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If the job of the new crossover segment being hyped by automakers is to wean people off of gas-guzzling SUVs, the 2007 GMC Acadia represents a small step, a nicotine patch for those people having a tougher time quitting their mammoth vehicles. The Acadia's 3.6-liter V-6 engine has the right amount of cylinders for a crossover, and the independent suspension delivers the right kind of ride. But with three rows of seating, a very large body, and two and a half tons of curb weight, the Acadia retains a lot of SUV characteristics.
The exterior of the Acadia also retains a lot of GMC SUV styling. It has a big, truck-like, chrome-wrapped grille complete with a large GMC logo. The side windows are big and rectangular, and there is an overlarge C-pillar separating the rear cargo area from the passenger cabin, a cue that hearkens back to the day when SUVs were just crew cab trucks with a shell over the bed. Prominent wheel arches bulge out of the sides as if they were a whole new set of fenders. Our test car, an all-wheel-drive Acadia at the SLT-2 trim level, came with big, 19-inch wheels.
But there are also notes to tone it down from a traditional SUV look, most notably the stubby nose which, after all, only needs to hold a V-6. It's also a tad shorter than your standard SUV, a fact that only becomes evident when it's parked next to one. Strangely enough, the interior is very similar to what you would find in a GMC Yukon. Ours had off-white leather seats and brushed aluminum accents in the dashboard. The Acadia could have come around 10 years ago, and most people wouldn't have known the difference if you swapped it for their Yukon.
The Acadia also offers the high-tech equipment that we've seen in modern SUVs, from the Cadillac Escalade to the Yukon. In fact, it has a little more. First off, it uses the same navigation and entertainment module as its big brothers. It adds Bose speakers to that, and its tailgate opens and closes at the push of a button. As a more unique tech feature, it has an adjustable heads-up display that shows vehicle speed, a virtual tachometer, temperature, and audio information.
Test the tech: Crossover tasks
Given that crossovers are supposed to bridge the gap between SUV and sedan, we performed two tasks with the Acadia appropriate for each type of vehicle. For our typical sedan task, we loaded the Acadia with four people and went out for dinner in San Francisco. Our SUV task involved moving a dresser and a tall cabinet.
For dinner, we selected a Japanese restaurant, called Oyaji, in San Francisco's Richmond district. Oyaji is an authentic izakaya-style restaurant, with a large menu full of skewered meats and vegetables, the perfect place for a little cosmopolitan city dining. We picked up everybody in San Francisco's financial district around 6 p.m. and easily found Oyaji in the Acadia's points-of-interest database. The navigation system gave us a choice of three routes, and we took the best one. We altered our course slightly, deciding that locals know better on some of the streets. No problem, as the Acadia's navigation system very quickly adjusted to our alterations.
The rear-seat passengers got to sit in the standard middle-row captain seats. The large rear doors made access easy, and the passengers found the middle row very comfortable. We didn't have anybody sitting in the third row, because our Acadia was doing sedan duty. The rear-seat passengers also took delight in their climate and entertainment options. The rear-seat climate control lets you increase or decrease the temperature based on whatever the front is set to. For example, we had it at 70 degrees in the front, while the rear was set to plus 10.
We also quickly found out that the rear-seat audio controls gave veto power over the music selection. With XM satellite radio selected as the music source, the rear-seat passengers could raise and lower the volume, and change the station. We couldn't find any controls in the front of the car to disable the rear-seat controls.
We were very conscious of the size of the Acadia while driving on San Francisco's streets. The car takes up a lot of lane space, and a few times we were afraid for the paint job as we pulled parallel to other large cars and trucks. At this point, we would have preferred something much smaller and agile, like the Acura RDX. Finding street parking near the restaurant also proved impossible with such a big vehicle, so we were forced to rely on a parking lot.
For our furniture-moving task, we found the size of the car very helpful. To get access to the maximum cargo area, we activated the automatic tailgate and cleared out of the way as it slowly lifted. Then we lowered the third- and middle-row seats, which proved to be very easy.
The dresser and tall cabinet we loaded were both 5-feet tall. They slid in easily, fitting right next to each other on their backs. We had probably an extra foot of space with both pieces shoved all the way up to the front seats. We were also able to slip the dresser drawers into extra space by the side passenger doors.
The Acadia performed its SUV-task, carting furniture around, very admirably. But its size and agility hampered its sedan task. And although it doesn't have a big V-8, we found our city mileage dipping below 15mpg. In the crossover equation, the Acadia leans towards the SUV side.
In the cabin
Although it falls short of Cadillac-luxury, the Acadia isn't far off. The seats are very comfortable and covered in leather, while the rest of the interior materials look nice. The dashboard material is just hard plastic, but we liked the two-tone effect of the black dashboard and upper-door panels with the off-white seats and lower interior panels. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has a nice feel, but the buttons between the spokes seem a little cheap.
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.