Resized for the 2nd generation, the 2018 GMC Acadia is a ‘just right’ midsize 3 row crossover that straddles rental car categories.
Car Class: Enterprise/National/Alamo: Standard SUV; Avis/Budget: Full Size SUV
Availability: All major rental car agencies
Alternatives: Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Kia Sorento, Nissan Murano
|Drive off||Walk away|
|Roomy cabin||Middling acceleration even in V6 models|
|Easy to use controls||Questionable fit and finish|
|Well-damped ride||Weak headlights|
As one of GM’s original Lambda quadruplets, the GMC Acadia was introduced almost a decade ago as the replacement for the discontinued minivans in the company’s portfolio. Stretching over 200 inches in length, the first generation Acadia was a lengthy beast and dwarfed over other 7-seat crossovers. While the extra length afforded more passenger space, fuel economy and maneuverability lacked behind its competitors. For 2016, GM decided to put the Acadia on a diet. Shaving over 700 pounds and over 7-inches in length, the new Acadia slots right in the meat of the segment. Now that the size is right, join us as we take the 2018 GMC Acadia SLE AWD out for a spin.
Base Acadias are powered by an anemic 2.5L 4-cylinder engine producing 193 horsepower and 188 lb-ft of torque. Optional on the SLE-1 trim and standard on all other trims is the venerable 3.6L direct injection V6 engine making 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, acceleration in our V6 rental is adequate at best. We found ourselves looking for more power, especially when merging onto highways. Given the meager performance of the up-level engine, we would strongly recommend avoiding Acadias equipped with the base 4-cylinder engine. Despite being equipped with fuel saving technologies such as cylinder deactivation and direct injection, fuel economy (12.5L/100km) is only average for the class. Drivers looking to conserve fuel can decouple the rear axle by selecting two-wheel drive using the rotary drive mode selector. Just be aware that unlike other four-wheel drive systems, the Acadia in this mode will NOT send power to the rear even when the front wheels are slipping.
On the road, the 18-inch wheels and fully independent suspension does a remarkable job soaking up the bumps on the road. Higher SLT and Denali trims feature bigger 20-inch wheels and lower profile tires that may reduce ride comfort, but we will reserve final judgment until we get a chance to drive those models. Riding on the same platform as the Cadillac XT5, the Acadia benefits from a quiet cabin under most conditions, with only engine noise making its way into the interior under heavy acceleration. In the light of day, these attributes makes the Acadia a great highway cruiser. However, once the sun sets, the middling performance of the headlights makes seeing the road ahead a challenge. Often times we thought that our headlights were off, only to turn on the high beams and annoy oncoming traffic. Bi-xenon headlights are available on higher trims, but unfortunately most Acadias on rental lots will be equipped with halogen units.
Aside from the front lighting, visibility around the Acadia is acceptable. The taller ride height and large windows afford a good view out of the front and sides. On the other hand, the thick A-pillars and lack of a front quarter window do create blindspots that can conceal pedestrians when making turns. Looking back, the third row headrests do block a substantial portion of the view rearward. Thankfully, they can be folded down and a back up camera is standard on all trims.
Comfort and Convenience
As the second trim up from the base, standard features on our SLE-2 rental includes a 7-inch Intellilink infotainment system with Apple Carplay, Android Auto and 5 USB ports, tri-zone automatic climate control, proximity key with push button start, heated cloth 8-way power adjustable driver seat (4-way manual for the front passenger), sliding and reclining 2nd row captain’s chairs and a power liftgate. Active safety features such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, lane keep assist and blindspot monitoring are only available in packages on the SLE-2 and higher trims. Unfortunately, most rental Acadias that we have spotted are not equipped with these important safety features. That said, all Acadias do come standard with a class-exclusive centre front seat side airbag designed for additional protection during moderate to severe side impacts.
Over the past number of years, GM has made significant strides in interior design and the Acadia is no exception. Soft touch materials cover most of the dashboard and door panels (both front and rear). Look elsewhere, however, and things start to go downhill. While we appreciate the effort to add contrast to the otherwise drab cabin, the plastic wood applique are among the least convincing we have ever seen. Likewise, fit and finish seem to be an issue, at least in our rental with more than 50000 kilometres on the odometer. Whenever we drive over the slightest road imperfections, a rattle in the rear door panel can be heard. Even after removing all loose items in the door pockets, the same rattle can be heard, which led us to believe it is most likely coming from a loose trim piece. Despite being well-used, the cloth seats in our rental remain surprisingly supportive during longer drives. However, we did find the seat height adjustment to be lacking. For someone that is 6 ft tall, we wished the seat could have moved even higher. Renters who are of a shorter stature may want to try the seats before driving off the rental lot.
