The GMC brand has long been built on the success of pickups and SUVs. If Chevrolet made one, GMC probably offers a nicer one. The Canyon is a gussied up Colorado; the Terrain is a nicer Equinox; the Sierra, as we all know, is a Chevrolet Sierra in a suit. The Acadia, well, that’s a Chevrolet Traverse in a nice pair of denim.
Chevrolet hasn’t revealed a new Traverse just yet, but it hasn’t stopped GMC from creating its take on the SUV with the 2017 Acadia. And as you can see, it’s a very different SUV from the more rugged-looking model it replaces. Now, the Acadia looks more in line with the softer-edged Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer that GMC says it completes with.
“The original Acadia was very truck-inspired, but the new model has a decidedly SUV influence conveyed in sculptural details, softened corners and a sleeker windshield angle,” said Helen Emsley, executive director of Global GMC Design and User Experience in the company’s press release.
While the new design certainly isn’t offensive, it doesn’t exactly convey the personality that the current model has. the 2017 is now more anonymous; it doesn’t look exactly like a Grand Cherokee, an Explorer, Durango, or a Highlander, but it’s faintly reminiscent of all four, and more. It’s definitely its own car, but derivative at the same time, and we’re betting that’s because GMC is trying its hand at making the Acadia more friendly to the mass market, and that’s a shame.
I fully understand the need to appeal to a wider base of buyers; in a capitalist system, a business’s primary goal is to maximize sales. No one can fault GMC or General Motors at large for that. But mass-market is why GM has Chevy and the painfully vanilla Traverse, and GMC should represent the company’s ability to take some risks with its design.
The new Acadia will be powered by either a 310 horsepower 3.6-liter V6, or — new for 2017 — a 2.5 liter inline-four as standard that can, in the right setup, net 28 miles per gallon on the highway. It’s able to do so because the new Acadia is roughly 700 pounds less than the current generation. That will crank out 194 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque.
The GMC will also be available in all-wheel drive with a disconnect ability that will allow the AWD models to save some fuel and roll on the front wheels only. The six-speed transmission gets a “terrain-selection” knob if the owners are willing to venture out of the Kroger parking lot, and GMC is adding an All Terrain trim level in addition to the range-topping Denali. Per GMC:
At the heart of the Acadia All Terrain’s capability is an advanced AWD system with Active Twin Clutch, which optimizes traction for every condition it encounters. And while it is engineered for optimal performance in wet, snowy and icy conditions, it also provides enhanced stability in dry conditions.
It also has a specific All Terrain mode in place of the Off Road mode on the drive mode selector, which works with the model’s exclusive AWD system to offer enhanced hill-climb capability.
All Terrain models are distinguished from the rest of the Acadia lineup with a body-color grille surround, black chrome trim and unique wheels. Inside is exclusive five-passenger seating, dynamic All Terrain interior accents and covered storage bins in the rear cargo floor in place of a third-row seat.
Chances are if you’re looking at a dedicated off-roader, you’re not looking at an Acadia, but it’s nice of GMC to show that more thought went into its redesign beyond the school-office-soccer-grocery route that so many Acadias are likely relegated to. The new Acadia can now do that, even if soccer practice is on a rocky plateau in the Himalayas.
The new Acadia will come with a suite of safety tech that has become expected on new vehicles — stuff like Front Pedestrian Braking, Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Surround Vision camera system, IntelliBeam automatic headlamp high-beam control, Front and Rear Parking Assist, and Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, among other things.
Undoubtably, the Acadia will be a solid performer where its core audience needs it to be. But unless I’m fundamentally misunderstanding something, GMC isn’t around to offer “solid performers” — it’s a chance for GM to branch out into areas it’s riskier to do with its other nameplates. The Acadia is competing with the Jeep Grand Cherokee when it could be aiming higher — the Land Rover Discovery Sport, for instance. Let Chevy do the heavy lifting, GM, and let GMC have some fun.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.