The road from Phoenix to Durango, Colorado, is pretty long, but at least it passes by some quality Southwest scenery, such as Monument Valley, and some improbable landmarks, such as Four Corners, the only place in the U.S. where four states touch – Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.
There’s also a place where you can pull off the road and see actual dinosaur tracks imbedded in the ancient stone surface, always with some random Navajo youngsters on hand to show you the way, for a fee.
A few years ago, the test vehicle for our Durango vacation was a GMC Acadia, in which five of us and all our gear, plus a couple of little dogs, fit comfortably in the three-row crossover. The Acadia performed admirably, and I gave it high marks in my review. Matter of fact, we liked it enough that when it came time for a new family truckster, we went for its corporate twin, a 2012 Chevrolet Traverse.
I recently had the all-new 2017 GMC Acadia as my test vehicle, and was surprised when I parked it in my driveway and it appeared to be smaller than the Traverse. By a bunch. Sure enough, Acadia has trimmed down for 2017.
The new-generation Acadia is now considered midsize, rather than full. Compared with the first-gen, it has dropped 7.4 inches in length, 6.6 inches in wheelbase, 3.6 inches in width and 4 inches in height. Acadia also has lost weight, some 600-700 pounds depending on model, due to the size reduction and the use of lightweight materials, such as aluminum body parts.
What it has gained for 2017 is fuel mileage. The all-wheel-drive, V6-powered Acadia that I drove is pegged by the EPA at 18 city, 25 highway and 20 combined, compared with the 2016 AWD figures of 15 city, 22 highway and 17 combined.
Handling and maneuverability have also improved. Our old Traverse drives pretty well, although there are times when it feels like a baby whale. The 2017 Acadia drives much tighter and lighter, with crisper responsive and more-precise cornering. Actually, the new Acadia seems like a class leader in drivability overall.
The 2017 crossover still can be ordered with three rows of seats as an option, although the rearmost row skimps on legroom compared with the outgoing model. There is also a reduction in cargo space, either with the seat up or folded into the floor.
The direct-fuel-injection 3.6-liter V6 gets a bump in horsepower, to 310 from 281, and torque, to 271 pounds-feet from 266, which along with the weight loss adds quite a bit of spark to acceleration. A new base engine has been added as well, a direct-injection 2.5-liter inline-4 that delivers 193 horsepower and 188 pounds-feet of torque. That should be enough to motivate the 4,000-pound crossover under most circumstances, while the fuel-mileage rating rises to 21 mpg in city driving. The highway mileage rating is essentially the same as with the V6.
All-around the 2017 Acadia is an improved package that gains more in practicality than it loses in sheer size. As for the other big GM crossovers that in the past have shared their structures with Acadia, the Traverse and Buick Enclave, they apparently soldier on with updated versions of the original concept, rather than joining Acadia’s size- and weight-reduction plan. Undoubtedly, their time will come, while the big originals still have their fans.
The Acadia’s styling also has been sharpened, with crisp lines emphasizing the trimmer dimensions while retaining the premium look that GMC has engendered over the years. The broad, truck-like front styling is immediately recognizable as GMC, a masculine design appreciated by owners who might otherwise consider a crossover too wimpy for their macho selves.
The interior has been upgraded as well, with the mid-range SLT-1 version I drove looking like the interior of a luxury automobile. The dashboard and console shapes, as well as the gauges, look somewhat truck-like, though, befitting the General Motors division that specializes in trucks.
The Acadia test-fleet crossover was loaded with desirable convenience, entertainment and safety features. Standard for this model were such things as full power features for front seats, mirrors, windows, etc.; eight airbags; eight-speaker Bose audio with XM plus Apple and Android connectivity; leather; WiFi hot spot; full-color driver’s information center; and such driver-assist features as rear parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change blind-spot alert and Teen Driver, which encourages your young license holder to behave behind the wheel, mainly because parents can monitor their driving stats after the fact.
Base price for the Acadia AWD SLT-1 is $41,450, to which were added the All-Terrain Package of five-passenger two-row seating, advanced all-wheel drive, hill-descent control, cargo management system, 20-inch alloy wheels and roof cargo rails, priced at $1,800; Dual Skyscape Sunroof, $1,400; trailering package, $650; audio system upgrade with 8-inch screen, $495; Ebony Twilight Metallic paint, $395; and an All-Terrain Cargo Package, $350.
With shipping, the bottom line came out to $47,465, which seems fair enough for this sophisticated and well-equipped crossover. Pricing for the front-wheel-drive model with the four-cylinder engine starts at $29,995.
2017 GMC Acadia AWD SLT-1
Vehicle type: Five-passenger, five-door crossover, all-wheel drive
Base price: $41,450 Price as tested: $47,465
Engine: 3.6-liter V6, 310 horsepower at 6,600 rpm, 271 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 112.5 inches Overall length/width: 193.6 inches / 75.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,956 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 18 city / 25 highway / 20 combined
Assembled in: Spring Hill, Tennessee