Holden Acadia review: Six-gun SUV salvo
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When thinking about adding a more urbane large SUV to the lineup to accompany the existing Trailblazer tough truck, Holden thought big.
The result is the addition of the made-in-Tennessee Acadia to its range, and the contrast between what the Americans might consider a “medium-sized crossover for soccer mums” with Holden’s other rugged seven-seat Colorado ute-based large SUV is a stark one.
Acadia is smooth in its ride and delivery, petrol-powered, and appears to possess only enough ground clearance to clamber over the average roadside curb.
Any sticker hinting of off-road prowess placed on the back window of the Acadia will possibly cause the huntin’ and fishin’ fraternity to soil their undercrackers with laughter. However, if your adventures are more comfort- and convenience-focused, Acadia packs plenty of potential to be a sweet n’ spacious ride to the bach, cafe, school ball, skifield or the office.
It’s also arguably the most technically advanced vehicle yet to wear the leonine Holden badge.
The Acadia mixes a ZB Commodore-sourced V6 engine and nine-speed automatic gearbox with the rest of the adaptive-4wd powertrain (available on three models) taken from the other Buick SUV in Holden showrooms – Equinox.
If that sounds like a parts bin special, rest assured that it gels together well, and delivers a driving experience that is just as refined as that of a V6 Commodore.
The jiggly ride of the Equinox is thankfully absent thanks to the more generous movements of the Acadia’s suspension. If you haven’t driven a ZB, you should — it’s one of the most resolved sedan/wagon ranges on the market.
So this is more than an SUV; it’s also an alternative to what was once Australia’s favourite car. Acadia’s lead development engineer, Tony Metaxas, hails his new baby as a “new flagship family car for Holden”.
Yet when I asked Holden NZ managing director, Mark Ebolo, whether the Acadia will outsell the ZB Commodore by the end of 2019, he confirmed that such an outcome was unlikely. It seems there’s still some new stuff to come for the Commodore, like more exciting colours and trim than the current fleet-friendly orientation, that’ll keep the sedans and wagons leading the pride.
“I expect that the Commodore Tourer (a higher-riding version of the ZB wagon) has a big part to play as part of our SUV line-up,” says Ebolo.
Back to the latest addition to that range. Acadia comes in six forms — three all-wheel drive and three front-wheel drive. There’s three specification grades — LT, LTZ, and LTZ-V — and you can buy the front-drive version of the LT straight off the floor, while front-drive versions of the LTZ and LTZ-V are available to special order only. It’s the pricing that’ll instantly grab the attention of those selling the Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander and Hyundai Santa Fe.
That front-drive LT fires the first shot at those competitors with its $49,990 sticker. By the time you get the $71,990 LTZ-V AWD model at the top of the Acadia range, Holden NZ will have fired a six-gun salvo across the bows of the large SUV segment. The alpha Acadia model is more than ten grand cheaper than the top Santa Fe, and competes dollar-for-dollar with the Highlander Limited.
With the Holden 3.6-litre V6 developing 231kW of power and 367Nm of force, an Acadia is adept at overtaking. GM’s 9T65 gearbox is a superbly clever processor of those engine outputs, and comes with modes that adjust the shift protocols for extra performance, towing or simply wafting along while burning as little fuel as possible. Evidently, a 2wd Acadia can sip at a rate of 8.9litres/100km, while driving all four wheels raises that fuel usage to a 9.3l/100km minimum.
That said, all-paw Acadia models do allow their drivers to select a front-drive mode that instantly stops any unnecessary spinning of the driveshaft serving the rear differential and further fuel savings are enhanced by the cylinder deactivation system on the V6 engine. The powertrain can also adjust the front-to-rear torque delivery, with a performance mode allocating more drive to the rear tyres for a more engaging chassis balance. Selection of that mode adds extra heft to the steering action, and provides more body roll control for a flatter cornering attitude via the Flexi-ride adaptive damping system fitted to LTZ-V models.
That LTZ-V AWD model was the first Acadia I got to drive at the launch, and the adaptive damping and 20” wheels fitted with lower-profile tyres made their presence felt. The model with the red V on its flanks is definitely the large Holden SUV to buy if you enjoy a good fang down our winding back-roads, even though the steering isn’t exactly talkative when it comes to road surface feedback. If your destination of choice lurks in hilly terrain, it’s probably worth paying the premium for the LTZ-V just for its potential to prevent the kids getting car sick.
The $59,990 Acadia LTZ AWD I drove next was noticeably more roly-poly on its 18” alloys and analogue dampers, and the more exaggerated weight transfer while cornering triggered the stability control a little too regularly.
The all-wheel-drive Acadia LTZ sits close to the $62,990 Trailblazer LTZ in price, and my inner adventurer kept reminding me that you get 1000kg more tow and an a heap more off-road ability with the Colorado-based Holden SUV. Provided, that is, you’re willing to forgo a few of the Acadia’s new safety and driver-assistance tricks.
Last Acadia on the drive was the front-wheel driven LT and it provided the second-best drive of the day. Getting into an entry-point model at the end of a long day isn’t the preferred operating mode of this scribe, yet that LT felt engaging and biddable, presumably because of all the hardware that it was no longer carting. Lower mass has definitely its place, even in the large SUV segment where bigger is always perceived as better.
The base LT specification also enjoys all the new safety/driver assistance technology of the other Acadia models, with the exception of auto-park and front park assist. That means you get the 360-degree camera that offers up to 17 variations of the screen view (including a trailer hitch guidance view), the lateral impact avoidance system that’ll help prevent you from knocking down a filtering motorcycle when you change lanes on a congested motorway, and the Holden Eye — an imminent collision warning system that’s one of the best in cardom and future-proofs the Acadia for further autonomous driving upgrades. The latter is one of the keys to Acadia being able to identify pedestrians and cyclists, and automatically apply the brakes at urban speeds if required.