It's definitely a point in the Acadia's favor that it uses the same touch screen navigation and entertainment module as we found in the Cadillac Escalade. This system is very good, with an easy-to-use tabbed interface. It lets you split the screen between a map and audio information, so you can see what song is playing and your location at the same time.
As mentioned above, the navigation system gives you three choices of routes to your destination. It lets you choose destinations from a decent-sized points-of-interest database or manually enter them in. Better yet, it makes entering complex routes very easy, letting you add destinations either before or after your end point. We found its route guidance worked very well, with voice prompts and upcoming turn information timed appropriately for us to stay on course.
The six-disc changer plays MP3 and WMA CDs, and there is also an auxiliary jack in its faceplate for MP3 players. The stereo also has XM satellite radio. The big LCD touch screen makes choosing XM stations very easy, letting you navigate by category or flip through individual stations. Although the music organizer can take a long time to scan an MP3 or WMA CD, it presents a very convenient interface for selecting music.
The Acadia gets a Bose 10-speaker system, complete with subwoofer, which is standard. We weren't that impressed with the audio performance at first, but we found it a lot better at high volumes. At lower volumes, it sounds muddy, with the highs and bass sounding muted. But the audio quality blossoms when more power is pumped through the speakers, offering very good separation and overall quality. The bass stays refined, without going particularly deep.
The rear-seat DVD option works well, with complete controls for the rear-seat passengers. There are also a set of wireless headphones that come with the system. And, as pointed out above, rear-seat passengers also can control the audio system, which could become an annoyance.
Bluetooth cell phone integration isn't an option with the Acadia, but it does have OnStar. If you sign up for the service, the car is assigned a telephone number. We don't find this setup as convenient as using your own cell phone.
An unexpected tech option on the car is the heads-up display, which shows the car's speed and the temperature in a projection on the windshield. We really like this feature, even if the design of the graphics in the display look a bit dated. The display has three modes, one with just a digital readout of your speed, one with the speed and temperature, and a final one that shows a virtual tachometer along with the speed. The virtual tachometer isn't that useful on an automatic, but we like how the heads-up display will show the name of the song playing when the stereo is playing XM satellite radio.
The power adjustable mirrors are another nice standard feature, which fold in at the touch of a button.
Under the hood
The Acadia comes with a single, very modern, powertrain choice, a 3.6-liter variable valve timed V-6 connected to a six-speed automatic. We found the engine power adequate for getting the car around, but it won't win any drag races. The engine puts out 275 horsepower at 6,600rpm and 251 pound-feet of torque at 3,200rpm, both respectable numbers that have to contend with the Acadia's bulk.
Our Acadia also came with a trailer package that includes a heavy duty cooling system and a trailer hitch. A button on the console puts the car in trailer towing mode, another hint that this crossover has a lot of SUV characteristics.
In normal driving the car felt a bit sluggish, but with the pedal mashed to the floor we were able to get good power for merging onto freeways or passing. The six-speed transmission isn't as smooth as we would have liked, with noticeable and somewhat clunky downshifts. And while it has all-wheel drive, it's too big and tall for any real hard cornering, although it might handle a bit better than a Yukon. Under normal driving conditions, the Acadia delivered a comfortable and smooth ride.
The EPA rates the Acadia at 17mpg in the city and 24mpg on the highway. In our mixed city and freeway driving we saw 16.5mpg, a similar figure to what we got in the 4.8-liter BMW X5. No emissions ratings for the Acadia have been published at the time of this review.
Our test car was a 2007 GMC Acadia SLT-2 with all-wheel drive, which comes with lots of nice standard features, for a base price of $37,370. The base trim level, the SLE, uses the same powertrain, but lacks a lot of the interior niceties, and goes for $29,495. Ours came loaded with navigation ($2,145), dual sunroof ($1,300), 19-inch wheels ($1,295), rear-seat DVD ($1,295), high discharge headlamps ($500), trailer package ($425), premium paint ($395), the heads-up display ($350), and a set of audio controls in the cargo area, presumably for tailgate parties ($150). With a $735 destination charge and a credit for the wheels of $600, the total came to $45,360.
There are a lot of things we like about the Acadia. It is a comfortable car to ride around in, with plenty of room for passengers or cargo. For the tech, it gets the same navigation and stereo as a Cadillac. The heads-up display is a pretty trick option. But in size and weight, it's not far from an SUV, which affects the drivability, especially on narrow city streets. For about $5,000 less, you can get a fully loaded Chrysler Pacifica, which is a bit more drivable than the Acadia, better looking, and has a Bluetooth cell phone connection.