2017 GMC Acadia first drive review

When GMC released the Acadia for the 2007 model year, it showed that the automaker was starting to get it. Instead of limiting families to large truck-based SUVs like the Yukon that could double as tow vehicles and break the family fuel budget, GMC, along with Saturn, Buick, and eventually Chevrolet, was finally offering a crossover that drove more like a car, went lighter on gas, and still had the interior space of a full-size SUV.

The Acadia proved to be quite a success, with sales rising steadily through the years to close to 100,000 units last year. For 2017, however, GMC is downsizing the Acadia, offering 4-cylinder power, and reducing the price by about $2,000. It’s a gamble to change a successful vehicle so drastically, but GMC feels it is aiming the Acadia closer to the mainstream. We traveled to Washington, D.C. to drive the new Acadia and determine if GMC is on the right track or at risk of downsizing sales as well.

MORE: Read our 2017 GMC Acadia review

The 2017 GMC Acadia uses a longer version of the modular C1XX platform that was introduced on the 2017 Cadillac XT5. Though it is larger than the XT5, the 2017 Acadia is 7.2 inches shorter than the model it replaces, its wheelbase is 6.4 inches shorter, and width is down by 3.5 inches. All told, it weighs up to 740 pounds less. GMC says 200 of those pounds are the result of the smaller size. Using different materials for the structure, including higher strength steels, reduced the weight by 280 pounds. Another 100 pounds came out through the use of lighter sound-deadening materials. Going with a 4-cylinder base engine saved some weight as well.

More maneuverable

Take seven inches of length and 740 pounds out of a vehicle and you are certainly going to improve the handling. The 2017 GMC Acadia is much easier to maneuver in tight spots and more responsive to driver inputs than the large, but pleasant model it replaces. There is still some lean in turns, but it’s less noticeable, and there is a slight bit of wobble at highway speeds, a result of the raised ride height.

Despite the weight loss, the Acadia feels a bit heavy when ordered with the V-6 model and all-wheel drive. It lightens up with front-drive and/or the 4-cylinder engine.

In any model, the steering is fairly direct, if light on road feel, and the available Sport mode makes it almost as heavy as you would find in a sports car. In Denalis with the optional Continuously Variable Ride Control system, that Sport mode also firms up the adjustable shocks. Even in the firmer setting, however, the ride is forgiving.

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