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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.
Locating Oyaji was easy with the Acadia's navigation system.
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.
The Acadia proved very capable of hauling large furniture.
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.
Navigating XM radio stations and other music sources is easy with this intuitive interface.
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.
The heads-up display shows current speed and the current XM audio track.
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.
A button on the console puts the Acadia into trailer towing mode.
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.