What a bold move General Motors has made. GMC’s popular Acadia sport-utility vehicle wasn’t just scaled down; it was diminished. Our latest test car, a 2017 GMC Acadia SLT-1 with front-wheel drive, has about half the cargo capacity of its predecessor and comes with a modestly muscled 4-cylinder engine.
The General hedged its bets somewhat, maintaining the bulk and brawn of the Acadia’s Chevrolet cousin, the Traverse. So people who favor the big, pre-2017 Acadia can find a reasonable facsimile at the local Chevy dealership.
We haven’t driven an Acadia in quite a few years, but we remember it as too big and too thirsty for our taste. It seemed sleeker and more up-to-date than its predecessor, the Envoy, but it cried out for a little more drivability and a lot more efficiency. Rated at 24 mpg on the highway, the test car we drove at the time never came within shouting distance of that goal. Our 2017 tester actually exceeded its rated highway fuel economy of 26 mpg.
The redesigned Acadia is available in several configurations. Drivers who expect to tow a fifth wheel, or carry a hockey team with all its equipment, likely will opt for the 3.6-liter, 310-horsepower V-6. GMC also offers a choice between front-wheel and all-wheel drive. All Acadias, except for those equipped with the All-Terrain package providing mild off-road capability, have a third seat and accommodate six or seven passengers.
We found the new Acadia pleasing to drive. It rode smoothly and handled competently, and the cabin was quiet. Visibility was excellent, and the car was equipped with a rear-view camera and blind-spot warning system. The test car was priced at $40,515.
Competitive SUVs include the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer and Mazda CX-9.
The base Acadia SLE-1, equipped with the 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, has a starting price of $32,450. The top-of-the-line Denali starts at $45,315. All Acadias are built in Spring Hill, Tenn.
We were surprised to find a relatively small Four under this downsized but still substantial SUV’s hood, and even more surprised that it was up to every situation we encountered. We did note, however, that the V-6 delivers almost the same fuel economy as the Four on Acadias equipped with all-wheel drive. In cold climates where all-wheel drive is desirable, the V-6 makes more sense owing to its versatility, and it will pay a dividend at resale time.
While the test car slotted firmly in the middle of the GMC pack where standard equipment was concerned, it came with a long list of features: remote start, driver-alert package, roof rails, power liftgate, automatic climate control, power front seats with seat heaters, leather upholstery and satellite radio. Optional equipment – including navigation system and trailer hitch – added $1,240 to the bottom line.
Crash-test data are not yet available. The 2016 model received the top rating of “Good” in crash-protection categories from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2017 GMC Acadia FWD SLT-1
Engine: 2.5-liter inline Four, 194 horsepower, 190 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Ground clearance: 7.2 in.
Weight: 3,956 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 18×7.5-in. alloy
Tires: P235/65R H all-season
Seating capacity: 6
Luggage capacity: 12.8 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 79 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 4,000 lb.
Fuel capacity: 19 gal.
Fuel economy: 21 mpg city, 26 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline