Tuesday, June 12, 2012

2007 GMC Acadia Long Term Test Update (Part 2)

June 2012
By Ben Aghajanian, UpShift Contributing Editor

Every year, we attend the NCAA lacrosse championships on Memorial Day weekend. This time, it meant a 700-mile marathon drive from Ohio to New England. The Acadia was again chosen for this trip, for the comfort and space detailed in Part One.

Fuel economy for the majority of the trip out came in around 22mpg, which is better than it has been achieving lately but still below the original EPA estimate of 24mpg despite cruising mostly around 70mph. Drivers among the 4 travelers rotated and I spent about 5 of the 11 hours behind the wheel on the drive out.

Driving impressions: I noticed that the range readout on the driver’s information cluster seems to have a mind of its own. At one point I drove at steady highway speeds for about 20 miles and it went from 424 miles to empty to 428 miles to empty…go figure. On the other hand, the average fuel economy displayed seems to be quite close to actual hand calculations.

As I wrote in my first review, this car is seriously comfortable to drive for hundreds of miles. The steering wheel sits at a nice angle and the secondary controls for the stereo and cruise control are backlit, unlike those on my Accord. The mute button is a nice touch as well. The armrests aren’t extra plush but padding is good, better than most cars. The sliding center console fits both shorter and taller drivers well. GMC could’ve used nicer dashboard and door plastics though for a car that stickers over $40,000.

I noticed something new about the transmission’s responsiveness on this trip, as well. It seems to shift significantly faster (and equally as smooth) at partial throttle than when it is punched to the floor and shifting past 6,000rpm. This doesn’t present any issues in 90% of everyday driving, but when you are trying to merge onto a 70mph highway off of a 25mph (or slower!) onramp, which are present all over Massachusetts, it’s less than ideal. Passing on the highway at speeds between 45 and 65mph or so also seems to fall within the weaker part of the Acadia’s powerband, as grunt is lacking between 3,500 and 5,000 rpm, which seems to be at odds with most other OHC-engine cars I’ve driven. I also felt pulsating in the steering wheel during some hard braking, so the brakes (rear, perhaps?) could be due for a swap at 66,000 miles.

The heads-up display continues to be a nice touch that is class-exclusive as far as I know. We spent downtime during the trip staying on Cape Cod and it was quite foggy several evenings. I was reminded how fantastic the high beams are on this car—the range and brightness are far better than almost anything else I’ve driven.

Back-seat impressions: Roadtrip tip-Steven Seagal movies pass the time in excellent fashion. I recommend Above the Law costarring Sharon Stone in a minor role. The rear captain’s chairs with decent padding and very good support make for pretty pleasant traveling, and allow a lot of floor space for, well, anything. Cupholders are also everywhere. Last summer, it gave the dog tons of room to snooze for hours, and on this trip (ongoing currently) there is plenty of room for a couple backpacks, snacks, a portable DVD player, and a box of electronic gadgets. The rear A/C works admirably on a 90-degree day and the ability to turn off the rear speakers is nice, too.

The one drawback that I see is mainly based on the fact that I’ve sat in the backseat of a Ford Flex, which is, quite literally, cavernous. The floor is scooped out (lower than the Acadia) and so there is lots of legroom. I believe the same is true in the new Explorer. Because of this, however, the Flex has less ground clearance-important to note if you spend any time driving on rugged forest service or dirt access roads.

Handling note: I had the pleasure of riding in a second generation Honda Pilot (yes, the funny looking one) recently on a skiing trip. While the Acadia rides on flashy, 19-inch wheels and big, touring tires, the Pilot is shod with 17’s and a more traditional truck tire. While both are crossovers, they are essentially used by many in the same manner as body-on-frame predecessors and truck/SUV tires seem to handle the mass and suspension tuning more competently.

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