Live from Nashville
HOLDEN’S plans for a post Commodore world involve a good dose of SUVs and a key player in this rebuilding phase is the mid-size Acadia.
Built in GMC’s factory in Spring Hill, south of Nashville, the V6 Acadia will fight for family soft-roader supremacy against the likes of the Toyota Kluger, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9.
Highlighting the importance of this new model, General Motors planned an extensive drive program for journalists that took in nearly 1300km over two days from Phoenix to Las Vegas with a good mix of open highway, city/suburban crawls, light off-roading and parts of Route 66, which in most places is looking tired and bumpy.
Until recently, GMC has focused on light trucks of the Ford F-Series ilk with its Sierra pick-up and Yukon models, the Middle East being its only export destination.
All that is changing as Acadia places the GMC badge firmly in family driveways for the first time. Australia will be the only other export market.
Not pretending it’s the great urban escape vehicle with goanywhere capabilities, the maker was keen to emphasise that Acadia, even in All-Terrain AWD mode, is more crossover than off-roader, designed only for the occasional dirt track.
However, one thing’s certain after time behind the wheel — the Acadia is a capable longdistance tourer that would make short work of journeys between Australia’s eastern capitals.
Solid seven and eight hour driving stints in conditions that were not too dissimilar to the Hume or Pacific Highways were taken in its stride with little fatigue and no back aches. It’s ticked box one for the Aussie family, that being the annual holiday pilgrimage.
Powered by a 231kW/ 360Nm, 3.6-litre V6 mated to GM’s Hydra-magic six-speed auto, it returned 11.6L/100km for the drive, not far from the estimate of 11.2L combined cycle for the front-driver and 11.7L for the AWD. Despite shedding 318kg from the previous model, it retains a towing capacity of 1800kg.
This new model shares its chassis with the just released Cadillac XT5. With that comes wholesale improvements for road and wind noise, improved stability and ride quality that will carry GM’s mid-range SUVs for the next decade.
On 18-inch and optional 20inch rims, the Acadia’s ride was more sedan than SUV with its electric steering providing more accuracy, though less feel than its competition and noticeably little body roll.
All models include a drive mode selector. Front-drive versions have Normal, Snow, Sport and Trailer/Tow options while the AWD variant can suspend rear drive and has Sport, Off Road and Trailer/ Tow modes.
The All Terrain gets active twin-clutch AWD, which transfers power between the four wheels in wet and icy conditions as well as enhancing hill climb capability. The topspec, luxury Denali includes continuously variable ride control for the suspension.
Denali is to GMC what HSV is to Holden, without the engine mods. It does personalised interior and exterior enhancement packs for the full GMC range and for Acadia, it represents the more luxurious of the two alternatives.
There are two or three-row seating options. When they are folded flat, cargo space is a massive 2237L and there are two underfloor storage bins for smaller items.
Captain’s chairs are optional in the second row in place of the bench seat but the best news is that the third row can seat a pair of 180cm adults in relative comfort. Depending on spec, the Acadia can house five, six or seven adults.
For 2017, the Acadia’s interior is a breakaway from the usual truck-like GMC jobs, with plenty of Euro-look soft leather and timber trim capped by polished chrome and brushed alloy accents.
Additionally the Denali also has an eight-inch centre console display that’s hooked up to GM’s OnStar system with 4G LTE connectivity with its own Wi-Fi hotspot as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces.
Along with Trailblazer and Colorado, Acadia represents the new face of Holden after local production of the Commodore ceases late next year and it could be argued that Acadia will account for the lion’s share of those thwarted Commodore owners.