PowerSteering: 2017 GMC Acadia Review

PowerSteering: 2017 GMC Acadia Review

By Christian Wardlaw, December 05, 2016
  • 2017 GMC Acadia All Terrain front quarter left photo

    Introduction

    While the GMC Acadia is traditionally classified as a midsize crossover SUV, based on exterior dimensions and interior volume it is actually aligned with large SUVs, dwarfing its competition as a result. In fact, the 2016 Acadia supplied more cargo space than its larger, heavier, and more expensive sibling, the GMC Yukon.

    That changes for 2017. Moved to a new platform shared with the Cadillac XT5, the redesigned GMC Acadia has been put on a drastic diet that improves efficiency and driving dynamics. But this downsizing also impacts interior space, and now the Acadia is a true midsize crossover SUV.

    Trim levels include SL, SLE, SLT, and Denali, and an All Terrain option package includes a more rugged look combined with a more capable all-wheel-drive (AWD) system and other features designed to give the Acadia a modicum of off-pavement capability.

    For this review, our expert evaluated an Acadia SLT with extra-cost metallic paint and a navigation system. The price came to $40,165, including the $925 destination charge.



  • 2017 GMC Acadia Denali rear quarter right photo

    What Owners Say

    Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the new 2017 Acadia, it is helpful to understand who bought the previous version of this SUV and what they liked most and least about it.

    According to J.D. Power research data, 54% of Acadia buyers are men, compared with 58% for the Midsize SUV segment, and average buyer age is 54 years (vs. 55). Acadia buyers are financially better off, too, reporting a median annual household income of $121,389 (vs. $111,964). Demographically, members of Gen X (born 1965-1976) exhibit a greater fondness for the Acadia, this group representing 29% of buyers as compared with 24% for the segment.

    Clearly, one reason Acadia buyers choose this GMC is because 87% of them prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company, compared with 58% for the segment. Acadia buyers are also not quite as adamant about choosing a vehicle for lower cost of maintenance, reliability, or quality. Just 54% strongly agree that they avoid vehicles with high maintenance costs (vs. 65%); 45% strongly agree that their first consideration in choosing a vehicle is quality of workmanship (vs. 50%); and 52% strongly agree that their first consideration in choosing a vehicle is reliability (vs. 64%).

    Fuel economy and environmental friendliness are also lower on the requirements ladder, with 50% of Acadia buyers disagreeing that their first consideration in choosing a vehicle is miles per gallon (vs. 40%) and 52% disagreeing that they are willing to pay more for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly (vs. 48%). Acadia buyers do, however, like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd, with 73% agreeing with this compared to 69% for buyers within the segment.

    Acadia buyers say that their favorite things about the previous (2016 model) version of this SUV are (in descending order) the exterior styling, interior design, driving dynamics, visibility and safety, and storage and space. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about the Acadia are (in descending order) the engine/transmission, seats, climate system, infotainment system, and fuel economy.

  • 2017 GMC Acadia Denali side profile photo

    What Our Expert Says

    In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own assessment of how the new 2017 Acadia performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM

  • 2017 GMC Acadia Denali front photo

    Exterior

    Compared with the available All Terrain and Denali versions of the SUV, my plain Jane Acadia SLT test vehicle was rather tame in terms of its appearance. Dark gray body cladding and silver simulated skid plates provides traditional SUV styling cues, and chrome accents dress up the Acadia’s unexpectedly soft design, which departs from the squared-off look displayed by other GMC models. Looking misaligned, the GMC badge should be centered in the grille.

  • 2017 GMC Acadia Denali interior photo

    Interior

    Simple and straightforward, the GMC Acadia’s interior is refreshing at a time when designers are taking too much literal inspiration from smartphones. You don’t need to open the owner’s manual to figure out this SUV, and GMC’s execution on cabin materials is exactly right for the price point. However, the company’s decision to kill two birds with one stone by applying a cocoa-colored brown overlay atop a light ash gray interior is a questionable one.

  • 2017 GMC Acadia rear-seat reminder alert photo

    Seats

    Soft yet supportive, the Acadia’s seats are comfortable, but this isn’t a vehicle you get into after a hard day at the office, exhale, and then settle into a soothing environment. Like so many aspects of the new Acadia, the seats serve a purpose without eliciting complaints from the people using them, but they lack the comfort “wow” factor.

