2018 GMC Acadia handles with style and ease

By Peter A. Hubbard and Joe Rutland


(June 9, 2018) If you’re in the market for a three-row SUV and have not yet test driven the 2018 GMC Acadia, we recommend you add it to your “must try” shopping list before you buy.  This GMC really is quite special. It handles everything from steep hills to wet roads with style and ease.  

The Acadia may not be the largest midsize SVU on the market, but its taut muscular styling, trim proportions and lighter weight make it one of the segment’s more enjoyable SUVs to drive. Not only is driving the GMC Acadia enjoyable, it clearly holds its own when compared to other mid-sized SUVs on the market. 

Its smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic moves seamlessly from gear to gear, running comfortably at 65 mph, then responding quickly to the throttle when more “oomph” is required to pass slower traffic, or navigate steep grades. It certainly helped that our test unit was the nimble AWD SLT version, equipped with a 310-horsepower V-6. 

Not only is it great on the open road, the GMC Acadia’s small turning radius also allows outstanding maneuverability in tight parking lots. 

The Acadia’s rigid platform and Cadillac CT6-derived suspension provide the Acadia with smooth and competent handling skills, giving it a leg up over competitors like the Honda Pilot or Nissan Pathfinder. The premium Denali models offer GM’s Continuously Variable Ride Control, which further improves the Acadia’s handling on twisting roads and gives added ride comfort when traveling long stretches on Interstate highways.

Like many of the newer models, our GMC Acadia has an available heated steering wheel. During our time behind the wheel, there were a couple of cool mornings where we really appreciated that feature. Having the ability to “heat it up” when I put my hands on the steering wheel was most welcome.


Two naturally aspirated engines are offered, both backed by a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic. A new 2.5-liter 4-cylinder delivering 194 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque is the only powerplant offered in the base FWD-only SL, and comes standard in the SLE-1/SLE-2/SLT-1 models.  It’s also the first GMC engine to feature Start/Stop technology, which allows FWD Acadia models to boast an EPA estimated 21-mpg in city traffic and 26-mpg highway. 

And there’s no penalty for the AWD Acadias, which garner a nearly identical 21/25-mpg rating. 

Our AWD SLT test drive unit came with the 3.6-liter V6, which is optional on all SLE and SLT-1 models, and standard on SLT-2 and Denali units. It generates considerably more power, cranking out 310 horses and providing 271 lb.-ft. of torque. 

Boosting economy numbers for the V-6 is GMC’s Active Fuel Management system that turns it into a V-4 under lighter loads. It nets the Acadia an estimated 18/25 mpg for city/highway EPA numbers in both FWD and AWD, while upping the SUV’s maximum tow rate from 1,000 up to 4,000 pounds.

So if you’re concerned about gas usage with this mid-sized SUV, rest easy friends. The ability of the GMC Acadia to deftly handle itself kept the gas tank in good shape during our one-week extended test drive.


GM’s recent re-skin provides the 2018 GMC Acadia with a more sophisticated, yet substantial look that moves it over into the “contemporary crossover” category as opposed to the truck-like “conventional SUV” club, characterized by the likes of the Toyota 4Runner. 

GMC’s corporate design cues carry over handsomely into the Acadia’s grille, fascia treatments, fender arches and other details. Its bodywork is more aerodynamic, featuring rounder contours and an A-pillar and windshield with a steeper rake.

The premium Denali version amps up the curb appeal by providing some distinctive lighting treatments, shiny 20-inch alloy wheels and an extra dose of brightwork. And the new All-Terrain version signifies its adventurous character with black chrome accents and dark-tint 18-inch or 20-inch rims.

The GMC Acadia is offered in SL, SLE (SLE-1 and SLE-2 trims), SLT (SLT-1 and SLT-2 trims) All-Terrain and Denali models. The AWD configuration is not available on the entry-level SL version. The up-level SLE and SLT models feature a more distinctive body-color grille surround, dark trim, and unique wheels.

Looking at the spec sheet, the Acadia rides on a wheelbase at 112.5-inch wheelbase and boasts overall length of 193.6 inches. Width measure 75.4 inches and overall height is 66 inches. Curb weight rings in at 3,956 pounds, and the EPA passenger volume is 143.8 cu. ft.

†The 2018 Acadia’s cabin boasts a pleasing and upscale flair, assisted by an ergonomic design that includes soft-touch surfaces, upgraded trim and noise cancellation. Despite a wheelbase (112.5 inches) that now matches GMC’s compact Terrain model, the Acadia’s design still allows for three rows of seats that provide adequate comfort — even in the “way back.”  The second row — a 60-40 bench or chairs — offers an upgraded Smart Slide system for easier access to the 50/50 third row, and both fold down flat, which extends the 12.8 cu. ft. of cargo space to a generous max of 79 cubic feet.

