When you gather enough facts and figures and listen to 30-minute powerpoint presentations before even driving something, you’re left with a dialed-in expectation of what a product will deliver. Then one drives said product, validating much of what they were briefed on, and is left with no surprises. Repeat, repeat, repeat. From an entry level hatch, to a full-size diesel truck, to a two-seat performance car, the process is more or less the same. Occasionally, however, there are some eye-openers.
Take the second-generation 2017 GMC Acadia, for example. It’s
a million 700 pounds lighter than before, partly because of the downsizing and also partly because of the new engineering methods utilized in its structure, versus if they just took what they had before and shrank it. At the same time, GMC anticipates a five-star overall crash safety rating with the new Acadia. It’s faster and more efficient also, while launching with two powertrain options: the ubiquitous 2.5L four-cylinder EcoTec and the more lively 3.6L LGX V6. Horsepower ratings are 193 hp and 310 hp, respectively. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, in a world where 8- and 9-speed units are slowly trickling into the market. But Honda and Toyota don’t have them yet, so the urgency to equip the extra gears seem to remain placid. With that said, in April of 2013, GM has announced plans to develop a 9-speed FWD transmission. Based on that, we predict more gears in the new GMC Acadia, eventually.
Moving around the winding roads of rural Virginia at sane speeds (because authoritarians out there will actually throw you in jail for just 20 mph over), the 2017 Acadia reveals more than just that it has a base curb weight of less than 4,000 lbs — relatively light, as even its exterior design suggests. The 2017 Acadia cabin virtually mutes the outside world, and its ride and handling setup is approvingly compliant. Which these days, along with V8 engines, RWD performance and trucks, I consider both hushed rides and chassis setup to be some of General Motors’ engineering core competencies. The larger, heavier first-generation Acadia (known now as the Acadia Limited) had a bit of squishiness to its driving characteristics. The new 2017 Acadia rides much less like a lumbering heifer, and adds a dose of precision to the motions. Multiple driving settings also dial things to preference, with a normal road setting, off-road setting and a racing checkered flag which probably means something else. All the while, passengers sit in a spacious, roomy and comfortable cabin. The latest version of GMC’s Intellilink system provides all the infotainment, and even introduces functioning apps such as a Weather Channel app.
There’s a plethora of save-you-from-yourself active safety features as well, including Teen Driver Mode – a GMC first. Another first is a back seat alert chime, for NEGLIGENT PARENTS WHO LEAVE THEIR KIDS IN HOT CARS. Because, unfortunately, the laws of Darwin would unfairly claim the life of a helpless baby in a car seat in this instance, rather than the incompetent idiot who left it there “for like only 5 minutes.” Active blind spot alert — which can set off a lead-foot driver’s radar detector — is also present, as is the safety alert seat which massages your butt for a variety of reasons, such as when the camera-based forward collision alert system goes off when the road changes color. These features are sold as a $790 option on 2017 Acadia SLE-2 ($35,995 MSRP) models and up. Though the drive largely consisted of top-of-the-line 2017 Acadia Denali models ($45,845), as well as the off-road friendly 2017 Acadia All Terrain models ($40,040).
The 2017 Acadia All Terrain is the best option here for the active lifestyle. It comes in AWD only, with a rather sophisticated twin-clutch system that can distribute 0-100% of the torque front to rear, left to right. The system is sourced from GKN, the same suppliers to the Range Rover Evoque. Despite all of the facts presented by GMC before driving the new Acadia, the off-road abilities of the Acadia All Terrain came as a pleasant surprise. Its reluctance to get stuck in the shallow mud, damp grass and small ruts is something this segment needs more of. Though some more off-road oriented tires are left to be desired on the Acadia All Terrain. Couple the off road orientation with scratch-resistant plastic cladding side skirts and a third-row seat delete for more cargo space, and this unassuming midsize crossover makes for a great vehicle to escape into some shallow wilderness (soft-roading, if you will). And it’s sure to surprise in the snow.
The 2017 Acadia Denali is of course the more luxurious choice. Matted wood, brushed metals and leather grace the interior, while a partially digital instrument panel displays driver information in vivid color. The exterior sports the signature chrome grille and accents that are staples to the popular sub-brand. Select a few options — such as the dual sunroof, RSE package and Technology package, for instance — and the 2017 Acadia Denali can quickly enter the mid-$50,000 range, which five years ago was bling-bling Yukon Denali money. Yet, GMC buyers don’t seem to mind very much, as most vehicles sold are well optioned and feature an ATP that would make most brands green with envy.
As clinical as these vehicles can be, the 2017 GMC Acadia does carry forward cornerstone elements of the brand such as sophisticated design and premium content on the high-end, which is what a large chunk of brand customers prefer. There’s an expectation of high levels of conquest sales, now that GMC is attacking the heart of the ever-growing crossover market. In many of the targets that matter most to many customers, the new Acadia delivers, and paints a positive outlook for the future of GM’s crossover plans.