A few months ago, we took a look at the Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon Denali, asking which is more of a Cadillac: The GMC “Cadillac of trucks” model or an actual Cadillac. The answer? Cadillac. Not the GMC one, the real one. Anyway, both of General Motors’ big trucks come with a price tag size to match: An entry-level Yukon Denali starts at $48K, while the Caddy has a $72K buy-in. So despite their king-of-the-road status, these models a somewhat limited appeal. If you don’t have the funds, or frankly, the space in your driveway, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
But you know what don’t have limited appeal? Midsize crossovers. From people-movers built for families, like the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer, to luxury stalwarts like the Mercedes-Benz GLC and Lexus RX, buyers are over the moon for tall, comfortable trucks, even if they’ll never spend a minute off the pavement.
And GM has made big changes in that department. The SRX was Cadillac’s best-selling model, but it had barely been changed since its introduction in 2009. The GMC Acadia was even older; it debuted in 2007, and has soldiered on since, getting its last major update in 2013. They’re both new for 2017, and both sharing a platform, a new version of GM’s Epsilon II architecture. Like the Yukon, the Acadia has a much lower buy-in compared to the Cadillac — $31K versus $39K — but in top Denali trim, its $45K buy-in puts it right in XT5 territory. So can GMC one-up Cadillac in this smaller segment? That’s what we’ll try to find out in this latest segment of Buy This, Not That.
The Acadia has turned over a new leaf for 2017, and is easily the best its ever been. Our Justin Lloyd-Miller spent some time with it earlier this year, and concluded “… regardless of what trim you choose, you can count on the new Acadia to be better behaved, more fuel efficient, offer better driving dynamics, and be easier to live with.” The 2017 model is 7.2 inches shorter than the outgoing SUV, which helped it shed a whopping 740 pounds. Despite the downsizing and shrinking, it’s still a formidable people-mover, with better powertrain options, optional third-row seating, and an overall better ride.
Power now comes from either a 2.5 liter inline-four that puts out 190 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque, or a 3.6 liter V6 that 310 horses and 210 pound-feet of torque. Naturally, the Denali comes standard with all-wheel drive (a $2,000 option on base SLT models), and the bigger motor. A comprehensive safety suite, heated and ventilated leather seats, HID projector beam headlamps, and LED daytime runnings lights come standard too.
The Cadillac XT5 has been on sale a while longer, but is no less new or important to is brand. No third-row seating is optional, but there’s plenty of room for five adults to sit comfortably. Mid-level Luxury trim starts at $45K just like the Denali, and buyers get heated and cooled leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, Bose eight speaker sound system, and a host of electronic aids too. But where the Caddy stands out is its interior; virtually every surface is covered in open-pore wood, aluminum, or leather. Its quiet cabin makes it feel like a luxury model, and its styling — inside and out — helps it stand out from the pack.
The good news is that GM’s new midsize luxury SUVs are both great. The bad news it that this one really boils down to your preferences. We like the XT5, but it’s competing against really attractive offerings from Mercedes, Jaguar, Porsche, and BMW, among others. On the other hand, the Acadia stands out against competition from Ford, Toyota, and Honda, but $45K is a lot to ask in its segment, and at the end of the day, having its range-topper deep in luxury territory probably won’t peel any prospective Porsche or Audi buyers away.
If you’re an up-and-comer that needs an SUV that can handle family duty as easily as a professional truck that can impress clients, the GMC is your best bet. It’s a little bigger inside inside and out, and has plenty of clever storage bins. But if you want a taste of world-class luxury, American-style, go for the Cadillac. In this rematch, we’ll just have to call it a draw.
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