NEWS

2017 GMC Acadia Versus 2016 Nissan Murano

Head-to-Head_Murano-VS-Acadia_AC_01.jpg Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

CARS.COM — When GMC lopped 7.2 inches of length and 700 pounds of weight off the second-generation Acadia, the SUV went from the plus-size member of its class to a comparative runt. Heck, the 2017 model is even available without a third row, a ubiquitous feature among large crossovers.

Related: What’s the Best Midsize SUV in 2016?

Did that make the new Acadia ripe for our two-row, $45,000 Midsize SUV Challenge? GMC didn’t think so. We asked the brand for an Acadia within our test parameters, but it declined on grounds that the SUV comes standard with a third row. (The third-row delete comes with the All Terrain Package, an option on middle trims that gives GM a loose competitor to the Jeep Grand Cherokee.)

Still, a two-row Acadia joined Cars.com’s test fleet just after the Challenge ended. So we decided to compare it to the winner of the Challenge, the 2016 Nissan Murano — an SUV that’s just 1.2 inches shorter than the redesigned Acadia. We judged both SUVs using the same testing categories and 1-10 scoring of the $45,000 comparison.

Our 2017 Acadia SLT1 had all-wheel drive, the All Terrain Package and other options for a total price of $47,465, which would have made it ineligible by the comparison’s $45,000 ceiling. But it wasn’t far from the winner, an all-wheel-drive 2016 Murano Platinum ($44,070).

Senior editors Joe Bruzek and Kelsey Mays put the Murano and Acadia through back-to-back handling loops and interior evaluations to see if the Acadia is a formidable competitor in two-row, five-occupant form rather than its standard three-row, seven-seat configuration. Here’s how they scored:

16Nissan_Murano_SO_ES_01.jpg Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

Interior Quality

Winner: Murano

The Murano has long blurred the lines between luxury and non-luxury, and the current generation is no exception. From the leather upholstery and stitched dashboard accents to the sandstone-like trim, the Murano’s cabin is a work of art. The Acadia holds its own against the class, but it’s no match for the Nissan. There isn’t a speck of doubt that the Murano’s interior is the more luxurious of the two, with its combination of classy styling and high-quality materials.

Comfort

Winner: Tie

It’s hard to recall front seats that are softer and more comfortable than the Murano’s, but its low backseat will leave many adults’ knees uncomfortably elevated. The Acadia’s second row sits higher with more adjustments to boot (it reclines and slides). Our Murano test car made up some lost ground with heated rear seats, an amenity our Acadia lacked.

17GMC_Acadia_AC_04.jpg Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

Cargo and In-Cabin Storage

Winner: Acadia

The Murano has a deep glove compartment and spacious center console, but the storage advantages end there. The Acadia has more nooks and cubbies elsewhere, and it’s no contest when you get to the cargo area: The Acadia has some 20 inches of additional cargo depth at the beltline and its upright profile doesn’t sacrifice height at the back like the Murano’s sleeker tail does. You can also expand the luggage space and still accommodate passengers by sliding the Acadia’s backseat forward, a provision that’s missing in the Murano. Cargo specs can be misleading, but the comparison here — 41.7 cubic feet behind the Acadia’s backseat versus 32.1 cubic feet behind the Murano’s — seems believable.

17GMC_Acadia_AC_03.jpg Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

Technology and Entertainment

Winner: Acadia

Our Murano had a reasonably intuitive touch-screen system with navigation, but the Acadia’s setup blows it away. The Acadia has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (the Murano has neither), a more-responsive navigation system, four USB charging ports (the Murano has two) and a household-style AC outlet (the Murano lacks one). What’s more, both test cars had Bose premium stereos, but the Acadia’s system sounded crisper and more powerful.

Head-to-Head_Murano-VS-Acadia_AC_08.jpg Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

Handling

Winner: Acadia

The Murano may look sporty, but it doesn’t handle that way. The steering requires a lot of effort in parking situations, but there’s no payoff later on. Get the SUV into a sweeping corner and it serves up numb steering feedback and noticeably more body roll. The Acadia feels more planted, with a tighter suspension and more-responsive steering.

Acceleration

Winner: Acadia

Both SUVs are quick enough, but the Acadia’s six-speed automatic shifts smoothly where the Murano’s continuously variable automatic transmission drones, at least until you step down enough to trigger Nissan’s simulated stepped gearing. The Acadia pounces from slow speeds and has the punchiness at all speeds to inspire confidence in the passing lane.

Head-to-Head_Murano-VS-Acadia_AC_05.jpg Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

Ride

Winner: Murano

The Murano’s ride quality is comfortably soft; it absorbs bumps well without too much noise or intrusion. The Acadia has a bouncier suspension that hits bumps harder but feels controlled and predictable over rough roads. Broken pavement leaves the Murano feeling looser and less composed, but the sum of it all hands Nissan a win.

Noise

Winner: Tie

The Murano’s luxurious interior doesn’t translate to high-end noise abatement. We noticed road noise at highway speeds and an apparent gear whine around 40 mph that increases with vehicle speed. But the Acadia suffers its own noise — mostly road and tire noise, especially over bumps. When we totaled our scores, this category ended in a tie.

Head-to-Head_Murano-VS-Acadia_AC_10.jpg Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

Value for the Money

Winner: Murano

As tested, the Murano is $3,395 cheaper than the Acadia with near-Lexus RX levels of interior quality plus a glut of extra features: a power tilt and telescoping steering column, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats. The GMC lacked all of them.

Head-to-Head_Murano-VS-Acadia_AC_03.jpg Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

Results

Despite winning the crucial value category, the Murano lost or tied most of the others. The Acadia tallied 136 out of a possible 180 points and the Murano wasn’t far behind with 131 points.  Utility and drivability won the day for the Acadia, a more practical, family-friendlier SUV when it comes to pure utility and spaciousness. The Acadia’s better visibility and heavier tech — Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi — cemented the win.

Does the Acadia winning a head-to-head comparison with the Murano mean it could have won the overall $45,000 Midsize SUV Challenge? Not necessarily. This particular Acadia wouldn’t have qualified for the full-field Challenge, but the head-to-head results suggest that a two-row Acadia that did fit within our test parameters might have given the group a run for the money.

At minimum, midsize-SUV shoppers shouldn’t write off the new Acadia because of that third row. You can get one without it, and it’s a compelling choice at that.

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