GMC's record-setting SUV comes back leaner and meaner.
The GMC Acadia is coming off a record 2015, a year in which nearly 100,000 examples of the premium SUV were sold to customers.
Can the new Acadia sustain the old car's magic? GMC invited us to Washington, DC, for a chance to find out.
Keepin' it fresh
The 2017 GMC Acadia is all-new inside and out, riding on a new chassis and sporting a whole host of new comfort, safety and convenience features.
Outside, the new styling represents a pretty significant departure from the Acadia's old look. Up front, the bug-eyed headlamps are gone, replaced by slimmer, LED-lined housings. The squared-off, three-slot grille is also gone, replaced by a vaguely octagonal piece that blends nicely with the slimmer, more elongated shape of the new SUV.
Loadin' on up
Inside, it's a whole new world. Gone is the "how many vents can we fit here?" theme of the old Acadia. Instead, you'll find a center stack topped by a touchscreen boasting a surround that mirrors the octagonal theme of the grille. Housed here are all the connectivity features you've come to expect, including OnStar with 4G LTE and a WiFi hotspot.
Moving back, you have your choice of either a two-seat second row with captain's chairs or a three-seat bench. Behind that is an optional third row (it's essentially standard unless you go out of your way not to have one, but there's no one word that captures that concept).
When speaking of the rear seating, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention a trick new feature GMC was keen on demonstrating called "Rear Seat Reminder." Ostensibly, this system exists to keep distracted parents from accidentally abandoning their children in the back seat of a car before a marathon shopping spree at Sam's Club in the dead of a Phoenix summer.
It works like this: If you open the rear doors before getting into the car and driving off, a chime will sound when you next shut the car off and open your door. This chime is accompanied by a message in the main cluster that says, "Check Rear Seat." While it exists to remind us to think of the children (in the most literal way possible), it has a host of other practical applications. You're far more likely to forget your leftover shrimp tacos or gym bag than your offspring, for example, and the reminder is equally useful no matter what you're in the habit of hauling around.
As with most all-new vehicles, the Acadia is also available with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, forward emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and front and rear park assist.
Movin' on down
For 2017, the Acadia did what many cars--especially GM cars--have done lately: It got smaller. It also got lighter and more efficient.
Unlike the previous generation, which rode on GM's full-size Lambda platform, the new Acadia sits on a variant of GM's Epsilon II chassis. The nitty-gritty of that isn't really important; what matters is that the Acadia is now officially a midsize.
What does that mean in the real world? Well, for starters, the wheelbase and width both shrunk by a non-trivial amount. It's 7 inches shorter, 3 inches narrower and, engine-for-engine, 400lbs lighter.
The downsizing was so drastic, in fact, that GMC decided the new Acadia could even be powered by a 2.5L four-cylinder. It's no slouch either, making 194 horsepower and 190lb-ft of torque. And for the buyer who does opt for the smaller engine, the weight savings are even more significant. How much so? Try 700lbs.
That means a four-banger Acadia with front-wheel-drive weighs no more than a last-generation Camaro SS. Think about that for a second.
What does that mean for efficiency? Well, a sub-4,000lb curb weight may be impressive for a SUV, but that's still a lot of machine to be moved around by not much engine. In front-wheel-drive guise, you get 21 mpg city and 26 highway. Power the rear wheels too, and that highway figure drops to 25.
So what's the big engine, then? GM's updated 3.6L V6, of course. It makes 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque, and it's good for 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway no matter how many wheels it turns.
The Acadia is available in front- or all-wheel-drive no matter the engine and two different flavors of AWD are available. An advanced system with twin-clutch torque vectoring is available exclusively on the All-Terrain model.
So, if the Acadia is smaller, surely that means it's less comfortable and less capable, right? Well, sort of.
The numbers don't lie. The new Acadia lost some towing and cargo capacity. You're limited to a 4,000lb trailer now, for example (down from 5,200lbs previously).
The downsizing effect was further amplified by GMC's choice of demonstration vehicles. Our pre-production evaluation units were all equipped with the full-bench second row which made the interior feel more cozy that it may have otherwise.
Gettin' on down the road
While these may seem like significant compromises, they pay dividends on the road. We were only able to get our hands on V6-powered examples of the new Acadia, but we're happy to report that both front- and all-wheel-drive models are more than adequately quick in the real world.
But it's not all about straight-line performance. Where the Acadia's new architecture really shines through is on narrow, twisty roads.
Make no mistake, there's no further comparison to be made with the Camaro here. It's not a corner carver by any means, but while the old Acadia would have been right at home towing horses around Virginia wine country farms, the new one is far more capable and comfortable on the wandering, barely-two-lane roads that connect them.
The difference is partly down to composure, and partly a product of the way the smaller size imparts additional confidence. Thanks to the smaller footprint, we found ourselves able to enjoy the experience of actually driving the new Acadia rather than worrying about what road-hogging monstrosity was lurking around the next tight bend.
This nimble, sure-footed competency combined with the Acadia's traditional steadfast highway composure makes it an excellent all-around family SUV.
Leftlane's bottom line
The new GMC Acadia is right-sized and ready for a market that is positively devouring SUVs. We fully expect the new Acadia to continue its predecessor's record-setting sales pace, and deservedly so.
2017 GMC Acadia All-Terrain base price, $41,450; As-tested, $47,115
All-Terrain package, $1,800; Dual Skyscape Sunroof, $1,400; Trailering package, $650; 8" Audio System, $495; Ebony Twilight Metallic paint, $395; Destination, $925
2017 GMC Acadia Denali base price, $44,920; As-tested, $48,985
Dual Skyscape Sunroof, $1,400; Technology package, $1,345; Iridium Metallic paint, $395; Destination, $925
Exterior photos by Byron Hurd. Interior photos courtesy of GMC.