Test Drive: 2013 GMC Acadia car test drives gmc
2013 GMC Acadia. Click image to enlarge

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Manufacturer’s Website
GM Canada

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

Photo Gallery:
2013 GMC Acadia

General Motors’ big-box front-drive three-row crossovers (with available AWD) bowed in 2007. Originally introduced as the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook, they in no uncertain terms announced the death of the minivan, at least as far as GM was concerned. The Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave versions came along a bit later.

Since then Saturn itself has gone the way of the, well, GM minivan, but the others have continued to be strong sellers for the General. The GMC Acadia saw its highest sales in 2011 since being launched.

The bones of this seven/eight-seater are good. The Lambda platform imparts it with surprising agility and body control, and when introduced, the Acadia’s interior quality marked a new direction for GM – essentially away from the disappointing crap this North American arm of the world’s largest automaker was infamous for.

Six years on and it’s refresh time.

The Acadia has always had a chunky and purposeful presence, and for 2013 it gets a new bluff front end with a three-slot grill and fresh headlights featuring a snazzy loop of diffused LED lighting, similar to Audi’s new look. The back sees new taillamps, spoiler and a wrap around rear window. The wheel designs (18s and 19s) have been updated.

Test Drive: 2013 GMC Acadia car test drives gmc Test Drive: 2013 GMC Acadia car test drives gmc Test Drive: 2013 GMC Acadia car test drives gmc Test Drive: 2013 GMC Acadia car test drives gmc
2013 GMC Acadia. Click image to enlarge

Inside, the cabin benefits from more soft-touch surfaces and the requisite stitching, although the overuse of plasticky chrome, the bright red pointers and markers in the major gauges and the super fake exotic wood trim might have the chintz police squirming. The front seats are very comfortable but the power height adjustment in conjunction with an awkward manual rake adjustment dates these thrones.

Carrying over for 2013 is the 288-hp, 270 lb-ft direct-injection 3.6L V6. It works fairly hard for its living in this 2,200-kg (4,850 lb.) crossover – acceleration is adequate but nothing more. The six-speed auto gets some tweaks to improve drivability and the suspension is retuned for a smoother ride.

An industry first, and available on the Acadia, is an airbag that separates the front passengers in the event of a side collision.

The 2013 Acadia starts at $36,210 for the front drive SLE-1 model.

My tester, the upper-mid level SLT-1 with all wheel drive, had a list of $46,750 before options. Included in that price are the standard-issue roof rails, Bluetooth, interior (red) ambient lighting, XM, and USB plus the SLT-1 stuff (Preferred Equipment Group 4SA) that bestowed 19-inch machined wheels, heated leather, tri-zone climate control, powered liftgate, Bluetooth streaming, fog lamps and remote start.

Test Drive: 2013 GMC Acadia car test drives gmc
2013 GMC Acadia. Click image to enlarge

The single screen rear-seat DVD ($2,255) includes an upgraded 5.1 Bose system, and the two-panel sunroof costs $1,685.

Toss in the $550 tow package (good for 2,364 kg) and we’re just north of 50 large.

The driving position is good and most ergonomics are sound, with the exception of the touch panel surrounding the touchscreen with its small “virtual” buttons. They require accurate prods and give no clue as to whether the message was received. These things are the latest automotive scourge in my books.

It just so happened that my time with the Acadia coincided with the worst snowstorm we’d had in recent memory. Since it took the town over a day to get a plow to my local side streets, the high-ridin’ AWD Acadia was a bit of a godsend. I wasn’t really expecting it to be because it was riding on the standard all-season tires… tsk, tsk.

Test Drive: 2013 GMC Acadia car test drives gmc
2013 GMC Acadia. Click image to enlarge

Nonetheless, where my GTI and front-drive Volvo wagon would have not got any further than the end of my driveway, the AWD Acadia plowed through the axle-deep stuff and delivered my wife to work and my daughter to dance (school was closed). Had the Acadia been on snow tires, it would have been a veritable Yeti. I noticed the reduced grip more when the conditions actually got better on the hard packed surfaces.

The AWD Acadia normally operates with a front-to-rear torque split of 90:10. A computer-controlled clutch pack in the rear differential will send more juice to the rear wheels if needed.

The rest of the traction issues are handled by the standard StabiliTrak electronic stability and traction control that incorporates a rollover mitigation program.

Okay. GMC Acadia: 1. Old Man Winter: 0. Oh, and Esso: 5. Fuel economy, er, consumption rose to 18.4 L/100 on that nutty winter day.

The vehicle gets an official rating of 13.3 L/100 km city and 8.8 L/100 km highway.

A few days later with the roads clear and dry I took the Acadia SLT-1 on a day trip. There are a few times when GM suspension engineers nail a tuning (Caddy ATS take a bow), and this full-size SUV is certainly one of them. This is a vehicle that drives smaller than it looks (until you have to park it).

GM has arrived at an excellent ride/handling balance with the Acadia, no doubt helped along by the 2013 suspension tweaks. The ride is compliant and refined, yet there is not an ounce of slop in the chassis. It stays remarkably flat during cornering. Fine steering and brake feel complete the package.

On the highway it tracks straight and true. Factor in the comfortable seats, good outward visibility and kickin’ Bose audio, and the Acadia makes for an accomplished long distance tourer. Loaded down and towing a boat could be a different story, considering the modestly powered V6.

On this trip I saw a more respectable 12.2 L/100 km.

The main reason for buying a big crossover is to haul stuff and people. Yes, minivans will perform these functions better and with more efficiency, but whenever I tell this to friends looking at crossovers they invariably tell me where to get off.

Test Drive: 2013 GMC Acadia car test drives gmc Test Drive: 2013 GMC Acadia car test drives gmc Test Drive: 2013 GMC Acadia car test drives gmc
2013 GMC Acadia. Click image to enlarge

So, next to a minivan, the Acadia is pretty good. The two second-row captain’s chairs are very comfy (a second row three-butt 60/40 bench is available), and they accordion forward allowing easy access to the third row, which is quite habitable.

Behind the rear seat are 558 L of cargo space – enough for a serious run to Costco. Fold the second and third row flat and you’re looking at a whopping 3,313 L – and bonus, 4×8 sheets of building materials will lie flat.

If you have to go big, and a “cry uncle” minivan isn’t in the cards, the upgraded GMC Acadia continues to impress with its utility and drivability.

Pricing: 2013 GMC Acadia SLT-1 AWD
Base price (SLT-1 AWD): $46,750
Optional equipment: Rear seat entertainment system – $2,255; two-panel sunroof – $1,685; heavy duty trailering package – $550
A/C tax: $100
Destination charge: $1,500
Price as tested: $52,840

Crash test results
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

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