2008 GMC Acadia Review

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
2008 gmc acadia review

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 [s]legs[/s] 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.

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  • Davexpert Davexpert on Jul 18, 2009

    I realize this review is more than a year old, but just wanted to make a few points that haven't been made (or haven't been made enough). For us, choosing the Acadia was an easy choice - based on our preferences and lifestyle: 1. 2-2-3 configuration. This was huge for us... having the second row captain chairs make the third-row bench seat much more manageable. Now, our older children can easily get in and out of the car (and to the back) while we strap in the baby. Same goes for adults. Many competitors were knocked out of the running due to the middle bench seat configuration. This might add a passenger to your overall capacity, but any parent hauling a few kids (and their friends) will tell you "mountaineering" is no fun, especially if one kid is pretty small and needs help. 2. Towing... mentioned a little bit in the previous comments, but when comparing the Acadia to a minivan or something smaller like a RAV4, this can be a deciding factor if you regularly tow a boat or trailer. Sure, it's not going to tow a huge load - but the 4500 lbs capacity suits us just fine - and saved us from having to get a large SUV (Tahoe, Yukon, Navigator, Sequoia) and enduring its thirsty tendencies at the pump. 3. Mileage. The Acadia gets minivan-like mileage but has the aforementioned capabilities/configuration of a Yukon. 4. Price point. The Acadia can be as expensive/more expensive than its counterparts, but we just bought and at the supplier pricing going on for the (few) remaining 09s, we got a nicely equipped one with DVD, rear-camera, AWD, etc. for under $36K, and with 0% for five years. Very tough to find a deal like that with any other competitor. I think Frank did a good job with the review, criticizing the Acadia where it deserved it. I, too, wish GM would spend the cash on the interior and keep it at its price point - if only... but it would have a real world beater. BTW, I'm told the 2010s have the "visibility package" standard in all trims, along with power liftgate. So that's nice. Will be interesting to see how the new GMC Terrain competes, as it seems like it's going to replace the Envoy and Torrent.

  • Skitterbug Skitterbug on Aug 25, 2009

    I've been working in car rentals for several years and I was curious to know where you people are finding Toyota Rav4's with a 3rd row of seating...personally I've never seen one. The Acadia is a customer pleaser from my stand point, and one of my SUV's. My customers actually complain if they get a vehicle such as oh say a prius. The gas mileage isn't great but if you're looking to buy something the size of the Acadia you are all ready aware of that. They are looking to move people, things, and probably haul trailers and such. I can understand wanting to save the environment and everyone wanting to be all granola and stuff, but in all reality when Mt. St. Helens blew it released more toxic chemicals and pollution into the air then over 10 years of daily SUV exhaust for the whole planet. Generally people hate mini van's, wagon's not so much but they still aren't very popular. Basically the Rav4 is a horrible vehicle to compaire the Acadia to. People are looking to see if it is a reliable vehicle that won't break down, not be guilt tripped into buying something that is more economical. Why don't you go pick on the rap stars driving Hummer H3 stretch limo's and in all reality probably only get about 3 miles to the gallon. There is an obvious need for something like the Acadia or it wouldn't be on the market.

  • NormSV650 Everyone is partnering to make batteries in North America today, except the Japanese.
  • Arthur Dailey "A massive chrome bumper" listed on the brochure/ad as a selling/design feature. How I miss 1970s auto design.
  • Master Baiter Taycan a massive success?
  • Robert Levins I love the Stutz lavish luxury designs but this one has a tough time blending “Squared” off 1980’s roof line with previous decades of beautiful sweeping fenders, hoods, and deck lids. I do like this one for what it is, I admire it. I can see this model doing well with the big oil Saudis and such. If I had a lot money and wanted a”Stutz” car I would most likely not be buying this one.
  • Jkross22 Current Mazda interiors match or beat Audi. Chunky buttons, clicky knobs, big displays - pity that Mazda hasn't figured out how to boot the crappy Bose system and offer up something better. No shortage of audio companies that could help with that.
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