2017 GMC Acadia: First Impressions

17GMC_Acadia_AS_AC_03.jpg 2017 GMC Acadia | photo by Angela Conners

CARS.COM — With the new, downsized 2017 Acadia, GMC wants to increase maneuverability and fuel economy while minimizing the bulky driving experience, which obviously aren’t measurable on an auto show floor. What we did get at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit is an in-depth look at just how much smaller the Acadia is compared to the outgoing SUV; it’s smaller than not only the outgoing Acadia but also heavy hitters of the midsize SUV segment. Think Kia Sorento-sized rather than Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot.

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On the plus side (as in a positive attribute and not supersized), the Acadia’s interior takes a big step up in quality on the higher-end Denali and All Terrain trims with similarities to a well-appointed GMC Sierra full-size pickup truck. The exterior remains boldly styled, so the shrunken exterior dimensions don’t mean you’re getting a punier-appearing SUV.  

17GMC_Acadia_AS_AC_04.jpg 2017 GMC Acadia | photo by Angela Conners

GMC brought five- and seven-seater examples to Detroit; a six-seat configuration is available with second-row bucket seats. In five-seater configuration, the GMC is roomier than the compact Terrain and has a sliding and reclining second row for maximum adjustability. The Acadia’s off-road-themed All Terrain trim (five seats only) is upholstered with a show-worthy saddle-colored interior featuring attractive accent stitching and piping, plus the cargo management system with movable barrier makes good use of the still roomy 41.7 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row, down from 70.1 cubic feet. 

17GMC_Acadia_AS_AC_13.jpg 2017 GMC Acadia | photo by Angela Conners

It’s the optional third row — previously one of the most comfortable this side of a minivan — where the Acadia’s usability takes a hit. The third row isn’t positioned very high off the ground; a passenger’s knee position is elevated — I’m 6 feet tall — and the foot area is narrow. Headroom, though, is much better than expected with room to spare. The second row’s Smart Slide feature can provide third-row access with a child-safety seat installed in the second row, though it’s only offered behind the front passenger seat. The seat could use another inch or so of travel for easier access. Both the Pilot and the Highlander have one-touch folding and sliding second-row sections for third-row access, and on both sides.

17GMC_Acadia_AS_AC_10.jpg 2017 GMC Acadia | photo by Angela Conners

The third row folds easily thanks to a simple strap system for releasing and pulling the split seat back into position. Remote levers in the cargo area release the second seat. Behind the third row is a smallish 12.8 cubic feet of cargo space, which is down from 24.1 cubic feet in 2016 and is less room than the Pilot (16.5), slightly less than the Highlander (13.8), but slightly more than the Sorento (11.8).

Those looking for a minivan alternative now have one less vehicle to choose from with a good chuck of interior space sliced from the Acadia’s insides. The remaining usability and interior niceness isn’t jaw-dropping enough to call this move a clear winner, so how well the Acadia improves on its driving experience will paint the rest of the picture.

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Managing Editor Joe Bruzek’s 22 years of automotive experience doesn’t count the lifelong obsession that started as a kid admiring his dad’s 1964 Chevrolet Corvette — and continues to this day. Joe’s been an automotive journalist with for 16 years, writing shopper-focused car reviews, news and research content. As Managing Editor, one of his favorite areas of focus is helping shoppers understand electric cars and how to determine whether going electric is right for them. In his free time, Joe maintains a love-hate relationship with his 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that he wishes would fix itself. LinkedIn: Email Joe Bruzek

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