Introduction

The Acadia is GMC’s version of General Motors’ Lambda family of crossovers. It was the first to market of quadruplets spread across the GMC, Saturn (Outlook), Buick (Enclave), and Chevrolet (Traverse) brands. The Acadia offers the size and most of the versatility of a full-size SUV while delivering much friendlier on-road manners and fuel consumption.

Three trim levels are offered: SLE, SLT1, and SLT2. All are available in front- or all-wheel-drive configurations and use the same 3.6-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive Acadia is rated by the EPA at 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway; the front-drive version achieves 17/24.

Verdict

The Acadia is good at what it does, offering plenty of room even for large families. It provides a strong alternative for moms and dads or other people haulers who are too cool to be seen in a minivan, although we still maintain that minivans offer better packaging as long as ground clearance isn’t on your list of must-haves. Standard and optional features meet or beat those offered on other vehicles in the segment. The Acadia has the strongest looks and one of the more attractive interiors among the Lambda siblings.

One place where we’ve faulted the Acadia and its Lambda brethren is in their weight. At nearly 5000 pounds, the Acadia is among the heaviest in its segment, which results in performance that is nothing to write home about. Although the Acadia handles better than a traditional full-size SUV, the Lambda platform’s heft is still felt when it’s called on to change direction quickly, and this was a key factor in a Lambda (the Chevy Traverse) finishing fifth in a six-crossover comparison test behind a Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, and Ford Flex and ahead of only a Hyundai Veracruz. Braking, on the other hand, is impressive for a vehicle of this size.

Overall, we like the Acadia and its platformmates, as they have a willing V-6 engine, decent fuel economy, and a good ride. They also generally offer decent value. The issue is that you can find better powertrains, higher efficiency, smoother rides, and more significant values in the segment. We’d suggest checking out a Honda Pilot or Mazda CX-9 first.

What’s New for 2009

The biggest change for 2009 is the addition of direct fuel injection to the 3.6-liter V-6 for a boost of 13 hp to 288. Fuel economy is also slightly improved.

Other additions include OnStar 8.0—which is now capable of providing turn-by-turn driving directions—XM NavTraffic on vehicles with navigation systems, optional Bluetooth phone pairing, heated and cooled front seats, and a rearview camera.

Highlights and Recommendations

A front-drive SLE model starts at less than $33,000, the SLT1 trim jumps to nearly $37,000, and the SLT2 will set you back about $39,000. The all-wheel-drive option adds $2000 to those prices. Beyond the standard features of each model, different packages are available, including one for trailering and another that adds a head-up display for the gadget lovers out there. There are also stand-alone options such as a navigation system, a seven-seat configuration with second-row captain’s chairs, and a rear entertainment system.

Although it can get pricey, we’d recommend an Acadia with the SLT1 package. It includes power heated front seats, a 10-speaker Bose audio system, and leather seating for the first two rows, and we’d add the optional rearview camera and parking sensors, since the view out the back is limited.

Buyers looking for a slightly more luxurious and quieter ride should look to the Buick Enclave, whereas the budget-minded might want to try the Saturn Outlook or Chevrolet’s new Traverse—all of which are built on the same platform as the Acadia.

Safety

The Acadia features GM’s OnStar emergency service, anti-lock brakes, and a traction and stability control system with rollover mitigation as standard. Front, front-side, and three-row curtain airbags are also standard.

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