It’s not just Ford that should be wor­ried, Holden’s sharply priced, well-equipped, fast and stylish seven-seater is set to shake up the large SUV mar­ket.

New Zealand LCV - - CONTENTS - Story: Dean Evans Pho­tos: Holden

Big, brash, Amer­i­can and sur­pris­ingly good is Holden’s seven-seat Aca­dia.

IT’S BIG, BRASH AND AMER­I­CAN, BUT the new Holden Aca­dia is sur­pris­ingly at home in New Zealand. Months in the buildup, the large seven-seat SUV fi­nally, of­fi­cially launched on Oc­to­ber 26 to dis­pel any per­cep­tions and show­case what a com­plete and very ef­fi­cient ad­di­tion it is to the large SUV mar­ket in both Aus­tralia and New Zealand, cur­rently the only right-hand drive mar­kets.

It’s al­most un­fair to com­pare it to its most log­i­cal ri­val, Ford Ever­est. But we’ll get to that in a mo­ment. As the lat­est sev­enseater en­ter­ing the al­ready crowded mar­ket of 17 ex­ist­ing mod­els, the Aca­dia has a lot to prove and to com­pete, but af­ter a com­pre­hen­sive drive around Al­bany, north of Auck­land, sam­pling all three mod­els and putting it to ac­cel­er­a­tion and econ­omy tests, the price is the fi­nal stamp on Aca­dia’s ar­rival pass­port.

And that’s the key draw­card, with a $49,990 start­ing price for the LT. All mod­els get the same 3.6-litre petrol V6 from the Com­modore of­fer­ing 231kw and 367Nm – but be­fore dis­miss­ing the petrol-only en­gine as thirsty, it man­ages im­pres­sive num­bers to back it up: be­tween 8.9-9.3l/100km de­pend­ing on the FWD/AWD vari­ant, and 0-100km/h in a tested 7.0 sec­onds, mak­ing it one of the quick­est SUVS on sale. Our tested 8.5l/100km of mostly 100km/h zones may have flat­tered it a lit­tle, and though it man­ages the fuel savings by switch­ing off two-cylin­ders dur­ing light throt­tle, it’s fair to ex­pect ur­ban num­bers in the 10s.

Dif­fer­ent se­lectable driv­ing modes also help im­prove the driv­ing and fuel sav­ing, with up and down­hill modes, a per­for­mance mode and a tow­ing mode, which al­ters both up and down­shift­ing when re­quired and ad­justs the sen­si­tiv­ity of trailer sway con­trol.

The top-spec LTZ-V sports the same vari­able all-wheel drive sys­tem avail­able across all three spec lev­els, and of­fers a com­bi­na­tion of drive modes and torque split be­tween front-, rear- or all-wheel drive de­pend­ing if it’s, for ex­am­ple, cruis­ing, ac­cel­er­at­ing or man­u­ally cho­sen.

Be­ing a petrol en­gine, there’s plenty of re­sponse with a great spread of power and torque, though spoilt with the torque of turbo diesel en­gines, it needs a few revs to get the most from it: it feels slow­est when want­ing a quick get­away from rest, and 0-20km/h can be at times a lit­tle doughy, but for the most part, and at most speeds,

With a petrol V6, it rolls off 0-100km/h in a tested 7.0 sec­onds, mak­ing it one of the quick­est SUVS on sale

A spe­cial fea­ture is the sec­ond row seat that can flip for­ward for ac­cess to the third row, with­out af­fect­ing a mounted Isofix/booster seat

the Aca­dia is Quick with a cap­i­tal!

As the most fea­ture and tech-packed Holden on of­fer is a suite of tech in­clud­ing radar cruise and speed sign mem­ory, the lat­ter which isn’t even of­fered in the USA, AEB and cy­clist de­tec­tion, lat­eral im­pact avoid­ance, blind spot ac­tive steer­ing and road edge pro­tec­tion, which de­tects the edge even with­out a white line. Even the seat vi­brates on the same side as po­ten­tial dan­ger. Park As­sist, rear cross-traf­fic alerts and a 360 de­gree cam­era, wire­less/ in­duc­tive phone charg­ing and a power tail­gate all add to the ad­vanced tech on­board Aca­dia.

