2019 Holden Acadia review

Australian first drive

It's been two years since Holden announced the Acadia seven-seat SUV would come to Australia from overseas division, GMC. Now, given the local treatment, the Acadia is ready to challenge the seven-seat large SUV segment.

Australia’s large SUV market isn’t the largest new car sales segment, but it’s still a crucial one, making up just over 10 per cent of new car sales in Australia.

Holden is well aware of the importance of SUVs in the face of declining passenger car sales, which is why its five-model SUV family needs to be strong from start to finish. Cue, the 2019 Acadia.

Not a replacement for the ancient Captiva, the Acadia is rather an all-new model that repositions the brand into a more semi-premium place, simply by being a larger and much more high-tech offering than the Captiva could ever hope to be.

The new Holden Acadia is the first lion-badged model to come from sister-brand GMC, which operates as the General Motors group's ‘professional grade’ SUV and commercial division in the United States, where the Acadia is produced.

Despite GMC’s more industrial origins, the Acadia is a full-fledged family hauler, with monocoque construction instead of a more rugged ladder frame, and a petrol V6 engine driving either the front, or all wheels. This positioning sees the Holden Trailblazer remain for buyers looking for diesel power, increased towing capacity, or more capable off-road ability.

With a more urban focus, the Acadia lines up against petrol-powered rivals like the Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder and the segment’s best-selling Toyota Kluger. To help stand out, the Acadia is longer than Kluger – but, while external dimensions are slightly smaller than a CX-9, holden claims to have a more spacious second and third row.

Interior space is a genuine Acadia highlight. Where some seven-seat SUVs pay little attention to third-row occupants, this one manages a pair of adult-sized seats in the third row that should comfortably accommodate passengers just shy of the six-foot mark.

Second row space is even more generous, and the seats can slide to create more cargo or passenger space as required. Clever “smart-slide” access is also featured, allowing the base and backrest to tilt forward for third row access, potentially allowing child seats to remain in place (depending on the seat type).

Unfortunately, the smaller section of the 60:40 split remains on the traffic side for Australia, having not been modified from its American spec, which highlights a significant area where Holden could have done a better job for local conditions.

The two rear rows are catered to with USB charging points, roof-mounted air-con outlets, and climate controls mounted in the rear of the centre console in all trim levels. Boot space measures 292-litres behind the third row, or 1042-litres to the second row.

Speaking of trim levels, the Acadia will arrive in Australia with a three-step range of LT, LTZ and LTZ-V available in front- or all-wheel drive.

Introductory pricing for the LT will see it kick off from $42,990 drive away as an introductory offer, or with an RRP of $43,490 plus on-roads when the undefined promotional offer ends. All-wheel drive adds a further $4000.

Equipment highlights include 18-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, auto headlights, proximity key with push-button start and remote engine start capability, active noise cancellation, leather steering wheel and gear knob and tri-zone climate control.

The mid-spec LTZ adds leather seat trim, power adjustable front seats with front seat heating, rain-sensing wipers, wireless mobile charging, front fog lights and a hands-free powered tailgate. This model is priced from $53,990 drive-away with 2WD, or $57,990 drive-away with AWD.

The top-spec LTZ-V includes 20-inch wheels, HID headlights, two-panel sunroof, drivers seat and mirror memory, front seat heating and cooling, and adaptive cruise control from $63,990 drive away or $67,990 drive away respectively for two- or all-wheel drive. Click here for full price and features information.

The interior presents well, using GM’s corporate collection of bits and pieces to look familiar against Holden’s Chevrolet and Opel-sourced products, with Colorado-esque climate controls and column stalks borrowed from Commodore, amongst other bits and pieces.

All variants come with an 8.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Bluetooth, and six-speaker audio for LT and LTZ with an eight-speaker Bose system and 8.0-inch part-TFT instrument cluster reserved for LTZ-V.

Safety across the range includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection (low-speed on LT and LTZ, all-speed on LTZ-V), lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning and lane-edge detection for roads without line markings, blind spot monitoring with lateral impact avoidance, rear cross traffic alert, seven airbags, five top tether and two ISOFIX child seat mounts, reverse camera and rear park sensors.