Heated front seats are standard on our SLE-2 trim rental and they can be set to turn on automatically based on the ambient temperature. Regrettably, renters looking for a heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats are out of the luck as these features are only found on the top of the line Denali trim, a rarity on the rental lots.
Ease of Use
As a departure from the upper trims which feature GMC’s excellent Intellilink infotainment system with a 8-inch centre touchscreen, our SLE-1 trim rental is equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen. Essentially having the same functionality of the bigger touchscreen albeit with simpler graphics, the 7-inch touchscreen is responsive and simple to use. However, owing to the smaller real estate, some of the on screen selections can be hard to tap at first glance and require taking our eyes off the road. Moving below from the screen, a set of buttons and knob provide volume, tuning and direct access to the home and phone screens. A media or radio button would be nice, but alas, we can’t have everything. One thing that we do have to commend GM is the abundance of USB charging ports in their vehicles. Across 3 rows, we counted a total of 5 USB ports, including 1 in the 3rd row. Renters should have absolutely no problem finding power for their mobile devices.
While most vehicles have gone to colour screens in the gauge cluster, our Acadia continues with a 3.5-inch monochromatic display providing trip, fuel economy and other essential vehicle information. Granted, the display works as intended and navigating through the limited menus are easy using the D-pad on the steering wheel, but more visual interest would be appreciated. Controlling the automatic transmission is a traditional PRNDL shifter that we all love. There are just some things that are best the way it is.
Available in either 5-, 6- or 7-seat versions, our Acadia is fitted with 6-seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. Legroom in the first and second row are generous. Even with a 6 ft driver up front, rear seat occupants have enough legroom to stretch out. Adding to the versatility is sliding and reclining rear seats that allow space to be apportioned more equitably. Similar to most other midsize 3 row crossovers, the last row of the Acadia is best left for children or smaller adults. That said, access is relatively easy with 2nd row seats that can tilt and slide forward even with a child seat in place to create a sizeable opening. Once back there, headroom is adequate and legroom with the 2nd row seats moved slightly forward is bearable for shorter trips. To enhance comfort, third row passengers have access to a single USB port and cupholders.
With all seats in place, cargo space in the Acadia is a paltry 13 cubic feet of space. Fold down the 3rd row of seats and the space expands to a respectable 42 cubic feet. For maximum cargo carrying capacity, the 2nd row of seats can be folded flat to create 79 cubic feet of space. While competitive with the rest of the standard SUV class, renters looking to fit 6 or 7 passengers and their luggage should direct their attention to a minivan or a full size SUV such as the GMC Yukon XL.
During our time with the 2018 GMC Acadia, we struggled to find an aspect of the vehicle that made it standout with in the highly competitive midsize segment. Perhaps when GM shrunk the Acadia to be right in line with the rest of the segment, they also made everything else ‘just right’. The ride and handling is fine, the interior looks and works for the most part and interior space is adequate. Nonetheless, for a vehicle classified as a Standard SUV at Enterprise/National/Alamo, the Acadia remains one of the few options that offer a 3rd row of seats, the other notable options being the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe XL. As such, renters who need the extra seats and but do not want to upgrade to the next vehicle category should put this vehicle near or at the top of their list.
Avis/Budget: Classified as a Full Size SUV, all GMC Acadias with Avis/Budget in Canada are of the SLE-2 trims with the optional dual pane sunroof, 8-inch centre touchscreen infotainment and Bose premium sound. Compared with other vehicles in its category such as the Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer and Volkswagen Atlas, the GMC Acadia offers less interior room, cargo space and feature content. Renters should request and consider the alternatives before making a decision.
Enterprise/National/Alamo: Similar to our rental, Enterprise/National/Alamo offers the GMC Acadia in SLE-2 trim with no options. While not as well-equipped as other vehicles in its class (think Ford Edge Sport), the Acadia is one of the few models that offer more than 5 seats.
Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty: Oddly enough, we have yet to spot any GMC Acadias in the rental lots of Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty in Canada.