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Review of the 2017 GMC Acadia: Forgotten No More!

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On: Thu, Aug 4, 2016 at 12:17PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Review of the 2017 GMC Acadia:  Forgotten No More!

In the modern world of SUVs, it seems like the choice are endless; yet, somehow, everyday there are even more choices. Nearly every manufacturer on Earth has been trying to get a piece of the rapidly growing pseudo-truck market (Can a Bugatti SUV really be that far away?). When it comes to SUV choices, there are small, large, low cost, high luxury, very off-road capable, very on-road capable, fast, extremely fast, slow, slower, three-door, five-door, front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and dozens of other minor options to choose from. 

Some of these optional choices actually have to be made within a single car company. So with all of these decisions to make, it might be easy to forget that there is actually a manufacturer out there that actually specializes in making only trucks. GMC has been around for decades, yet may be easy to overlook these days. Some think of them as just Chevys with different badges… And truth be told, for a long time that’s exactly what they were. But while the General still uses the same platforms for various models (as all companies do to save money), GM has slowly tried to differentiate their subsidiaries to have a bit more individuality, and the 2017 GMC Acadia does just that.

From the outside, the new Acadia doesn’t look all that different from the outgoing model. The front end is subtly sleeker, and the overall appearance of the new truck gives the impression of being smaller. But it’s not just an impression, it’s a fact. While it does still share its Lambda-platform with the Buick Enclave and the Chevrolet Traverse, the Acadia is quite a bit different. It is, in fact, over 7 inches shorter and 3.5 inches narrower, which may or may not have something to do with the 700-pound weight loss from the previous year, something even Oprah would be proud of. It isn’t just the smaller size of the truck that helps, it's also the use of high-strength steel and lightweight sound insulation that contribute to the Acadia’s diet success.

The lighter, peppier Acadia is noticeably more nimble on its feet, which can be felt instantly when the truck is in motion. Newton’s laws come into effect—a lighter object is easier to stop, go, and change direction than a heavier one, go figure. Lighter weight also has other benefits. Thanks a more suitable weight of 4000–4,400 pounds depending on options, the new Acadia is able to afford a smaller base engine than before. An all-aluminum DOHC 2.5-liter inline-4 cylinder that produces 194 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque propels the new truck and does an admirable job. And while a four-banger in an SUV might have sounded like a wildly futile prospect when GMC first came around, now a smaller engine can have some upside too. The smaller engine gives the Acadia an advertised 21/26 city/highway mpg, which is nothing to sneeze at, and while the performance is down, the very tame and quiet driving environment may be preferable to some. Of course, if a couple more cylinders (literally) sounds a bit more promising, then fear not, because it’s only an option away. Opt for one of the higher-end models, either the All Terrain or the Denali and you’ll get a standard engine that is a bit more powerful—a 3.6-liter all-aluminum DOHC V6 that makes a stout 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque—the same corporate engine not-so-oddly enough that GM uses in the Chevy Camaro. This motor is standard on the higher trims and optional on the base model. Obviously this much torquier motor seems to fit the two-ton truck a bit better than the smaller four. Either engine is backed by the same 6-speed automatic (that comes with a manual shifting mode) that seems to be a very capable tranny, shifting smoothly and definitively without any jerky motions.

As previously mentioned, there are three trims to choose from with your Acadia. The base model, with a base price of only $29,070, comes with most of the basic equipment adorning modern vehicles: Keyless entry, available 4G WiFi hotspot, optional V6, plenty of noise-cancelling insulation for a quiet cabin, five USB ports, rear climate control, a 120-volt power outlet, stability control, and a rear-vision camera. The All Terrain comes in as the mid-tier level with a base price of $39,115; the biggest feature of this truck is an all-wheel drive setup and an Active Twin Clutch that is supposed to help provide added control by using a pair of electronically controlled clutches instead of the traditional rear differential. A computer controls engagement and can moderate between partial and fully engaged depending on the terrain-selector dial in the cabin. Also 18-inch wheels are standard, while 20s are available, as is a trailering package, and a dual pane sunroof.

The Denali is the stud of the bunch and is priced as such with a base price of $44,920. The Denali is the luxury model of the group and comes with things like leather seats, actual wood and aluminum interior accents, and 8-inch color infotainment touchscreen, a hands-free power lift gate, HID projector-beam head lamps, 20-inch wheels, front automatic braking, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, following distance indicator, and a traction selection mode dial to tailor the Denali’s driving dynamics to your road conditions. Somewhat funny and yet sadly sobering is an option that comes on all Acadia models which is a rear-seat reminder. This feature alerts the driver through flashes and sounds to be sure to check the rear seats when the car is turned off… To make sure you haven’t absentmindedly left your kids back there. Yes, this apparently is a thing, and enough of a thing to warrant an additional safety precaution to vehicles. The Acadia is the first to offer it, but we have a sinking feeling it will start showing up a lot more.

When it comes to performance, it does depend on which options you go for and which combination of engine and drivetrain you choose. But 0–60 mph can come up in 6.8–8.8 seconds, 0–100 mph in 17.8-19.7 seconds, through the quarter mile in 15.0–17.6 seconds, and all models have a limited top speed of 115 mph. Fuel mpg is also option-dependent. It can be as high as 21/26 city/highway or as low as 18/25 city/highway. None of these figures are the best in the SUV market, but they aren’t the worst either. The Acadia seems to do a little of everything fairly well, and gets the job done as a competent family hauler or work truck.

The 2017 GMC Acadia is not revolutionary, but is is evolutionary for the brand. It spent a decade as basically the same vehicle with small changes from year to year, but now it’s lighter, quicker, more efficient, more luxurious, and more capable than the outdated model it replaces. It has a very nice entry price for a legit three-row SUV, and has plenty of on-road manners to keep soccer moms happy, enough tech to keep kids preoccupied on long trips, and enough off-road capability to keep dads excited too. It took a while to get here, and in the amount of time it took GMC to redesign the Acadia—more than a dozen years—new competitors have cropped up on the playing field. But, we think that although it may have once been easy to overlook, GMC and the Acadia may just start to be an SUV that will get noticed, and remembered.

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