Growing up, my mother always dropped me and my brother off at school…every morning until I was old enough to start driving. That means I’ve gone through years of observing mom-mobiles picking up and dropping off little millennials at school with hands carrying lunch boxes instead of smartphones. Back then it was either a big SUV or a minivan, with sedans and trucks in-between; now I can’t tell if a vehicle is a crossover, a midsize crossover or a tall subcompact hatchback. That’s the attitude I had when first seeing the 2017 GMC Acadia.
Another ‘tweener, I thought. But when I stepped in I noticed something that looked very out of place in a vehicle this size. Down on the console, just below the gear shift, was a little knob that is typically used to change between 2WD and AWD, or other off-road settings. This knob, however, had a picture of a little race flag… a sport mode? In an Acadia? It piqued my interest, and after spending a week with the All-Terrain Acadia I can say this is one SUV that can cross over into different vehicle classes without having an identity crisis.
According to GMC, the Acadia falls in the lineup between the smaller Terrain and GMC’s golden boy/child/ticket, the Yukon. The Acadia is a midsize SUV that can seat up to seven with a third row and has towing capacity to satisfy the average weekend adventurer. As a middle child, it has to find a way to stand out from the pack. We’ll start with styling.
A friend of mine thought I had driven up in a Dodge Durango when he saw the profile of the Acadia, and I can see a similarity in the rear quarter windows. The Acadia has lost a lot of weight since 2015 and managed to shred 700 pounds of bulk for a leaner, meaner look. No more chubby cheeks in front, as GMC’s designers gave it cheek bones and a confident smile to show off its toned design. The previous Acadia could weigh in at nearly 4,900 pounds at its heaviest but now hovers around 4,200 (or less), depending on options.
Our test Acadia was equipped with the All-Terrain package, which includes leather seats, rear AC vents for the back, aluminum wheels, and GMC’s advanced all-wheel drive system. The exterior’s ebony twilight metallic paint was a great color choice to match the interior’s Jet Black/Kalahari seats that gave the SUV a more upscale, Denali-ish, feel. The interior is also quiet enough to hold a conference meeting, if needed.
I was lucky to have the Acadia at this point in my life because I was moving into a new apartment and my life does not fit in the trunk of my little daily driver. Once the rear seat was folded I had a panel van worth of space, able to fit not only my stuff but my brother’s stuff as well. From skateboards to nightstands, it all fit perfectly in the back. The push-button tailgate meant I didn’t have to pull down a heavy door with sore muscles. And worth mentioning is the number of small compartments in the back for the miscellaneous objects in your life.
On the dashboard you get the usual touchscreen with WiFi, Apple Car-play, satellite radio, and seat warmers. The Acadia has a new safety feature that, when I discovered it, made me worry for the future of this nation. The Acadia has a Rear Seat Reminder, which is a collection of sensors on the rear doors. If you open them within ten minutes of starting the vehicle it will ding and flash the dashboard, reminding you to check your backseat when you turn the vehicle off. If you haven’t guessed, this is to prevent people from leaving babies and pets inside a locked car. You know, things that you might forget? It’s a great safety feature, but one that makes you wonder how distracted we are as a society when the car itself has to remind you not to leave another living thing inside a hot car.
There are two engines available with the Acadia, a 2.5 liter four cylinder that pushes the SUV using 193 horsepower. The one I was driving came with the upgraded 3.6 liter V6 with a very pleasing 310 horsepower and a Hydra-Matic 6-speed transmission sending that power to all four wheels.
The Acadia was delivered to me reading 500 miles of range out from its 22-gallon tank. I burned through all of it in seven days, even though the Acadia gets 25 mpg on highway and 18 in the city. The reason why? Because I had so much fun driving this SUV! That V6 engine coupled with AWD makes the Acadia feel like it wants to carve up a canyon, and that’s exactly what I did.
It was 7:00 am on a Sunday. The roads looked like mirrors as the week of rainstorms continued to bathe the pavement. No traffic because everyone is still in pajamas… except for me and the Acadia. I’m not going to lie, I was doubting my driving ability if the Acadia decided to misbehave. AWD or not, this is still a 2-ton vehicle with a high center of gravity that I was about to rip through a wet twisty Texas Hill Country road with traction control turned off. I set it to sport mode before giving my seatbelt a few tugs to make sure it was tight. Pedal down.
This was a road full of tight turns with posted speed limits of 15 mph. I was barreling down them at over 50 mph with the Acadia doing most of the work. All I had to do was turn the wheel and keep my foot down to feel all four wheels grip through the turns as the Acadia laughed at the laws of physics. Body roll was minimal for such a large vehicle, and it never misbehaved even when I pushed it. The most I got was faint tire squeal when I made a U-turn at the end of the run. I am by no means a professional driver so the Acadia’s AWD sport mode is something special, worth mentioning because you wouldn’t expect it from a vehicle like this.
The 2017 GMC Acadia All-Terrain is a Renaissance vehicle; you know, what Mona Lisa would have taken her kids in. It drives like a sedan on the street, carries stuff like a van, can tow like a pickup, and can tackle a curvy road like a performance GT. A base Acadia starts in the low $30’s with the All-Terrain and Denali taking it up to the 40’s and beyond. This one had a sticker of $48,000, which might seem high – but when you consider that this SUV can do more than just haul people around the price begins to speak for itself. Until it doesn’t, which is why you have txGarage…