SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- In bumper-to-bumper traffic on South State Street in Salt Lake City, we're riding high in the driver's bucket of a new crossover utility vehicle (CUV) from the GMC Truck Division of General Motors.
This big wagon, carved in elegant lines of a sculpted block with crisp corners and the fat-lipped chin flashing shiny streaks of chrome, comes with a full-size passenger compartment stocking seats for six to eight and a carload of comfy amenities. A chrome badge on the tail-side liftgate tags the CUV as Acadia.
Sidewalk pedestrians on South State, spotting our Acadia as it rolls along the broad boulevard, might mistake the wagon with its two-box shape for yet another truckish SUV. However, that's not the way product developers at GMC chart the structural organization of Acadia.
GMC's new wagon is constructed with an integral body-frame structure which compares to a front-wheel-drive (FWD) car rather than the conventional SUV's rear-wheel-drive (RWD) body-on-frame truck platform. A stretched wheelbase of 118.9 inches and a wheel track of 67.3 inches wide forge a long and broad platform that reduces the center of gravity for the vehicle and sets up a sure-footed ride quality.
And, unlike the usual SUV's solid rear truck axle and crude leaf springs, Acadia carries independent suspension components like a car. There's a MacPherson strut design up front with direct-acting stabilizer bar, and in the rear the independent H-arm arrangement has twin-tube shocks mounted on a road-bump-isolating sub-frame.
As a result, Acadia brings the easy-to-drive manners and smooth ride of a large luxury sedan. Acadia also derives nimble steering attributes from a power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system, and the brakes add a disc at every wheel with electronic link to an anti-lock brake system (ABS).
Further, all versions stock StabiliTrak, GM's seamless yaw controller. The StabiliTrak electronic stability control system also ties to GM's rollover sensing system, dubbed rollover mitigation technology (RMT). It can deploy side-impact air bags and curtain air bags if on-board sensors detect a potential vehicular roll event.
All versions of Acadia stock lots of passive safety systems like frontal and seat-mounted side-impact air bags for front seats and curtain-style air bags above outboard seats in front and back rows. Acadia also offers the choice of FWD traction or a permanently-engaged all-wheel-drive (AWD) system.
The smart AWD equipment uses a computer and wheel sensors to determine how much power to apply at each wheel for maintaining tire traction on slippery pavement. Muscle for Acadia stems from GM's aluminum-block 3.6-liter V6 with twin cams and variable valve timing (VVT).
The engine produces 275 hp at 6600 rpm plus torque of 251 lb-ft at 3200 rpm. Gear control stems from GM's new fuel-saving Hydra-Matic 6T75 six-speed automatic shifter. With this rig the vehicle achieves EPA fuel economy figures up to 26 mpg for highway cruising in a FWD edition.
Climb aboard Arcadia and you'll notice another benefit of the car-like structure: Designers managed to drop the cabin floor but still retain a reasonable chassis height for ground clearance. As a result, you don't have to hike up to climb aboard, but simply slip in sideways like you would enter a sedan.
On the first row two wide bucket seats flank a floor console. On the second row the standard arrangement shows two captain's chairs that slide to and fro, although a sliding bench to accommodate three passengers is available. n the third row, a folding bench split 60/40 can squeeze up to three additional riders aboard.
Access to the back bench is aided by extra width of the two rear portals plus second-row seats that move out of the way easily, thanks to a single-tap lever dubbed the Smart Slide.
With the back bench up, the flat-floored cargo bay has 19.7 cubic feet of stow room. With the back bench folded down, the bay expands to 68.9 cubic feet. And with second and third tiers of seats down, the cavernous bay measures to 119.7 cubic feet.
We're impressed with the easy-driving attitude of Acadia, but also commend this vehicle for the comfortable cabin design and the use of quality materials. GMC produces the CUV in several trim grades. Entry point is the Acadia SLE.
Gear standard on the SLE ranges from air conditioning and power controls for windows and door locks and mirrors to auto-on headlamps and daytime running lights, a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes, the driver's seat with four-way manual movements, a windshield wiper for the liftgate's window, a sound kit with AM/FM/CD/MP3 player and GM's OnStar telecommunications equipment, twin exhaust pipes with chrome tips and 18-inch aluminum wheels.
Upgrading to Acadia SLT brings more luxury goods, such as power controls for front seats, leather upholstery, a triple-zone automatic climate system, auto-dimmer for the cabin rearview mirror and integrated turn signals for the pair of outside mirrors, a CD deck for six CDs and Bose stereo speakers with subwoofer.
The list covers a dual-panel Skyscape sunroof, DVD-based video entertainment player for backseat viewers, a DVD navigation kit, the second-row bench for three to expand passenger capacity, a convenience package which adds a remote starter and ultrasonic rear parking assist, a head-up display of instruments, audio controls in the cargo bay and power to motivate the liftgate. GMC sets MSRP figures as low as $29,225 for Acadia FWD and $31,255 for Acadia AWD.