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2007 GMC Acadia SLT AWD Road Test
Great Big SUV is comfortable and nimble

By Bill Roebuck

2007 GMC Acadia SUV
I always think of crossovers as a fancy term for tall station wagons. General Motors calls the new Acadia the GMC division's first crossover. It's true it drives more like a car than a truck but it still seems like it's really a big mid-size SUV, no matter what they call it.

Maybe the marketing mavens think fuel-economy-conscious consumers will respond more positively to the idea of a crossover than that of an SUV, as the latter often have the words 'gas-guzzling' in front of it when referred to in the mainstream media.

Well, the Acadia -- a nice Canadian-sounding name -- is really big, like Canada itself, so I'm not buying GM's crossover moniker. Although it's not as big as GM's full-size SUVs like the Yukon, the interior seems almost as roomy.

I had several interesting first impressions from day one of driving the all-new 2007 Acadia (the 2008 model is exactly the same design with a few minor enhancements -- see below). First, it doesn't look that huge on the outside, but it sure is massive inside. It has three rows of seats and the second-row captains' chairs fold and slide using one hand to make access to the third row fairly easy. The second-row seat cushion flips up while the seatback slides forward, effectively compressing the space occupied by the seat. Entry is aided by wide-opening rear doors.

I also thought the heated washer fluid option might be just the thing to melt the morning frost off the windshield in cold weather.

Our tester, in SLT2 trim, has seating for seven; an eight-passenger configuration is available. It has an inviting, interesting interior design. A low ride height makes entry and exit easy.

Surprisingly for its size, the Acadia feels nimble to drive. It's got a great turning circle, and it zips around town with ease. It parks as easily as a car, despite its length and width. Rear parking assist helps, as do the large side mirrors (which on SLT models can be folded away with the touch of a button if necessary in tight spots).

2007 GMC Acadia SUVThe ride is smooth and handling feels stable and steady.

The rear suspension uses a compact linked 'H' design that has an isolated mounting system to reduce noise and vibration in the passenger compartment. The design provides the handling that comes with an independent suspension, but with minimal floor pan intrusion, thus increasing passenger and cargo space. It also allows for a high load-carrying capacity. Towing capacity is as much as 2,041 kg (4,500 lb).

The six-speed automatic includes a tap-up/tap-down control on the side of the shifter, but you first have to move the shift lever from 'D' to 'L', which isn't intuitive. In automatic mode, the transmission is sometimes slow to react, and sometimes hunts for the right gear. You really need to tromp on the accelerator to force a downshift at times.

Ergonomically, GM has done a very nice job of designing and positioning controls so they are easy to access and logical to use. The same goes for the dials and gauges. Our test model even had an optional head-up display ($475) to project the digital speed onto the windshield.

I'm not enamoured with the GM's now-standard radio station selector design that mixes AM, FM and XM stations together -- I prefer a button that will switch to the band I want, and then select stations in that band. However, with three levels of 'favourites', it could be customized to my satisfaction with a bit of time spent programming the unit.

GM's design appeal also applies to the exterior of the Acadia. I think it's one of the nicest-looking SUVs on the road, especially this tester in Red Jewel Tintcoat (a premium paint at $380), with its beefy 19-in. wheels and fat tires than nicely fill the wheelwells (18-in. wheels are standard).

2007 GMC Acadia SUV rear storage compartments.The rear end boasts a pair of dual-pipe, chrome-tipped exhausts, adding to the Acadia's sporty and powerful appearance. The rear lamps, which use fast-on LEDs, have a distinctive, European-looking appearance.

The front-end treatment gets the same high marks from me; it's modern and appealing, with none of the frumpiness often seen on other SUVs -- or even crossovers. There's a fair bit of chrome used for highlights, but it's not excessive. I think GM's got the look just right.

If you don't agree, you can always check out the Saturn Outlook, a sister to the Acadia from the GM stable. It's basically the same vehicle but the look is slightly different -- more traditional in my view. For even more choice in what is basically the same vehicle, the forthcoming upscale Buick Enclave will have yet another different tweak to the basic design.

GM says it put in more than 5,000 hours of wind-tunnel testing to help the Acadia achieve a car-like coefficient of drag of 0.344 (by comparison, an Aston Martin DB9 is 0.34). The result is a quieter highway ride and improved fuel efficiency compared to other models of this size.

Wind noise, as well as tire and road noise, are hardly noticeable, even at 40 km/h over the typical highway limit.

Cargo capacity ranges up to 3,313 L (117 cu ft), with the second-row captain's chairs and 60/40 split third row bench seats folded. With all seats up, there's 558 L (19.7) of cargo space, which GM claims is more than any mid-size sedan.

Multiple storage bins are located under the cargo floor to hold smaller items out of sight.

2007 GMC Acadia SUVOur tester included an optional power liftgate with a button to operate it on the key fob. Without using it, the door felt quite heavy. The liftgate window does not open separately.

Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and stability control are standard features, as is electronic traction control on front-wheel drive models. The full-time all-wheel drive system is optional (it drives the front wheels until wheel slip is detected, then distributes torque to all four wheels as needed).

Six air bags are standard, including front and seat-mounted six bags, and head curtain side-impact bags for all three rows. A tire-pressure monitoring system also is standard, as is OnStar assistance. A navigation system is optional.

In sum, I think that GM has created an exceptional package with the Acadia. Crossover or not, it boasts lots of interior space in an easy-to-drive, great-looking package.

Bill Roebuck is the editor of CarTest.ca.

Posted Dec. 2, 2007

HIGHLIGHTS

2007 GMC Acadia SUVTested model: 2007 Acadia SLT AWD (Red Jewel Tintcoat - a premium paint at $380)
Trims: SLE, SLT1, SLT2
Type of vehicle: 7-passenger mid-size crossover SUV
Engine: 3.6L V6, 275 hp @6600 rpm, 251 lb-ft @3200 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 13.5/8.9 L/100 km, 21/32 mpg (AWD). Regular-grade fuel.
Price (SLT2 AWD/as tested/freight): $45,595/$54,880/$1,200
Base price: 2WD SLE $36,495, SLE AWD $39,495.
Options on tester: Preferred Equipment Group ($3,995) with 19-in. wheels, power liftgate, remote vehicle start, XM satellite radio, rear parking assist, heated windshield washer fluid system, rear 110-volt outlet and more. Plus a two-panel power sunroof ($1,685) and a rear DVD entertainment package with Bose 5.1 surround sound ($1,255), trailer towing package ($550) and more.





New for the 2008 Acadia

Base price is the same as the 2007 model
Rearview camera system (optional)
Panic Brake Assist feature (standard)
Refined StabiliTrak and traction control systems
XM Satellite Radio standard on SLT model
Second-row seating console
New exterior colours: Carbon Flash Metallic, Dark Crimson and Platinum Ice Metallic

GMC added a Panic Brake Assist feature to the 2008 Acadia. When panic braking is detected, the system automatically develops additional brake pressure to quickly enter ABS and minimize stopping distance in order to mitigate a driver's tendency to brake without using enough force.

Also, 2008 Acadia AWD models feature a revised Active On Demand all-wheel-drive system that delivers a more refined driving experience. It enables improved performance on snow and gravel, and better cornering acceleration through more integrated control with the vehicle's other control systems, such as StabiliTrak.

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