Even though GMC cemented its reputation with the production of pickup trucks, in recent years the division has also become known for crossover vehicles and SUVs. Interior space is the dominant feature of the GMC Acadia midsize crossover SUV. It can seat up to eight. In fact, passenger/cargo space is comparable to that of a minivan.
Closely related to the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave, the GMC Acadia has no tie to the brand’s trucks, or to its full-size, truck-based SUVs. Available with either front- or all-wheel drive, each trim level is powered by a 288-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 that teams with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
For 2016, GMC Acadia adds 4G LTE connectivity to its OnStar telematics, which come standard. It can create a moving wi-fi hotspot. A new 2016 GMC Acadia SL base model joins the lineup, and a heated steering wheel goes into 2016 GMC Acadia Denali.
Acadia has scored well in crash tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives Acadia an overall rating of five stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issued Good scores in all tests, including roof strength. GM’s midsize crossovers stand out for offering a front-center airbag; which deploys forward from the right side of the driver’s seat.
Upper-trim models offer active safety systems, including blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision alert, and lane-departure warning. Poshest Acadia of the lot, the Denali model includes a Dual SkyScape sunroof, as well as heated/ventilated seats and leather-trimmed upholstery. IntelliLink is available or standard, allowing the driver to integrate such online radio services as Pandora and Stitcher, using voice and touch-screen controls via Bluetooth-enabled phones.
Not only is the Acadia interior spacious, but the overall design makes good use of all that room. With the third row up, there’s 24 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold down both the second- and third-row seats, and you wind up with a virtually cavernous total of 116 cubic feet.
A Color Touch Radio with touch-screen control is standard. In some Acadia versions, the screen is encircled by capacitive controls for audio and climate systems. Navigation is available as an option, as is rear-seat DVD entertainment. Available for the full model line, the entertainment system includes surround sound and ten speakers.
Acadia features a more forceful, rectangular grille than its Enclave/Traverse mates, for a more truck-style appearance. That makes sense, since GMC is perceived as a truck maker. Although its profile is unabashedly straightforward, and even boxy in shape, Acadia’s crisp body lines have aged rather gracefully, compared to other crossover SUVs. Less anonymous and bland than a Traverse, it hints at a tougher, more macho nature than Buick’s curvier Enclave.
LED daytime running lights and a small rear spoiler are installed. Upper trims have a power liftgate. Denali stands out for its chromed-mesh grille, distinct headlights, and 18- to 20-inch wheels.
All Acadias have three-row seating for either seven or eight occupants. In the second row, either a pair of captain’s chairs or a three-person bench may be installed.
Even though the tight, pleasantly quiet cabin is practical in nature, it’s classy and refined. Soft-touch materials are used, and the soft leather upholstery installed in upper-trim models is accented by French stitching, with red ambient lighting. Seats are impressively comfortable, though the floor sits a bit higher than in some similar vehicles.
Passengers can expect a welcoming environment. Front occupants enjoy prime accommodations, helped by a high seating position. Second-row seats slide fore and aft on a track, to increase leg room in either the second or third row. Both the twin captain’s chairs and the three-place bench are sized for adults.
Because the rear seat is low, headroom is sufficient for most adults. Still, it’s appropriate only for youngsters or small adults. Getting there is the obstacle. A Smart Slide feature flips up the rear cushion and flips the seat forward to ease access. GM claims an Acadia can carry a sheet of plywood that’s four feet wide.
GM’s IntelliLink is simpler to use than some touch-screen or dial systems. Even so, an occasional glitch may turn up.
At 288 horsepower, the V6 is strong enough in view of its 3.6-liter displacement. Still, it’s hauling plenty of weight, even with front-wheel drive. A 2.5-ton mass inevitably impedes passing response. When full of people and cargo, an Acadia can struggle while trying to reach highway speed. With a light load, acceleration is actually rather strong.
GM’s 6-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, but sometimes seems hesitant when trying to select the next gear. At times, too, it’s reluctant to downshift.
On the road, an Acadia feels a little smaller than it looks. Handling ranks as moderately capable, and reasonably well controlled. Expect a nicely balanced ride, helped by dual-flow damper shock absorbers. Power steering has a light feel and is appropriately weighted.
Quietness is a virtue, and Acadia provides excellent suppression of sounds. Properly equipped, an Acadia can tow as much as 5,200 pounds.
Fuel economy is poorer than that of smaller, lighter SUVs. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 17/24 mpg City/Highway (19 mpg Combined), with front-wheel drive. Add all-wheel drive, and estimates drop to 16/23 mpg (but still 19 mpg Combined).
Because of its distinctive look, the GMC Acadia is our favorite member of this GM trio. Though way too big and heavy to deliver car-like performance, it’s a pleasant crossover to drive. Customary power features are standard, and cargo space is voluminous. Denali is fitted out at practically Cadillac-level.
Driving impressions by Kirk Bell, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.