GMC Acadia moves trucks to higher level

GM photoWith amenities that attract drivers of luxury vehicles, the 2019 GMC Acadia shows how the former farm- and construction-truck division of General Motors has transformed itself into a premium-vehicle brand.

The solid and serious outline of the GMC Acadia might fool you into thinking that the wagon is devoted only to work. You might think that a sport-utility vehicle with undisguised girth and heft – even though it’s just a middle-sized SUV – and with a wide-faced, upright posture, is tailored more for providing utility or supporting outdoor activities. You might not immediately associate the Acadia with easy-living luxury.

But the seven-passenger Acadia, an SUV from the GMC division of General Motors, brings luxury-car shoppers to Bill DeLuca Chevrolet Buick GMC in Haverhill.

“We trade a lot of BMW and Mercedes-Benz SUVs for the Acadia. So we’re conquesting really upscale vehicles, and putting their drivers into a GMC,” stated Kevin Bihl, manager of the Business Development Center at the DeLuca dealership. “They’re still getting a premium vehicle, but they’re not paying a whole lot for it,” compared to the models they’re replacing.

That remains true when buyers choose the higher priced, premium versions that are the most popular Acadia variations at DeLuca. Those top-level models can run as high as a list price of $50,690 for a plush Acadia Denali equipped with all-wheel drive.

Bihl explained that the preference for premium trim levels in the Acadia, and the unabashed luxury brands people are trading to get them, show how GMC has transformed into a luxury brand itself.

If you look back a few decades, GMC was the work-truck division of General Motors. GMC still sells only trucks. (In addition to its Sierra and Canyon pickups, the division offers three sport-utility vehicles, but in the auto business SUVs like the Acadia and its pals officially classify as trucks.) But, as Bihl explained, starting in the late 1990s with the introduction of the Denali version of its big Yukon SUV, the GMC unit moved to distinguish itself as a seller of trucks for upper-crust tastes. That sets it apart from the Chevrolet division of General Motors, which is the corporation’s mass-market brand.

Structurally and mechanically, GMC vehicles are the same as models sold by other GM units, especially Chevrolet. GMC accomplished its transformation to a premium brand largely by giving its versions fancier dress and higher equipment levels. At the same time, through advertising and marketing it promoted its vehicles as capable of serious work, but possessing distinctive refinement.

Thus the Acadia presents a solid and serious, haul-it-all appearance, while it also aims to pamper occupants with high-level amenities.

“It has better sound proofing, better trim and a more premium finish,” illustrated Bihl.

The Acadia starts at a list price of $32,190. But that’s for a front-wheel-drive version that almost no one in the Merrimack Valley buys. The preference by far around here is for four-wheel traction, which raises the Acadia’s list price to $37,990 and automatically steps to a higher equipment level. Along with all-wheel drive, the second-tier version brings such added features as carpeted floor mats, fancier lighting, and a compact spare tire in place of the basic model’s tire-inflation kit.

The second-tier level also offers numerous options not available on the lower priced, starter model. The biggest is the opportunity to upgrade from the basic Acadia’s four-cylinder engine, at 193 horsepower, to a V6 engine that puts out 310 horsepower. Other options open only to the upper level include custom-fit, interlocking all-weather floor and cargo-area liners, splash guards, dual exhaust outlets, black or chrome body flourishes, and back-seat entertainment center and DVD player.

But that’s just the middle level of the Acadia trims. Higher levels, the ones purchased most often at DeLuca Chevrolet Buick GMC, bring more of the equipment and options that distinguish cars in the luxury class. They include high-tech driver-assistance features like obstacle detection and automatic braking, lane monitoring and lane-keeping assistance, and automatic high beams. The top-level models come with larger, dressier wheels, fog lights, heated outside mirrors and trailer-towing receivers. They include the higher-powered, six-cylinder engine. At the highest, Denali trim level, you get a hands-free power liftgate and navigation as standard features.

On top of their included features, the top levels come with options you can’t get on the lower trims, such as a dual-panel power sunroof.

Beneath its layered-on luxury, the Acadia appeals to people for the same reasons that make the entire class of middle-sized, crossover-constructed sport-utilities so widely appealing: the flexibility to perform multiple functions. Its fold-down third-row seat that can expand passenger capacity from five to seven riders (or six in versions with two independent middle-row seats instead of the three-person bench) makes the Acadia a favorite of active families, noted Bihl.

“It’s a family car,” he emphasized. “It’s for families taking kids to their soccer game or their hockey game, and maybe bringing a friend along, and still having room for equipment in the back.”

DeLuca Chevrolet Buick GMC is part of the Merrimack Valley dealership family that also includes Bill DeLuca Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Haverhill, and Andover’s Woodworth Chevrolet and Woodworth Cadillac.

The Acadia I evaluated spent the week with two tot seats installed in the second row. It still provided family-friendly flexibility over a range of tasks. When I needed to transport three boxes of books, the cargo lodged easily abreast in the back. To make room for a load of groceries, I flipped the third row flat, pushed back the book boxes, and had cargo space aplenty. Later I reversed the procedure to carry six of us out for a meal. With the third-row seat set up again, two riders slid into the back.

Carrying six people together in a single vehicle made the outing more enjoyable. It started with conversation encouraged by the quiet and smooth riding Acadia.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.

2019 GMC Acadia

Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, front- and all-wheel-drive mid-size crossover sport-utility vehicle

Price range: $32,190 to $50,690 (plus options)

Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty; 6 years/100,000 miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles roadside assistance

Base engine: 2.5-liter I4

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Power: 193 horsepower at 6,300 rpm; 188 lb.-ft. torque at 4,400 rpm

Fuel economy: 21 mpg city; 26 mpg highway

Wheelbase: 112 inches

Length: 194 inches

Width: 75 inches

Height: 66 inches

Weight: 3,956 pounds

Fuel capacity: 19.0 gallons

Turning circle: 38.7 ft.