Front park sensors and advance park assist semi-automated self-parking appear on LTZ and LTZ-V, while the top model also includes a crisp and clear high-definition 360-degree camera system. Traffic sign recognition is also standard across the range, and in LTZ-V can automatically adjust the speed limiter based on camera inputs.

The Acadia’s 3.6-litre petrol V6 produces 231kW of power at 6600rpm and 367Nm of torque at 5000rpm, delivered via a nine-speed torque converter automatic. Cylinder deactivation in low load situations allows the engine to run in four-cylinder mode to save fuel on the highway, while stop/start trims consumption for city driving and is quick and smooth to re-fire.

Fuel consumption is rated at 8.9 L/100km on the Acadia 2WD and 9.3 L/100km for Acadia AWD, although numerous variants available on the launch drive trip computer figures showed low to mid 10 L/100km in mostly highway conditions. A more representative figure will come once the Acadia passes through the CarAdvice garage.

On-road manners are where the Acadia really shines. Holden’s tuning work on steering and suspension shows; if you’re expecting the Acadia to handle like a big, floaty American car of days past, you’re out of luck.

The ride is pillowy soft on the LT and LTZ, which both come equipped with passive dampers, while the LTZ-V on adaptive dampers and 20-inch wheels feels its way over the road surface with a little less absorption. The adaptive dampers don’t offer any real benefits apart from firming up even further in their sport setting – ride quality aficionados are sure to prefer the passive system.

Comfort doesn’t come at the cost of control, however. After big bumps, the Acadia recovers quickly without floating or wallowing its way over rural roads.

Steering gets an Aussie tune as well, but remains light and filters out most road surface feedback. All up, the handling package is ideal for the Acadia’s intended purpose, but means the car always feels its size and never shrinks around the driver.

Despite its engine being closely related to the Commodore’s V6, the Acadia runs a different intake and exhaust resulting in reduced running noise. Compared to the brash Commodore, it’s a welcome change.

Road noise is also well suppressed, although some surfaces still reveal themselves depending on the quality of the tarmac underneath, but standard active noise cancelling does its job keeping potential cabin roar to a minimum.

While all-wheel-drive models would be the better choice for owners who regularly travel gravel roads or travel to the snow, but otherwise, the front-driven cars resist wheelspin and torque steer even on damp roads.

Unlike the clutch-based Twinster all-wheel system in V6 Commodores, the Acadia uses a traditional rear differential, but still includes pre-emptive torque distribution to the rear and features torque vectoring by brake. A console-mounted centre controller allows the AWD Acadia to be locked in 2WD or cycled through AWD, snow/ice, performance and tow modes.

While Holden might claim the Acadia borders on premium territory, the truth is, anything would seem premium next to the aged and uninspiring Captiva. Truly, the new seven-seater is a thoroughly mainstream SUV, but that’s no bad thing.

Safety systems put the new model in good stead for its pitch towards families, with most inclusions packaged in, even on the base model. Size and comfort are just right too, particularly given the rearmost seat is able to be used, not just by kids but at the very least, teens and adults.

Interior presentation, clear and concise as it may be, isn’t up to the near premium level of fit and finish achieved by rivals like the Mazda CX-9 and still trails Australia’s favourite large SUV, the Kluger for overall storage utility.

The sweetly-tuned ride is perhaps the Acadia’s crowning achievement. Soft and supple in exactly the way a large family chariot should be, but without the vague and barge-like characteristics that defined American cars for so long.

Coupled with a hushed and flexible interior, the Acadia feels more than just one generation ahead of the Captiva it replaces, and is likely to attract the interest of buyers coming across from rival SUVs. It may even be able to lure some of the displaced Falcon, Territory and Commodore owners looking their next family car.

As Holden continues to redefine what the brand means without the drawcard of a local production stamp, introducing a new product from the previously unseen GMC portfolio poses a significant risk. But, thanks to a just-right mix of size, power, and handling set for local conditions, the Acadia starts out on the right foot.

Whether it resonates with customers, is another matter entirely. The product itself is good enough, but the true test of the Acadia’s success will lie in Holden’s efforts to convince Aussie families of that.

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