I know this guy who just swapped out an old minivan for a new crossover SUV. He said to me: “Chris, I’m just so happy that I don’t have to drive a vehicle with sliding side doors anymore.” While a psychotherapist might enjoy peeling back the layers of that particular onion, this is not an uncommon sentiment among American car buyers. And it is the reason that the 2013 GMC Acadia exists.
General Motors tried to sell minivans for a long time. First, there was the long-running Chevy Astro/GMC Safari twins, still popular on the used car market for tradespeople seeking a cheap and easy-to-fix work van. Then came the “Dustbuster” minivans, so-called because of their resemblance to hand-held vacuums in terms of their styling and plastic outer skins. Then came a global minivan that turned out to be too small and narrow for Americans and too big and bulky for Europeans. Then came vans with SUV-style noses grafted onto the front, which met with predictable criticism.
You can only take so many punches before you’re knocked out the ring. Logically, then, GM gave up on the minivan, replacing it with a family of full-size crossover SUVs that have proven to be far more successful. Here, we examine the GMC Acadia, but Buick also sells one called the Enclave while over at the Chevy dealer buyers can select the Traverse.
These are basically minivans without the sliding side doors or the short-nose profile, powered by a V-6 engine and tugged around by their front wheels. About as big inside as the automaker’s traditional full-size SUVs, this trio of crossovers offers more cargo space and greater third-row passenger space than their bigger, heavier, and more expensive brethren, and they’re also safer and more fuel-efficient.
So why would anyone get a Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Tahoe or GMC Yukon? Those brute-utes can tow about 3,000 more pounds of trailer.
Most people don’t need to tow more than the 5,200 lbs. that a GMC Acadia can handle, which is one reason this is a popular vehicle with American families who need the seating and space of a minivan but detest the image of those “mommy-mobiles.” Another reason the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, and GMC Acadia are popular is because they virtually own the full-size crossover SUV market. Nobody else builds one. But that doesn’t mean GM doesn’t need to make improvements to its big soft-roaders, and for 2013, all three get a mid-life makeover, with the GMC Acadia adding significant new levels of appeal compared to the previous model.