Professional grade crosses over
GMC Acadia: Preview – Crossover SUV sales are booming, and GMC wants a piece of the action. To grab customers defecting to nicer riding, better handling, and more fuel efficient crossovers, the long-standing builder of “professional grade” trucks debuts the GMC Acadia for 2007. GMC’s first crossover is based on the same architecture and running gear as the upcoming Buick Enclave and Saturn Outlook. With its long wheelbase, wide track, and short overhangs, the new Acadia’s generous proportions are larger than most vehicles in this class, allowing GMC to create segment-leading interior volume coupled with driving dynamics that the company says will mimic a sport sedan. Made in Lansing, Mich., the 2007 GMC Acadia’s low roofline, sculpted wheel arches, minimal gray plastic trim, and jeweled lighting lend the SUV a luxurious appearance. Chrome trim, polished roof rails, and quad exhaust outlets with chrome tips complete the look, and there are a variety of wheel styles and finishes available. The GMC Acadia goes on sale later this year, and prices will be available closer to its arrival in dealer showrooms.
Moribund in a marketplace swamped with trucks, populated with consumer that are shifting toward more fuel-efficient vehicles that ride and handle more like cars, GMC is betting heavily on the Acadia. Good thing that it’s a compelling vehicle, with plenty of space inside, handsome good looks, and what appears on paper to be competitive hardware and packaging.
GMC equips the Acadia with an aluminum 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing. The engine makes 267 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 247 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,200 rpm, driving the front or all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Preliminary estimates peg the Acadia’s fuel economy at 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway (24 with AWD) and it will tow up to 4,500 pounds when properly equipped. The optional full-time intelligent AWD system is always engaged, with a normal power split of 90/10 front and rear that maxes out at 35/65 when the system senses wheel slip. Built on a dedicated platform rather than one originally designed for a minivan or passenger car, the GMC Acadia’s high-strength steel-reinforced unibody frame rides on a four-wheel independent suspension comprised of MacPherson struts up front and a compact linked “H” design in back. Variable-effort rack-and-pinion steering guides the standard 18-inch wheels, and GMC offers optional 19-inch rims from the factory. Dealers will install 20-inch wheels and tires if the customer wishes. Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard, and GMC includes traction control, stability control with rollover mitigation technology, and a tire pressure monitoring system on the new Acadia.
Eight people can squeeze into the GMC Acadia, but we’d recommend limiting capacity to six. Six adults riding in all three rows of seats will be much happier. Taller people assigned to the third-row bench will have to contend with tight leg space, but for shorter trips the Acadia works just fine when fully loaded. If moving cargo rather than people is of paramount importance, the Acadia will swallow up to 116.9 cubic feet of cargo with all three rows of seats folded down. With all seating positions occupied, there’s 19.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seat. One of GMC’s goals with the Acadia was to construct a cabin filled with low gloss, finely detailed materials, and based on our examination of pre-production models the company takes a step in that direction, but you won’t confuse the plastics, switches, and materials for what you might find in a Lexus, let alone a Toyota. The leather in the Acadia SLT is soft and supple and the headliner is a classy mesh fabric, but the dashboard is all hard plastic. Like many recent GM products, much of the Acadia’s switchgear is small buttons with unclear symbolic markings that are all crammed together, making them hard to use. Storage areas include a very deep center console, a huge glove box, and handy card clips on the visors. Selected features for the GMC Acadia include several items designed to battle the elements like heated outside mirrors, triple-zone climate control, remote starting, and heated washer fluid. Other goodies are ultrasonic parking assist, a power liftgate, an oversized dual SkyScape sunroof, and a head-up display that projects vehicle information directly in front of the driver on the lower part of the windshield. With the GMC Acadia’s DVD entertainment system, DVD navigation system, and Bose 5.1 Surround Sound system, the driver and passengers should have no trouble passing the time, or getting to their destination on time. Six airbags protect the Acadia’s occupants, including side curtains for all three rows that are equipped with rollover sensors. The Acadia also includes a Generation 7 OnStar telematics system with a free one-year subscription to GM’s Safe and Sound plan, which includes Advanced Automatic Crash Notification. OnStar’s new Turn-By-Turn Navigation feature is also available on the Acadia.
Company reps say that it is “quite natural for GMC, with its truck heritage, to participate in the growing crossover market” and that the “Acadia is truly a professional grade truck.” When asked how the Acadia will compete in Buick/GMC/Pontiac showrooms with the structurally identical Buick Enclave, GMC said that with its unique styling, different interior, and more rugged brand image the Acadia and Enclave shouldn’t cannibalize one another. Looking at the two, it’s not easy to tell that the Buick and the GMC are the same under the skin. The Buick is more luxurious and upscale, the GMC bolder and cleaner. In our opinion, both look like home runs due to packaging and size. And if the Acadia drives the way GMC promises it will, like an entertaining car with the added security of foul-weather capability, and proves to be a well-built value, it’s hard to see how this new crossover suv can go wrong.
Photos courtesy of General Motors