    Equipped with second-row captain’s chairs, my test Acadia’s rear seats were mounted a bit low, but when they’re moved all the way back in their tracks they are quite comfortable. For smaller passengers, they also help to facilitate access to the third-row seat.

    Unexpectedly, the Acadia’s third-row seat is somewhat useful for adults. The seat’s bottom cushion has some angle to it, helping to provide a little thigh support, and adults can stretch at least one leg between the second-row seats. GMC even carved out some space under the second-row seats into which occupants can tuck their toes. Adults will still want to keep the trip short, of course, but kids will be comfortable for longer jaunts.

  • 2017 GMC Acadia Denali infotainment and climate control system photo

    Climate Control System/Infotainment System

    Climate Control System
    Operated using logically arranged buttons and knobs, the Acadia’s triple-zone automatic climate control system is simple, easy, and intuitive. It works effectively, too. If there is a complaint, it pertains to the controls for the heated seats, which are mounted on the console where their white markings are hard to discern against the light ash color background.

    Infotainment System
    GMC’s IntelliLink infotainment system has received regular updates and improvements over the past few years and is among my favorites in terms of its ease of use.

    The combination of a responsive touch-screen display and a small collection of stereo buttons and knobs helps to limit screen interaction, and the test vehicle included OnStar subscription services, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi connection, smartphone-projection technology, and Bose audio speakers. GMC also provides USB ports for all 3 rows of seats, and my test vehicle had a 115-volt power outlet in the second-row seating area.

    Additional entertainment options include a rear-seat entertainment system with a DVD player, or you can obtain tablet computer holders.

  • 2017 GMC Acadia Denali All Terrain rear quarter right photo

    Storage and Space

    GMC retains the previous Acadia’s floating roof appearance, complete with a look of wrap-around rear glass. The approach helps to hide a squared-off roofline that does an excellent job of maximizing passenger and cargo space.

    Like other 3-row crossover SUVs, the Acadia supplies little cargo room behind the third-row seat. A compact folding stroller will fit into the 12.8 cu.-ft. space, or a row of grocery bags, but not much else. Most of the time, you’ll want to keep the third-row seat folded to enjoy 41.7 cu. ft. of volume. For even more room, fold the second-row seats to obtain 79 cu. ft. of space.

    Though the Acadia appears to be rather narrow, it is deceptively accommodating. It is not, however, as large inside as the old Acadia—not by a long shot. If the old Acadia’s plentiful cargo volumes appealed to you, try the 2017 Buick Enclave or 2017 Chevrolet Traverse, which continue to use the same large crossover platform that GMC has abandoned.

    Inside, the Acadia supplies useful storage spaces lined with rubber to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness. Again, the approach is just right. My family didn’t lack for spots to stash things, but nobody was surprised or delighted by what GMC made available.

  • 2017 GMC Acadia Denali rear photo

    Visibility and Safety

    Unless you drive the new Acadia with the third-row seat and its folding head restraints deployed, or you insist on trying to see through the rearmost roof pillars when reversing instead of using the standard back-up camera, you’ll be unlikely to complain about outward visibility. The dark brown dashboard top helped to reduce glare in the test vehicle, and both the flat hood and large side mirrors assisted in maximizing the view out.

    All Acadia SLT vehicles are equipped with a Driver Alert 1 option package containing a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change alert, as well as rear park-assist sensors. Offered as an option, a Driver Alert 2 package adds forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and low-speed automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist system, front park-assist sensors, automatic high-beam headlights, and a Safety Alert driver’s seat. I cannot comment on the effectiveness of these systems, as the test vehicle lacked them.

    GMC deserves kudos for introducing a new Rear Seat Reminder feature in the Acadia. If the rear doors are opened prior to starting and driving the SUV, the reminder sounds an alert when the driver exits, the goal to help prevent situations where children or pets are left inside of the vehicle on hot or cold days. The system can be turned off, which limits irritation, but given the system’s purpose the aural intrusions are a minor annoyance for parents and pet owners.

