GMC Acadia: All-New for 2017

By Frank A. Aukofer, September 17th, 2016

In the game of billiards, "Reverse English" is a spin motion applied to the cue ball. A player using the reverse technique sinks the object ball into the pocket, and the cue ball simultaneously backs up into position for the next shot.

You could say GMC applies a reverse technique to the 2017 Acadia. It started a decade ago as a midsize crossover with three rows of seats and accommodations for seven or eight passengers. Similar garage mates were the Chevrolet Traverse and the Buick Enclave.

But now the designers have improved its spin in crossover market to position the Acadia for further success in an era when customers increasingly covet crossover utility vehicles.

The all-new 2017 Acadia is lighter by 700 pounds and marginally smaller inside -- by about 19 cubic feet of space -- than its 2016 predecessor. It is 8 inches shorter bumper to bumper but can accommodate five, six, or seven passengers depending on the layout.

That may not read like much on paper. But the 2017 Acadia is a tidier, more nimble vehicle that doesn't give away much in accommodations. In the seven-passenger version, with sliding second-row seats, it's easy to divvy up the space so second- and third-row passengers are not unduly scrunched. Climbing into the two third-row seats, however, requires agility despite cleverly designed second-row seats that flip out of the way.

General Motors likely is hedging its bets. The Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave continue as before as larger seven- or eight-passenger crossovers, but there are hints that they may follow the downsized Acadia. For now, the two GM vehicles that share the smaller new architecture are the Acadia and the all-new 2017 Cadillac XT5, a midsize, five-passenger, two-row crossover.

Overall, the 2017 Acadia has a personality that's easy to like -- maybe even love. With its more compact overall dimensions, it handles crisply and imparts confidence in urban and freeway traffic. With the 310-horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, it cruises quietly and comfortably for long distances on freeways, but welcomes twisting roads as well.

All-wheel-drive models are equipped with five driver selectable modes, starting with front drive, in which the driveshaft and rear differential automatically uncouple for improved fuel economy. The tested V-6 Denali, with cylinder deactivation during cruising, delivered 18/25/20 mpg on the EPA's city/highway/combined fuel consumption cycle.

The driver may also choose all-wheel drive, which has the capability to transfer power front to rear as well as side to side so the Acadia can keep going even with traction on only one wheel. Sport mode tightens the steering and suspension system for confident handling on curves. Other settings enhance trailer towing and off-road driving.

Eight Acadia models are available, starting with the $30,920 SL, which comes only with front-wheel drive. It is powered by GM's 195-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is rated at 21/26/23 city/highway/combined mpg. It exhibits plenty of power off the line and in passing, but is nowhere as turbine smooth as the V-6.

Another is the $40,965 All Terrain AWD version that carries five passengers. It is designed for customers who like occasional off-road adventures and carry extra gear. Others are the SLE, SLT, and Denali versions, available with front- or all-wheel drive.

Denali, a name GMC borrowed from the tallest mountain in Alaska, has been very good to the brand. It designates GMC's top luxury versions and accounts for huge sales chunks of its Yukon, Sierra, and Acadia nameplates.

The tested Denali AWD exhibited a luxury interior with comfortable leather upholstery, soft-touch surfaces, and tasteful faux wood trim. Instruments and controls are ergonomically designed, and easy to read and operate.

Safety and connectivity features abound, including automatic braking for objects and pedestrians, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind spot warning, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, SXM satellite radio, Android and Apple Car Play, and GM's OnStar system.

Also included was an innovation that is certain to save lives. Called the rear seat reminder, on any given trip, if a rear door is opened and closed, the driver gets a reminder to check the back seat when the engine shuts down. It's designed to prevent those horrific situations where forgetful parents have left children to die in hot, parked cars.

That alone makes the Acadia a compelling choice. It's a complete family crossover.

Specifications

Base price $47,845 (as tested: $52,285)
Curb weight 3,956 lbs.
Displacement 3.6-liter
Engine type DOHC V-6 w/DI
Epa mileage rating 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 22 gal.
Horsepower (net) 310 at 6600 rpm
Overall length 193.6 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 271 at 5000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5/7-passenger AWD midsize CUV
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