GMC Acadia/ Saturn Outlook/ Buick

Enclave: Best GM SUV

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This is the best General Motors SUV. It does everything better except perhaps tow, and is fairly economical for such a long, heavy, and wide vehicle. Although we don’t recommend SUVs of this size due to the potential problems they have with poor fuel mileage, rollovers, and higher insurance and maintenance, and maneuverability. That being said, the Acadia and its sisters in the form of the Buick Enclave and Saturn Outlook are the new breed of more Earth friendly SUVs. Prices start above $30,000 so make sure that the equally competent Chevrolet Equinox, which is smaller, but more nimble, won’t fill the bill just as well and for a lot less money.

The only negative we found was the tendency for the rear to hop a bit over bumps. This was a very new version and we believe that the final suspension will be adjusted for these sideways slips. Other than that this was a good ride and a good-looking one as well. Many people stopped and asked us about this model. Something no other SUV has ever generated in terms of interest.

Mom’s view: General Motors is bringing out a new line of large crossover SUVs to instill some spirit in sagging sales. After a week with the GMC Acadia we came away impressed. Unfortunately, we also had some concerns. Regardless, this is a much better vehicle for most everything and the best GM has brought to the table in years. It has more interior room, a better ride, and is more flexible. Only the lack of a more powerful V8 makes it a jack of all trades for this fast disappearing category of vehicles as sales continue to be static or decline due to the relentless rise in fuel costs attributed to everything from a fire in a distant refinery to the winter/summer change over. Regardless, petroleum company profits are at record levels thanks to those who don’t care how much gas their vehicle is using. Owners of the Acadia and its GM sisters needn’t be too concerned with 18 to 24 mpg predicted by the EPA. We got 18 mpg and it seats eight.

The Acadia was difficult to park and so I would go with the parking assist for sure. The Acadia is high, wide, and low with a snow plowish front air dam that is sure to be damaged should anyone truly go off road with this GMC. Visibility to the rear is poor, but okay to the sides and front. Added to that is the fact that the optional DVD screen for the second row blocks what little view to the rear that you have. The wide A pillars do hide pedestrians so beware when making right hand turns at intersections. You can order a two wheel or all wheel drive model and get 18 or 19-inch rims. Be warned that it is a fairly big step up and with the wide opening door getting in and out while wearing a dress requires some planning.

Highway and smooth surface streets are the Acadia favorite, but the SUV is said to be capable of going off road to some extent. With a vehicle this large and with a price tag over $40,000 we were reluctant to try the rough stuff. Suffice to say that the wide body and low clearance would make it a handful in tight terrain. The size of the Acadia made parking at malls a little worrisome. The turning radius is fairly large at 40 plus feet and the length of the GMC, over a foot longer than a Honda Pilot, had me making three point maneuvers to tuck its fanny into a place.

The gauges are easy to discern and the optional head-up display that projects your speed, radio station, and other functions on the bottom of the windshield are a good idea as the Acadia easily goes well over the speed limit with little warning. It is a quiet vehicle. The stereo controls are all push buttons that means that those with long fingernails need to practice, but at least the controls are easy to reach. Actually, there are too many small buttons. Bring back rotary dials.  The plastic trim is nice and you don’t feel like you are in a cheap vehicle, which you are definitely not. I had little problem lowering the back seats and the interior storage was excellent. As for the interior door handles, they just aren’t right. I have no idea how they are going to used when wearing gloves or for those with large hands.

A nice job all the way around, the Acadia’s is a nice compromise and certainly family friendly. Hopefully, this is a turnaround vehicle for General Motors. Now lose that big GMC emblem in the front grill and give me adjustable pedals. And, thanks for that 22-gallon fuel tank with nearly 400 miles possible.

Dad’s view: Based on the new Lambda crossover platform, the Acadia is in essence of high minivan for those that don’t like to be seen driving these family oriented vehicles. It is a good move by General Motors because Asian based manufactures and the smooth handling Dodge-Chrysler vans dominated the minivan market. I believe they are going to sell many more Acadias than they have minivans.

