Updated: Feb 21, 2020
If you lined up every large SUV on the market, paid a light-fingered expert to knock off all the badges and insignia, and then drove each one without regard for the brand, you'd be able to judge the car on its merits, without the baggage of reputation. And on that basis, having driven them all, I can confidently say Holden's Acadia tops the lot.
Yep - I'd have this before a Merc, an Audi, or a Bimmer. Acadia does some things exceptionally, but, in contrast to the others, it does virtually all things well.
It is rapid but not the quickest, lithe and responsive without being a racer, luxurious without being opulent and impressively styled without being over the top. But most importantly, the Acadia just 'felt' exactly right.
Both I and my wife felt at home on the first drive, before we turned out of our street. "Wow, this is smooth. And quiet," she said. Plus, the passenger seat is adjustable for height and she was able to see over the dashboard for the first time in my last several press cars.
Acadia has seven seats and the back row folds flat for a giga-sized storage space. I sat in the middle seat row with the driver's seat set for my comfort, and was surprised at the knee room. As for getting into the back row, every 7-seat SUV seems to have a new and innovative (read complicated) way of folding the middle row out of the way to climb in. Acadia has one lever and spring loading takes care of the rest.
I very quickly got used to the little things that impress - opening the large tailgate with two clicks of the remote, settling into the plush seats with perfectly positioned armrests, twirling the thick-rimmed steering wheel and setting adaptive cruise control with a single finger, tilting the sun roof for better airflow. Acadia seems to suit the mood for any occasion.
I first drove it earlier this year at Holden's Lang Lang proving ground. The Holden people told me to take it up onto the top lane of the speed circuit and open it up. It ran up to 180km/h without hesitation and sat there rock solid, with so little wind noise that conversation was comfortable in just normal tones. Nothing like that on Perth roads of course, but the car's capability in suburbia, and even on the freeways is clearly understated.
Acadia is built in Tennesse on the same platform as the Cadillac XT5 and the new Chevy Blazer. Its 3.6-litre V6 is punchy and has no trouble with the bulky 1800kg weight. The six-speed auto transmission is turbine smooth and the car cruises at the legal limit around 1500rpm. So it's ultra quiet.
It's also GMC's first front wheel drive car, and has a multi-plate clutch to send drive to the rear wheels when you spin the appropriate dial on the console.
I've had the top-of-line LTZ-V model for a week and ended up recording 9.1-l/100kms, which isn't bad for a large and relatively heavy SUV. But I wasn't messing around either.
This model is around $68,000, but you can get into Acadia for well under $50k drive away if you're happy with front wheel drive only and none of the fruit. You still get the essentials though, and as most cars now are fully connected, you'll never feel left out when you're on the road.
Loved it. I'd buy it.