The 2017 GMC Acadia ditches the last model’s chunky truck-like look for sleeker lines. It’s only about an iPhone-length shorter than the last decade’s GMC Yukon but still loaded with luxury, room for seven and is claiming 28 MPG. With this on the market, the case for a full-sized SUV just got a lot weaker.

GM identifies the Acadia’s competitors as the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee. All those vehicles have been around for awhile, but GM has held the reins on the full-sized (Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon, Escalade) segment forever and to me, the Acadia encroaching on the territory of those vehicles feels like foreshadowing.

“It’s a confident design influenced by extensive customer input,” Helen Emsley, executive director of Global GMC Design and User Experience, said in a press release. “The original Acadia was very truck-inspired, but the new model has a decidedly SUV influence conveyed in sculptural details, softened corners and a sleeker windshield angle.”

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Indeed; it looks sleeker and on top of that GM’s claiming the new Acadia is a whopping 700 pounds lighter. It’s shorter in length than the outgoing Acadia by a full 7", and shorter in height by about 3". There will be a regular peasant-spec base model and a glorious Denali that rides eternal, shiny and chrome.

The EPA hasn’t vetted the vehicle for fuel economy yet, but GM tells us the 2.5 four-cylinder front wheel drive nobody will buy can max out at 28 MPG, while the breadwinning 310 horsepower 3.6 V6 can hit 25 MPG with a front-wheel drivetrain.

GM hasn’t made any economy claims on the V6 AWD, the one you want to hear about, because it will be the worst of the lot but the system will use an “AWD disconnect” to effectively make the Acadia a slightly-heavier FWD vehicle when AWD isn’t needed.

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The four-banger is rated to 194 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque while the V6 is “estimated” by GM at 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are made of iron and aluminum with aluminum heads. Both have variable valve timing to maximize the efficient use of fuel and the four-cylinder will get GMC’s first start-stop technology to squeeze even more gas out of city driving.

All Acadias will get a “terrain-selection” knob for their six-speed automatic transmissions, with Normal (2x4), Snow, Sport and Trailer/Tow modes on the FWD, and 2x4 (AWD disconnect), 4x4, Sport, Off Road and Trailer/Tow modes on vehicles with AWD.

The “All-Terrain” trim swaps the “Off Road” mode for “All-Terrain” mode “which optimizes traction for every condition it encounters. And while it is engineered for optimal performance in wet, snowy and icy conditions, it also provides enhanced stability in dry conditions” thanks to an advanced AWD system GM calls their Active Twin Clutch.

Basically; it will allow for slippage where a more precise application of power helps you keep control of the car.

The features you’ll probably appreciate more often are new safety alerts. A lot of them, actually! And I bet you can figure out what they do just by reading their names:

  • New Front Pedestrian Braking
  • New Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking (standard on SLT-2 and Denali)
  • New Forward Automatic Braking (available on Denali)
  • New Following Distance Indicator
  • New IntelliBeam automatic headlamp high-beam control
  • New Surround Vision camera system
  • New Safety Alert Seat
  • Forward Collision Alert
  • Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning
  • Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert
  • Front and Rear Parking Assist.

Those are optional, along with an electronically controlled continuous damping system on the Denali that should make the vehicle’s ride super smooth and flat.

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Any Acadia should be able to “off-road” about as far as a stock Suburban or Yukon, which means fine on rough surfaces but get hung up easily on significantly uneven terrain.

It’s important you understand the difference; the traction control systems on modern AWD/4WD SUVs are really quite impressive, the reason they don’t do “extreme” off-road is because they’re anatomically unable to keep their wheels on the ground through deep ruts or abrupt changes in surface-angles which you get on “jeep trails.”

The V6 Acadia maxes out at 4,000 pounds towing; so a personal watercraft or small camper should be alright but your boat or car will have to get lugged behind something bigger.

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But heavier duty utility is really the only place where full-sized SUVs still beat something like this. Gas may be cheap now, but that party’s not going to last forever. GM seems to be bringing the luxury and features that used to be the exclusive domain of their flagships down to the Acadia, and from where I’m standing this new “mid-sized” SUV looks like the beginning of the end of truck-based peoplemovers.

Official pricing hasn’t been published yet, but the new Acadia will be on sale this spring.

Images via GMC


Contact the author at andrew@jalopnik.com.