The three-row crossover is the family car of the 21st century. It embodies the best qualities of an SUV, a minivan and a car, with fuel economy that won’t vaporize a gas card. The 2017 GMC Acadia is among the many choices, which include the Dodge Durango, Ford Flex, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander and VW Atlas. The top-line Acadia Denali, today’s tester, is a nicely finished choice with a long list of features and smart designs.
The Acadia was downsized for 2017, making it more of a large midsize crossover. It is 7.2 inches shorter overall. Almost 4 inches were trimmed from the height. And the body is 3.5 inches narrower on a 112.5-inch wheelbase that is 6.4 inches shorter than before. In all, the turning circle of 38.7 feet is 1.7 feet shorter. The Acadia weighs 700 pounds less than the 2016 and can be more fuel-efficient with the new base four-cylinder engine.
The Acadia is sold in four trim levels with seats for six or seven, front- or all-wheel drive and engine choices of a 193-horsepower, 2.5-liter direct-injection four cylinder or a 310-horsepower, direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6. Both engines are paired with six-speed automatic transmissions.
Starting prices range from about $30,000 to $48,000. A midrange All Terrain model (which costs $42,230) has an advanced Active Twin Clutch all-wheel-drive system and more hill-climbing finesse. It is a five-seat configuration and has a cargo system instead of a third-row seat. It gets an exterior style treatment of body color grille surround, black chrome trim and 18-inch wheels.
In addition to eight air bags, standard safety features include the Driver Alert package of side blind-zone alert with lane-change alert, low-speed front automatic braking, front-pedestrian detection, auto-dimming headlights, front and rear park assist, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, following distance indicator, forward-collision alert and driver seat safety alert.
The Denali AWD V-6 tester ($52,185 with options) was classy with a contemporary work ethic. It is luxurious but not delicate. The cabin is very well-soundproofed, and sound is isolated from harshness or vibration transmitted from suspension, mounting points or even the 20-inch tires.
The V-6 and six-speed transmission are an accommodating and unhesitating match for competitive driving during the commute. The AWD fuel economy ratings are 18 mpg city, 25 highway and 20 mpg on the recommended 87 octane. I averaged 20.7 to 21.3 mpg over more than 200 miles. The 22-gallon tank provides a good cruising range.
The chassis rigidity helped me forget I was driving a large vehicle. The $1,200 suspension upgrade for continuously variable damping makes the ride quality uncommonly graceful over all road surfaces. There is little to no body roll, even when powering through a corner. The steering weight is ideal, too, and it communicates a sense of complete control at all speeds; there is no vagueness or bobble as the wheel unwinds.
Sightlines are open over the hood and over the shoulder. A dual-view camera shows overhead and rear views and can be configured as a towing camera to align and hitch.
The front seats are large and with just enough bolstering to hold but not hinder entry or exit. The front-seat area is roomy. There is convenient and logical placement of controls, cup holders, plugs and ports. The large charging bin near the shifter console has dual charging USB ports, an AUX port for audio and a 12-volt plug. There are dials and buttons for easy adjustment of fan speed, temperature, heat and air conditioning. And even the broad color touchscreen is simple to use for phone, audio and navigation. The sturdy steering wheel — with neatly stitched soft leather — communicates control.
The woven fabric headliner and windshield pillars have a premium appearance that is complimented by appealing plastic textures and a smattering of faux wood and brushed metallic elements.
As a family car, what kid wouldn’t want to ride in kingly comfort with the Skyscape sunroof? The second row has a flat floor and plenty of door-entry width for foot passage. Amenities include fan and temperature controls, heated seats, two charging USB outlets and a 120-volt household plug. The 60/40 seats have a few inches of fore-aft adjustment, and they also fold two ways: with a tip and slide for third-row entry or flat fold for cargo. Ceiling vents in both back rows help clear the air, and there are three areas in the door panels for cup, bottles and stuff.
The third row is kid-class with 31 inches of legroom, but it is well-appointed with a USB outlet and cup holders.
The cargo area is working-class functional with 12.8 cubic feet of storage behind the third row and some basement storage. There are manual seatback releases to fold the second row, and the 50/50 third-row seats are easy to fold and pull back into position manually. There is also a small side bin that is ideal to hold a roll of trash bags.
Much of the Acadia’s goodness is also foundational in the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave, but the GMC is well-defined as a premium upgrade with down-home American ingenuity.
Mark Maynard is online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage