What's New for 2009
For 2009 the GMC Acadia gets a more powerful engine, Bluetooth connectivity, real-time traffic updates for the navigation system, available heated and cooled seats and a reshuffling of option packages.
As high fuel prices have prompted folks to be more realistic about their vehicle purchases, the sales of large truck-based SUVs have dropped while those of more space- and fuel-efficient crossovers, such as the 2009 GMC Acadia, have risen. Crazy as it sounds, Americans are finally realizing that perhaps they don't need something that can pull a house and handle the Rubicon trail. For the more common tasks of shuttling the kids around, hauling 48-count toilet paper boxes from Costco and negotiating winter driving conditions, the Acadia is just about perfect.
Along with its corporate cousins, the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and Saturn Outlook, the GMC Acadia has a unibody architecture (as opposed to heavier body-on-frame) which allows better handling, interior packaging and crashworthiness. The Acadia also has a powerful V6 engine and can be had in either front- or all-wheel-drive versions.
What makes the Acadia especially attractive is its optimal use of space. Yes, it's large, about the same size as a Yukon, but it provides a more accommodating third-row seat along with a serious amount of cargo space. And yet, in spite of the Acadia's generous proportions and the fact that it gets a more powerful (288 horsepower) engine this year, this big SUV (in front-drive form) posts respectable fuel mileage figures of 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined.
All things considered, the 2009 GMC Acadia is an easy family vehicle for us to recommend. Thanks to its well-rounded nature and handsome design, it has been the best-selling model of the GM cousins thus far. (The Traverse debuts this year.) Still, there are a few other large crossovers that may warrant your attention, such as the sporty Mazda CX-9 and redesigned Toyota Highlander.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
A full-size crossover SUV, the 2009 GMC Acadia is offered in three trims: base SLE-1 and uplevel SLT-1 and SLT-2. The SLE comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, eight-passenger seating, front and rear air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, OnStar telematics and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo system with satellite radio.
The SLT-1 package adds heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, leather seating with heated power front seats, second-row captain's chairs, triple-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and a Bose 10-speaker audio system with steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a six-disc CD changer. The line-topping SLT-2 adds remote vehicle start, rear park assist, a power rear liftgate, power lumbar supports for the front seats, a 115-volt power outlet and a rear cargo shade.
Both SLT models can also be had with eight-passenger seating, and many of the SLT-2's features are available on lesser models, too. Option highlights, available individually or through packages, include a DVD entertainment system, cooled seats, real-time traffic reporting, remote vehicle start, a rearview camera, a second-row console, a two-panel sunroof, 19-inch wheels, a head-up windshield instrument display, a navigation system, Dolby 5.1 surround sound and third-row audio controls.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 GMC Acadia can be had with either front-wheel drive or AWD. This year brings a new 3.6-liter V6 with direct injection that makes 288 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque, spread over a broad rpm range. It's matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. Though GMC has built its image around tough trucks, the AWD version of the Acadia is geared more for foul-weather driving than boulder-bashing. The system automatically varies the torque split from 90 percent front/10 percent rear to 35/65, respectively, as available traction dictates.
The front-drive 2009 Acadia has an EPA fuel economy estimate of 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. The AWD version rates just one mpg less. The Acadia's towing capacity, at 4,500 pounds when properly equipped, should be enough for most folks.
Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and the OnStar communications system.
In government crash tests, the Acadia was all aces, scoring five stars (out of five) in all frontal- and side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The attractive cabin boasts logical controls and mostly solid materials and build quality, though a few lower-grade plastic pieces can still be found. Thanks to its space-efficient design, the GMC Acadia provides large-sedan-like comfort for all passengers. A third-row seat is standard, and one may choose between seven- and eight-passenger configurations. The 60/40-split second-row bench allows eight to ride, while opting for the captain's chairs reduces capacity to seven. Additionally, access to that third row is eased by wide rear doors and a sliding second-row seat. Although taller folks in the way back may wish for more thigh support, the accommodations back there are much better than those of most crossovers or traditional SUVs.
Cargo capacity is abundant, with nearly 117 cubic feet available with all seats down, and a still-very-respectable 24 cubic feet behind the third-row seat if all are raised.
While the 2009 GMC Acadia isn't exactly an overgrown sport sedan, it's easy and pleasant to drive, especially considering the vehicle's size and 4,700-pound curb weight. Those planning on towing a trailer will want to consider the SLT versions, which feature variable-effort power steering to make quick work of maneuvering.
On the open road, we've found that the optional 19-inch wheels increase the crossover's bling factor, but they also compromise the Acadia's otherwise comfortable ride quality, turning it into a somewhat jarring experience that many target buyers won't enjoy. Our only other complaint regards the programming of the six-speed automatic, whose downshifts can be a bit lethargic unless prodded by a sharp boot to the gas.