People fail to realize the practicality of the minivan. The original 1984 Dodge Caravan displayed the most efficient way to transport the whole family and we were enamored by it. Sadly, that period of time ended and the vehicle became a stereotype for the suburbs, “settling down” and all the terms that Gen X’ers despised. Enter the SUV. Sure it was thirstier and heavier, but it was rugged and modern. It even came in an Eddie Bauer trim so you could play the part of an adventurer as you made the trek to your cubicle, slowly settling into the life you’d been desperately trying to avoid. After a couple presidents named Bush, a black man in the Oval Office, and one hell of a recession, we killed off the thirsty SUV and birthed a revolutionary new automobile. This crossover, or CUV, would look similar to our beloved SUV, but would instead utilize a car platform to transport seven people. If this sounds like a minivan, it’s because it is a minivan.
GM was early to embrace the CUV and launch the fearsome four – the Saturn Outlook, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse. Each of these vehicles was lower, rounder, and slightly more efficient than the larger truck-based offerings. We even tested the GMC Acadia Denali and found it to be perfectly adequate for hauling people and all of their stuff on long trips. But the vehicle still felt heavy and was light on utility. It lacked pulling power from the V6 and wasn’t particularly capable on or off-road. Thankfully, a new Acadia is here with less bloat and more refinement, could this be the perfect blend of SUV capability and minivan efficiency?
In a world where every crossover and SUV is getting larger and larger, the new Acadia actually shrinks compared to the outgoing model. The 2018 GMC Acadia is around 7 inches shorter than the older, bloated model. This moves the vehicle squarely in the midsize SUV market and reduces both third-row legroom and rear cargo space. GM also used advanced adhesives combined with thinner steel to drop the Acadia 700 pounds. The weight savings and more compact size result in a completely different driving dynamic. Gone is the large, cumbersome, minivan felling and in its place is something that starts to resemble the truck-like aspects of something like the classic GMC Jimmy. But don’t worry, this modern CUV retains all of the comfort and refinement you would expect from a $48,435 vehicle. For that price, our Acadia was outfitted with the All Terrain package that added an Advanced AWD system, hill descent control, and gorgeous black and Kalahari brown leather seats with the “All Terrain” logo embroidered in the headrest.
Stepping towards this new GMC, you notice the rich gray — and slightly purple — color of the Iridium Metallic paint and how it pairs with the gunmetal color on the front grille and 20″ wheels. Once inside, you and the family can knock the mud off your shoes on the optional all-weather floor and cargo mats that our tester was equipped with. Despite the interior size decrease, the optional dual skyscape sunroof opens up the cabin and you never feel cramped. The third-row was never great for adults and is now perhaps best for only the smallest of children. Cargo room is great for this midsize SUV class and the overall utility with the seats down could give the ol’ Caravan a run for its money.
On the road, the 3.6L V6 pulls hard, with 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft, through the 6-speed automatic and the reduced weight removes any sensation of drivetrain power loss you may feel with the AWD. The general steering feel and handling are much better as the older model felt as big as a Yukon, without the power or utility of a true full-size SUV. Unlike the mighty Yukon, this Acadia will actually see highway miles per gallon in the mid-twenties. During our test we averaged just about 23 MPG with mostly highway driving and some stop-n-go traffic. Overall, the 2018 GMC Acadia is showing that we are headed back to the ultimate utility of the minivan, without the negative stigma. It features a lightweight chassis, more efficient motor with adequate power, and enough space for all your family and cargo. If only we had thought of this solution 30 years ago!