2017 GMC Acadia First Drive

Posted on May 16 2016 - 5:44am by Lisa Chan

We’re in the midst of the Second Great CUV War, and the crossovers are winning by a lot. Compact sedans are being hauled around the side of idled factories and unceremoniously shot. FCA, whose be-sweatered CEO is either omnipotent or a troll of the highest order, is organizing a last stand around profit-dense SUVs and trucks on the off chance that gas prices don’t rise ever again. It’s the tall wagon’s finest hour, and GMC is hoping the new Acadia will capture a share of the glory.

2017 GMC Acadia

The old Lambda-platform Acadia was introduced in 2007, leading the full-size, three-row crossover charge that spawned a quartet of semi-indistinct variants, including a Saturn. (Remember Saturn?) These four were truck-like in heft and capabilities, but lighter and better-mannered than their body-on-frame counterparts – and with an unusually stout 5,000-pound towing capacity. The Lambda siblings bombarded established beachheads on the sales territories occupied by minivans and truck-based SUVs. Last year, GMC moved nearly 100,000 Acadias in the US, the best year ever for the model.

Now GMC shows up with a deflated Acadia for 2017, 7.2 inches shorter overall, 3.5 inches narrower, and with a 6.4-inch-shorter wheelbase. The company has even carved something like 700 pounds out of its previously portly unibody, mostly due to the size reduction but also through an increase in the percentage of high-strength steel and the use of lighter soundproofing materials. GM’s C1XX platform was launched with the Cadillac XT5 earlier this year, and this GMC version is the second to appear. There’s even an available four-banger, but more on that in a bit. What remains to be seen is whether the downsized Acadia represents a leaner, meaner fighter or if GMC is sending it into battle hamstrung.

Now that we’ve established the order of battle in the Crossover Wars, it’s time to decide if GMC has built a war rig worthy of consideration. The least-equipped Acadia starts at $29,995, the All-Terrain at $40,040, and the Denali AWD at $47,845. That pricing spread puts it on par with competitors like the Honda Pilot and Jeep Grand Cherokee, although both of those have much more power from their base V6s at $30k compared to the similarly priced base four-cylinder GMC. The Toyota Highlander offers a less-powerful inline-four base model at a similar price, and the Acadia beats it by 1 mpg in both city and highway ratings. In a V6 head-on comparison against all three of these competitors, the Acadia offers similar fuel economy and more power.

Without an advantage in materiel, the Acadia is going to have to win this war with volume. Considering how well the previous Acadia was selling as a lame duck, and that the 2017 Acadia improves upon its predecessor in all the right ways, it’s going to put up a hell of a fight.