Battle for the Middle Ground

August 26, Whistler, BC — Consider the names Acadia, Denali and All Terrain. Acadia is in Nova Scotia (at least it was, until the British ethnically cleansed them in the mid-18th century) and Denali is in Alaska. Nova Scotia to Denali is about 5,000km as the SUV drives but All Terrain? That’s whatever’s not covered by water.

Clearly GMC wants to cover a lot of territory in the market.

They openly admit it. GMC is driving hard bargains to compete in the mid-size SUV market in the $35k to $48k range because that’s the sweet spot of a massive SUV-buying public shops. It’s the middle of the middle.

Google 2017 GMC Acadia Canadian first drive (after reading and sharing this article). You’ll see lots of photos of this smartly sculpted midsized SUV, rethought from grill to gate, posed amid the pristine mountains surrounding British California.

That’s where we just tested the first 2017 Acadias off the line.

It’s also the vision most Canadians want when they think of their vehicle — a lithe, outdoorsy hunter-gatherer — even though over 80 percent of us live in cities now. We’re buying more SUVs than ever before and more SUVs than cars — even though our cities are clogged.

And the Acadia is working hard to please middle-of-the-road Canadians.

GMC wants almost to double sales of the sweet-spot Acadia over last year, from 26 to 48 percent. So they’ve taken a $2,000 haircut off the 2016 average transaction price from $42k to $40k. But to grow sales that radically they needed to sweeten the deal beyond price. So if you want an SUV, and statistically speaking the odds are good that you do (even if you didn’t know it) what do you want with it?

GMC did some research and is hoping to sway you with these.

  • All-wheel drive. That one’s obvious. Canadians love to tell each other how much they need AWD for safety in our climate. But according to an article in the most recent Walrus magazine, SUV drivers think they’re safer, so they drive more recklessly. Of course, this isn’t about what those middle-of-the-road shoppers need, it’s what they want. The lowest priced Acadia, the SLE FWD, costs $34,995, but you can get AWD starting at $37,995. Its convenient dial at hand level allows quick switching between two- and four-wheel drive modes.

    Better still, the Acadia All Terrain has an advanced AWD with active twin clutch that can send different amounts of power to each rear wheel. It’s great for scree and sand — not a big deal in cities when you’re stuck in traffic but highly useful those people who may actually visit the mountains.

  • Cargo space: We’ve become a nation of packrats. The Acadia offers 5/6/7 seating capacity and rear seats that fold flat in an extensive number of combinations. The second row slides cleverly back and forth, allowing access to the back without completely flattening the middle seats. The back row offers almost no legroom and your knees ride up around your chin unless you’re not in a booster seat, but this is about cargo space.
  • Bling and comfort: The Acadia All Terrain and Denali are well appointed with quality accents, including plenty of leather and wood. Those who may still be inserting booster seats, will notice it’s easier to get in and out of both back rows.
  • Fortitude and adrenaline beneath the hood: For the value-conscious and those who spend most of their driving lives waiting bored in urban construction zones, the SLE’s engine is a 2.5L four-cylinder DI that delivers an estimated fuel efficiency of 9.2L/100km on the highway and, more important, 11 in the city. But for the adventurous mountaineers and slightly better heeled, GMC offers a hefty 3.6 V-6 in other trims, capable of rendering 310hp and 13/11.3 city/highway litres per 100km.

Yes, those are rather good fuel economy numbers for an SUV. The Acadia is redesigned for 2017 and its engineers managed to subtract bulimic 728 pounds from the base 2016 model.

On-roading in the city, a ‘mid-size’ SUV is still pretty big.

At 4917.44mm long, 1915.16mm wide and 1776.4mm high, an Acadia is plenty of automobile for the middle of the middle of the market. The manufacturers quietly accommodate our realities. Yesterday morning, after 18 hours of climbing mountains and fording streams in different Acadias, two other writers and I went for bubble tea in Richmond before dropping a gutsy Denali off at the airport.

“Ugh,” I said to them just afterwards. “We should’ve photographed the Acadia in the parking lot. That’s the reality of middle-of-the-road Canadian living.” It was ugly driving there, so none of us thought to pull out his camera. Despite BC’s reputation as a wide-open frontier, the reality is Vancouver has the worst traffic in Canada. (According to [try saying three times fast] it’s even worse than New York.) In a lot that accommodated maybe 40 cars, at least two or three vehicles were continually circling, like predator sharks, waiting to snap up an available space. A feeding frenzy was eminent. The rearview camera made the parking job far less hazardous. GMC wisely included it, standard.

You may not need it out in the mountains, but it’s very busy in the middle of road.

  • Acadia SLE FWD – $34,995
  • Acadia SLE AWD – $37,995
  • Acadia SLT AWD – $47,295
  • Acadia All Terrain AWD – $49,390
  • Acadia Denali AWD – $54,695

Plus a destination freight charge of $1,700.

GM Newsroom.

This is a test