance and environmental indifference. They gargle gas, warm the planet and knock poor little hybrids into next week. More importantly, SUVs cost a fortune to feed and depreciate like packet of condoms. So what’s an SUV-intensive manufacturer like GM to do? Why make an SUV that doesn’t do all that hard-core SUV stuff, spiffy-it-up a bit, and sell it to all the people who love SUVs but hate SUVs. Ladies and gentlemen, the GMC Acadia.
Semi-evil or not, the Acadia sure is a handsome beast. It hits the sweet spot between the overly swoopy Buick Enclave (one of its two ugly Lambda dancing half sisters) and the excessively angular Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot. Though it's not obvious from photographs, the Acadia’s huge. It’s only a couple of inches shorter than its GMC sibling (and competitor), the once-mighty Yukon SUV. To add political correctness, GM removed eight inches of height, giving the Acadia a PC-pleasing passenger-car-like appearance.
Like all three-row CUV’s, the Acadia’s packaging is not without its problems. On the positive side, thanks to GM's "SmartSlide" system, passengers don't have to mountaineer over the second row to get into the wayback. But once ensconced, those poor unfortunate souls are relegated to a how-low-can-you-go seating position. They also face the daunting task of convincing second row passengers to scootch forward and sacrifice their
legs legroom– so that the rearmost occupants don’t have to sit like cross-legged Yogi.
While the Acadia’s SmartSlide system offers kid-friendly clambering; the middle seats ride in huge tracks recessed into the floor. What’s the bet crayons, Lego and French fries clog the tracks– impeding the seat's movement and causing expensive damage to the mechanism– faster than you can say “No YOU get the vacuum cleaner.”
Extricating yourself from the rear also lacks fun. The Acadia’s interior designers forgot to include an assist handle for those of us who are too tall to just stand up and walk out.
Aesthetically, some genius in the design department decided that plastichrome trim would make the Acadia’s interior look more expensive. It doesn't. The trim around the center AC vents curves onto the top of the dash– right where it reflects the sun into the driver's eyes. The trim around the shifter looks like something from a Wal-Mart boom box. Props for eschewing wood grain or faux carbon fiber, but the overall ambiance doesn’t say $40k vehicle to me.
Questionable materials quality doesn't help the situation, and do much to make it worse. The leather on the test vehicle’s passenger seat was already cracked and showing its backing in one spot. The tambour door on the cubby in the console had all the substance of a sheet of typing paper. The volume control knob on the non-GPS-equipped radio felt like it was connected to nothing whatsoever.
When you turn the Acadia’s key, you hear… practically nothing; I had to look at the tach to see if it had started. Slide the six-speed automatic’s shifter into "D" (or "L" if you want to use the non-intuitive buttons on the side of the lever to swap cogs), and you're on your way. The transmission shifts smoothly on the way up. But when you floor it, the tranny jerks as the autobox drops a couple of gears to propel the 2.5-ton family hauler with some semblance of alacrity.
The Acadia’s not quick but neither does it block traffic; its 275hp 3.6-liter V6 ambles the big rig from rest to 60 miles per hour in just under eight seconds. Because of the CUV's smooth ride and abundant sound insulation, once sufficient speed is attained, it’s a pleasure to putter about town or cruise the interstate. While you’d no more hustle an Acadia than use a MX-5 to move house, the GMC always feels like you're driving something much smaller.
Any illusions in that department are shattered at the gas pump. The GMC Acadia is EPA rated at 16/24. While that’s an improvement on the Yukon/Tahoe’s abysmal 14/19, GMC's three-row machine is no fuel miser– especially when you compare it to Toyota’s RAV4 (21/27).
Question: do you REALLY need that third row? If you don’t, face facts: the GMC Acadia offers nothing more than faux rehab for SUV recidivists. (Suck it up and buy a nice $40k car, already.) If you need room for seven/eight, or don’t care a fig about mileage, well, there are still a lot of better choices in the $35k to $45k CUV price range; plenty of station-wagons-on-stilts that provide a similar driving experience without the Acadia's obvious cost-cutting.
Still, the Acadia is a good vehicle that does what its target market (mainly GM loyalists) expects it to do. It's too bad that it's appeal has been degraded by beancounters. If the devil is in the details, it must be Hell being an Acadia.