Interior headroom (without sunroof) in front measures 40.3 inches, the second row at 39.6 inches, and third row at 37.2 inches. The measuring tape indicates leg room of 41 inches in front, nearly 40 inches in the middle, and just over 31 inches for third-row passengers. 

The 2018 Acadia provides drivers with the newest GMC Infotainment systems. The base Acadia SL comes with a 7.0-inch Color Touch Screen, the 5-year OnStar Basic Plan, support for Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, five USB ports and the industry’s first rear-seat reminder safety-alert system to prevent kids or other valuables from being left behind. Base units also get  keyless open and start, tri-zone auto climate control, plus numerous power assists.

Moving up through the SLE/SLT ranks adds everything from a power liftgate, 8.0-inch touch screen full navigation, IntelliLink and SiriusXM Satellite Radio, a Bose audio unit plus and full leather seating. The Denali and All-Terrain models add distinctive cosmetic/convenience touches plus a full range of new driver assists.

We genuinely appreciated the standard rear-vision camera, which helps maneuver out of cramped parking lots, and keeping blind spots from creating problems. In addition, an available Tow Vision Trailering System uses the camera to help line up the rear hitch when you’re trying to attach and tow a trailer. Note, too, that All Terrain’s advanced AWD system with Active Twin Clutch optimizes traction for every condition it encounters. It also features specific All-Terrain mode in place of the Off-Road mode on the drive mode selector to enhance your hill-climbing capability.

Safety features include eight standard air bags and a Driver Alert Package I that’s standard on SLT-1 and optional on the SLE-1.  This “starter” safety cluster provides Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Rear Park Assist. 

The Driver Alert Package II, standard on SLT-2 and Denali adds a host of other features, including Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert, Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, front pedestrian detection, IntelliBeam automatic headlamp control, Front and Rear Park Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert, and Safety Alert Driver Seat. Whew … what a list!

Next, for folks living traveling on a wide range of road surfaces during their weekly travels, are sure to appreciate the Traction Select function, that allows drivers to adjust vehicle performance for various road conditions. Having tried it on asphalt, gravel and a grassy pasture, I can verify – it works, folks.  Standard StabiliTrak electronic stability control system with full-function traction control is available, too. 


We found the GMC Acadia to be one comfortable ride, with a smooth and potent throttle response when needed. It not only goes great, it also STOPS great! Our GMC Acadia’s braking system was put to the test quite a few times, and passed with flying colors. Its ability to accept an easy tap on the brakes during stop-and-go, rush-hour traffic certainly makes an impression. And as I mentioned earlier, its lightweight body structure contributes to the GMC Acadia’s great maneuverability.

As part of our drivability “road test,” we intentionally took the GMC Acadia out at night on curvy, hilly roads, and found it performed admirably. We found several curves and 15-degree angles that helped demonstrate its excellent handling capabilities. We were also fond of its LED lighting system was able to illuminate the road by a several hundred feet on the normal setting, and a mile or so when shifted to high beams.


Part of the 2018 Acadia’s downsizing involved a commensurate trimming of its overall pricing. That leaves a base Acadia SL opening at $30,000. This Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), which clearly undercuts the starting price of competitors such as the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. SLE Acadias start at around $33,500 and our SLT test unit started just under $40,00. An AWD upgrade added about $2,000. Topping the range, the Acadia Denali starts at just under $46,000 (FWD) or $48,000 (AWD) with a fully loaded AWD units tops out near $52,000.


The 2018 GMC Acadia is handsome, comfortable and nicely equipped. It provides GM with an excellent entry in this crowded and highly competitive mid-sized SUV field.  It has excellent road manners and with AWD, can handle virtually any challenge.  It’s clearly comfortable in all types of weather, and doesn’t flinch, no matter what Mother Nature conjures up. 

The Acadia is quite flexible in its accommodations, offering either five-, six- or seven-passenger seating configurations. One of the drawbacks, though, is its reduced cargo room compared to some competitors. Third-row seats are a bit cramped, and some of the car’s safety features only show up on the higher trim levels.

But if you have the extra money in the budget, the long list of safety features are sure to put the minds of even ODC safety freaks at ease, especially when traveling long distances and fully loaded with family, luggage and pets. While the 2018 GMC Acadia styling or features might not suit everyone’s taste, it’s certainly priced competitively and provides good fuel economy, whether equipped with the 4-cylinder or the V-6.  So be sure to consider the GMC Acadia if you or your family are on the hunt for a new mid-sized SUV.