The Acadia comes in either SLE-1, SLT-1 and SLT-2 powered by a smooth 3.6-liter V6 engine that sends 275 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque to a very busy six-speed automatic transmission. Available in either front or wheel drive, the Acadia is capable of getting to 60 mph in about 10 seconds. It really could benefit form another twenty pounds of torque, but that would cut into the fairly good gas mileage. Initial acceleration is better than the passing speed performance due to the gearing and the hesitant transmission that prefers to say in a higher gear. You need to press firmly on the petrol pedal to get a reaction at times.

Braking is adequate, but you still feel that forward lean when you hit the brakes hard due to its softly sprung suspension that is a compromise between off road and highway. I would really like a firmer suspension and more feel from the brake pedal, but most SUV fans will most likely find the Acadia’s ride familiar.

There is clearly not much competition in this category. Our favorite, the Honda Pilot just hasn’t the room of the Acadia and the others offer little new outside of the Suzuki XL-7. The towing capacity of 4500 is good enough for most needs, but you must go to a body on frame pick-up of gas hoggish SUV to get into the 10,000 pound range. I think the Acadia is a nice compromise, if a bit relaxed in its performance.

Working woman’s view: Too big for me, but might appeal to those who need the room of a minivan and like the higher seating position. There is plenty of safety equipment including ABS and an antiskid system, rollover sensors, traction control for front wheel drive models, front side airbags and curtain side airbags that cover all seating rows and deploy in rollovers. Options are the must have rear obstacle detection and such other not so necessary items as a remote engine start, DVD entertainment center, leather, heated front seats, and a sunroof on some models. Really, the Acadia comes standard with just about everything you need including cruise control, power door locks and mirrors, front and rear air-conditioning, disc brakes, a six-speaker system with an in-dash CD player with MP3 playback and a Bose unit on the upscale SLT-1 and SLT-2 models.  I found even with the dual zone air-conditioning it was slow to cool down the large interior, but the optional heated seats made up for this.

College going male’s view: This is a big vehicle. It looks, feels, and drives big. The interior is spacious as well and fairly quiet for a SUV. Bumps and road irregularities make the rear suspension wavier, but overall a nice ride. I question the need for all wheel drive in a vehicle of this weight, but some people like to have the extra burden, I mean benefit, of all wheel drive. The six-cylinder engine has its hands full with the Acadia and it lets you know with a low growl. The transmission can be felt working overtime when the Acadia is loaded and you are going uphill. Nevertheless, in daily driving it was worthy.

I especially liked the head and legroom. It is abundant, especially with the second row captains’ chairs. The doors open wide and the second row seats not only tilt, but also slide forward making getting into the third seat fairly easy for a SUV. Don’t expect adults to like to sit in the rear seats and you are going to find toe room at a premium. The cargo room is excellent. And, there is a under floor bin as well and many other small places to store items. The entertainment center with the wireless headphones work well, but there really needs to be a place to put the headphones when not in use. Handing them from the seat pockets isn’t a good idea. It is fairly easy to run the system, but the third row passengers aren’t going to be able to see the screen very well. The optional power tailgate is necessary if you are short because it is a climb to reach the rear hatch if you are short.

Visibility to the rear is just a squint, so order the rear obstacle detection system. Actually, all large SUVs should have this. The seats and steering wheel have good adjustments, but the bottom cushions seem to long. Heating and cooling are average and it takes a while before you get the large interior to a temperate climate on extreme days. Other than that this is a good vehicle, but the as tested price of $46,000 plus was a bit intimidating. Of course our test Acadia was well loaded.

Family conference: This is a step in the right direction for General Motors. Although we personally don’t like SUVs this is probably the best you are going to find that has the gas mileage, cargo capacity, and people carrying ability. It is clearly better than the Toyota Sequoia, Honda Pilot, and Ford Explorer in that regard. For a complete list of vehicle websites go to and click on business.