Tuesday, June 12, 2007

TESTED: 2007 GMC Acadia

By Mark Atkinson
Photos courtesy GM Canada

Faced with the prospect of slow-selling, badly dated Envoys getting even more unpopular thanks to the increasingly rapid demise of the traditional body-on-frame SUV, GMC has finally released what it hopes will be a competitive shot in the white-hot Crossover market.

Meet the 2007 GMC Acadia, one of General Motors’ new full-size triplets designed to be more user friendly and less compromised on road compared to its previous offerings. Designed from the start as a ‘real’ seven seater – as opposed to those mid-sizers sporting Geneva Convention defying third rows – the Acadia is one big machine. Based on the new front-wheel-drive unibody Lambda platform, it is actually larger in every dimension compared to the ancient Envoy, although its clean styling and driving style make it appear and feel smaller than it actually is.

Powered by GM’s ‘High-Feature’ 3.6-litre V6, the Acadia comes with 275 horsepower, and uses the new GM / Ford joint-venture six-speed automatic. Power is directed either to the front wheels, or optionally all four. As of y et, there is no alternative engine, which is a shame since the Acadia’s power is average at best, and lower than either of the Envoy’s outgoing units. And with a curb-weight of 2,234 kg, it needs all the help it can get, especially with all seven seats occupied.

However, with full independent suspension all around and four-wheel-disc brakes, the Acadia does a very good job of getting around town, smothering out nasty pavement humps while proving to be relatively agile. The vehicle’s width and long wheelbase become very apparent when trying to park or negotiate tight turns, but in more open environments, you never take notice.

Inside, Acadians are treated to a new high in terms of GM cabin design, with very little nasty plastic used, and the dash-top storage bin is handy to stash keys, glasses and a cell phone. Our SLT tester had a 10-speaker Bose sound system with a rear-mounted DVD player, and all Acadias come standard with a raft of safety features including six airbags, StabiliTrak with Proactive Roll Avoidance and traction control.

GMC has kept its pricing in check as well with two-wheel-drive Acadias starting at $36,495, while a fully-loaded all-wheel-drive SLT2 will run about $44,000.

The downsides? Well, the big C-pillars provide massive blindspots, the fuel economy is still dreadful, and the towing capacity has dropped considerably, reducing the Acadia’s use as a utility vehicle even more. There are rumours that perhaps a V8 engine might find its way under the hood, which could be a mixed blessing.

And although GMC has done an excellent job at putting a Toyota Highlander / Honda Pilot competitor into the market, its biggest competition will come from within: the virtually identical Saturn Relay, and the soon-to-be-announced Chevrolet version on the same Lambda platform. Hopefully the Acadia’s position as the first model out of the gates will give it the head start it needs to secure a foothold in the market.

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