Driving Impressions – August 2014

Building on a Successful Formula: 2014 GMC Acadia SLE-2

By Greg Cavanaugh

Gallup Journey GMC AcadiaOver 6 years ago I started this journey (pun intended) of driving, testing and reviewing vehicles from our local dealerships.   One of my very first test drives was a 2008 GMC Acadia from Rico Auto Complex.  To this day I still remember how nervous I was to be driving around a vehicle that cost almost half as much as my house. The fact was I liked it enough to recommend it to my brother-in-law and they bought one.  Now, years later, my situation is quite different, namely, hauling around 3 kids on a daily basis.  Having recently made a 3,000+ mile road trip to the Midwest for the ever necessary “new baby tour,” I was anxious to see what I was missing by still cramming all 3 of my kids into the backseat of our Mercedes wagon.  The 2014 Acadia you see here is still largely the same vehicle as the original first-gen I drove, but the 2013 model received some nice updates.

One of the biggest advantages to families that need to use a third row is the availability of second row captain’s chairs, which allow older kids to make their way to the back on their own and buckle themselves in . . . anything that removes another step for parents is a good thing!  (In fact my lovely sister-in-law recently asked me just that: what could she get that had captain’s chairs that wasn’t a minivan.) There are several vehicles on the market in the CUV category that have them as an option: the Dodge Durango, new Toyota Highlander, Kia Santa Fe and this Acadia (and its cousins the Enclave and Traverse).   What I like about the Acadia is how useable its seating is.  Unlike the Durango that has two seats in the third row, the Acadia holds three.   The beauty of this is that even with the added ease of entry to the third row afforded by those captain’s chairs, the Acadia still seats 7 people, or more accurately, your family and an extra kid or two for playdates/sleepovers.  The Acadia is quite spacious and, with the ability of the second row to slide forward, the third row offers acceptable space and comfort even for adults, making the couples’ trip to Vegas fun! Both rows of seats also easily fold flat, allowing me to stuff in a new front door for my house without breaking a sweat.

An important facet of any family hauler/road tripper is not just its people space, but also its cargo space.  (While I sound like a broken record here, I’ll still remind both of my readers that the minivan always beats the CUV in this regard.)  Compared with others on the road, the Acadia offers class-leading space behind the third row, easily holding a full size cooler, or a couple of full size suitcases, more even than the full size Yukon can swallow.   With the third row unevenly split, one side can be folded flat for more cargo while still allowing use of the other side of the seat for a passenger.

Powered by GM’s ubiquitous 3.6-liter direct injected V6 and 6-speed automatic, making 281 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, the Acadia moves around with confidence, if not enthusiasm.   Returning 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined in AWD guise, the Acadia bests its SUV brethren by a mpg or two, but falls short of a minivan’s consumption.  Interestingly, both the V6’s power numbers and fuel economy numbers are virtually the same as all of its competition . . . I guess there’s no cheating physics.   The Acadia rides well, is supremely comfortable, its longish wheelbase allowing for a great highway ride, in particular, and eats up the miles.
But these have been the Acadia’s strong suits from the beginning, so what has changed? Namely, the pretty bits.  Sporting a revamped front end with cool LED running lights, a wraparound pillar-less rear window look and LED taillights, the updated Acadia didn’t stray too far from the previous generation’s handsome formula but is clearly identifiable as the new version.  On the interior, the center stack received some updating to GM’s nice colorful touch screen infotainment system, IntelliLink.  With its ability to use apps like Pandora through your smart phone, IntelliLink is easy to use and quick.  While the Acadia’s interior was always attractive, the addition of softer touch materials has classed it up a bit (with the Denali over the top, of course!).  It all works nicely, although I would have appreciated at least one oversized cupholder to hold my water bottle.  A power tailgate out back (standard on this almost base SLE-2 trim) makes loading and unloading with your hands full much less of a chore.

At almost $41K, the Acadia isn’t value priced family transportation, but with a nice list of standard features it really feels upscale and luxurious.  More importantly, the Acadia’s strengths lie in its excellent and versatile packaging, smooth ride and handsome looks.  As the CUV market becomes increasingly crowded and competitive, the Acadia ranks right up there as one of the best.

*Thanks to the good folks at Rico Auto Complex for putting up with me.
**Check out my growing YouTube channel, Gallup Journey Test Drives!!

WIDTH: 6 ft. 6.9 in. (78.9 in.)
HEIGHT: 6 ft. 0.6 in. (72.6 in.)
LENGTH: 16 ft. 8.8 in. (200.8 in.)
GROUND CLEARANCE: 0 ft. 7.6 in. (7.6 in.)
WHEEL BASE: 9 ft. 10.9 in. (118.9 in.)
HORSEPOWER: 281 hp @ 6300 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 4656 lbs.

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