Hitch guid­ance (a line down the re­vers­ing cam­era) is aided by hitch view cam­era, which of­fers con­ven­tional rear and down­ward fac­ing views, which can be man­u­ally ac­ti­vated, for that bit of added re­as­sur­ance when tow­ing.

Lo­cal Aus­tralia and New Zealand tun­ing also helped tai­lor the ride and han­dling pack­age, and while we found the LT/LTZ to be firm on the roads we en­coun­tered, it’s per­fectly ac­cept­able. Move into the top­model, and the Flexride sys­tem – Holden’s name for its mag­net­i­cally ad­justable adap­tive sus­pen­sion – pro­vides a su­perb mix of ride com­fort and han­dling, with­out the Aca­dia ever feel­ing like it’s top-heavy or boat-like, in the tra­di­tional Amer­i­can per­cep­tion. Even the elec­tric power steer­ing was tweaked to suit lo­cal con­di­tions, mak­ing it a sharper, more com­pe­tent pack­age.

Of course, be­ing a seven seater, the big ques­tions re­late to the sec­ond and third rows. The sec­ond trio of seats is well equipped with two ISOFIX mount­ing points, and the ba­sics of a fold-down cen­tre arm­rest. Cli­mate con­trols and a stor­age bin are within reach, as are a pair of 2.1A USB ports. A spe­cial fea­ture of the sec­ond row is the driver’s side which of­fers a ‘ris­ing for­ward’ func­tion, al­low­ing a booster/isofix seat to re­main in place, while al­low­ing ac­cess to the third row. Both sec­ond row seats also tilt, slide and fold con­ven­tion­ally.

Into the third row, small stor­age bins ei­ther side and a sin­gle USB port are the ‘fea­tures’, but the most im­por­tant fac­tor is very well catered for: the seats are large, com­fort­able and raised off the floor, with head­room for 190cm adults, so that even big kids will be quite happy and com­fort­able in the third row, with good vi­sion out the win­dows. There’s even a good amount of use­able space in the boot with the third row raised.

So what is there not to like about the Aca­dia? Even on the sub­jec­tive mat­ter of styling, it’s a great look­ing pack­age in per­son, and looks smaller than it does in pics - and drives that way too. Ini­tially im­par­tial, it grew on us af­ter just a day, es­pe­cially in black and chrome. Ok, maybe the aerial is a slight mod­ern odd­ity, and some of the in­te­rior con­trols and plas­tics aren’t class lead­ing, but they’re mi­nor, per­sonal fac­tors. It’s not per­fect, but no car is, and if ever there was an im­por­tant ve­hi­cle for Holden to pin its fu­ture hopes on with the cur­rent buy­ing shift from cars to SUVS, the Aca­dia is the one to pull it off.

And what about the old en­emy, Ford’s seven-seat Ever­est? In re­al­ity it’s no com­pe­ti­tion: Aca­dia has a larger en­gine, more power, is only slightly less eco­nom­i­cal, but lighter, is faster and bet­ter equipped - and to rub it in, sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper. It’s prob­a­bly the first time some­one’s sug­gested con­quer­ing Ever­est was al­most too easy.

Above far left: Top-spec Holden Aca­dia LTZV fea­tures leather, and though there is some com­mon­al­ity with Equinox, there’s plenty of ad­just­ment and tech to sat­isfy al­most any­one. Above left: Sec­ond row seats are com­fort­able, with cen­tre arm­rest, ISOFIX mounts, cli­mate con­trols and two 2.1A USB ports. Above: Third row is su­per com­fort­able, with seats raised enough to al­low leg com­fort, and plenty of head­room for 190cm-ers – even a USB port!

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