    Teen driver technology is also available for the new Acadia, designed to automatically activate specific safety features; allow parents to program specific vehicle and system limitations; and provide parents with a “report card” showing how the vehicle was driven while in the care of a teenage driver.

    As this review was written, the 2017 Acadia had not been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

  • 2017 GMC Acadia drive mode selector photo

    Engine/Transmission/Fuel Economy

    Engine/Transmission
    In 2016, half of the Acadia’s top 10 weaknesses as cited by buyers in the 2016 U.S. APEAL Study pertained to the SUV’s powertrain. Complaints related to the 281-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine’s smoothness, responsiveness, acceleration, and sound.

    For 2017, GMC has responded by installing a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine as standard equipment. That’s not as bad as it sounds, though, because the Acadia sheds 700 lbs. with its redesign. Additionally, a new 3.6-liter V-6 engine debuts as an option, supplying a robust 310 horsepower.

    Having spent a week driving an Acadia with a 4-cylinder engine, I recommend upgrading to the V-6, especially if you’re planning to carry lots of weight on a regular basis, or you live at an elevation where the normally aspirated 4-cylinder is likely to feel particularly weak.

    Otherwise, you might find the 4-cylinder engine to be perfectly acceptable. The 6-speed automatic transmission is geared to take maximum advantage of the 193 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 188 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm, and it effortlessly cruises at 80 mph on the freeway. When climbing hills, the transmission holds a lower gear to help maintain speed, and GMC does an impressive job of isolating the cabin from the noise, vibration, and harshness common to a 4-cylinder engine. You might even call the Acadia zippy when driving around town without a load of passengers or cargo.

    Nevertheless, when you’re accelerating down a freeway on-ramp to join fast-flowing traffic, or you’re changing lanes to get around slower vehicles ahead, or you’re passing other people on two-lane roads, you’re reminded that this engine is working hard to motivate the Acadia’s 2-ton curb weight. And while noise attenuation impresses, some 4-cylinder “waaahhhhh” makes it into the interior, and it isn’t pleasing.

    Fuel Economy
    The point of offering the 4-cylinder engine, of course, is to maximize the Acadia’s fuel economy. An automatic start/stop system that shuts the engine off when the SUV is idling in traffic or at intersections is designed to help ensure that it achieves that goal.

    With my front-drive test vehicle, and based on the official EPA fuel-economy estimate in combined driving, I expected to get 23 mpg or better on my regular test loop. Instead, the Acadia delivered 21.6 mpg on the loop, and averaged 20.2 mpg during a full week of driving.

    This result constitutes a second argument in favor of choosing the optional 3.6-liter V-6 engine, which is expected to get 21 mpg in combined driving. Given that it won’t need to work as hard as the 4-cylinder engine, it is theoretically possible that the V-6 could be just as efficient under real-world driving conditions.

  • 2017 GMC Acadia Denali side profile motion photo

    Driving Dynamics

    Equipped with a robust architecture, lighter curb weight, and deftly tuned components, the Acadia’s driving dynamics are surprisingly capable no matter the situation. Is this an exciting vehicle to drive? No, but neither is it soft, sloppy, or regularly irritating to drive.

    Early in the evaluation period, I felt as though the steering was too light and lacking in communication and that the brake pedal was a little mushy and difficult to modulate. But with time and mileage, these opinions faded.

    In particular, the brakes shrugged off record Southern California heat during testing, withstanding plenty of abuse and effectively executing a panic stop while hot. Though they displayed hints of fade just prior to the panic-stop test, they still performed admirably.

    The steering also demonstrated commendable responsiveness and accuracy, and the suspension always kept the Acadia securely planted to the pavement. Body roll and wallow is evident, and perhaps more prevalent than some people might prefer, but does not detract from what is an excellent blend of ride and handling capabilities.


  • 2017 GMC Acadia Denali front quarter left photo

    Final Impressions

    Serving as both its greatest strength and greatest weakness, the 2017 GMC Acadia is seemingly designed, engineered, and executed to meet expectations without drawing effusive praise or criticism. This means that while there is little to complain about, there also isn’t much to get excited about.

    General Motors supplied the vehicle used for this 2017 GMC Acadia review.

    For more information about our test driver and our methodology, please see our reviewer profile.


    Additional Research:


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