Life has changed for Holden since it stopped manufacturing cars in Australia. Sales are slipping, and the once-dominant chart-topper barely scrapes into the top 10 in these heady times.
Why the buying population has fallen out of love with the once-iconic Australian remains unclear. But, anecdotally, there seems to be a simmering resentment that the company which once produced Aussie icons like the Monaro, Kingswood, Torana and Commodore, now only imports cars from overseas General Motors stablemates such as Chevrolet and, for now, former stablemate Opel.
Truth is, Holden always did import overseas product, but as long as the range was anchored by locally built cars, the buying public didn’t seem to mind. Holdens of every shape and kind drove out of dealerships in numbers the company could only dream of today.
It’s a pity really, because some of this new generation of fully imported vehicles are as good as anything Holden ever made locally. Case in point? The 2019 Holden Acadia LTZ-V AWD we have on test here. It's the highpoint in the six-Acadia range which starts with the $43,490 LT two-wheel drive and tops out with the all-wheel drive LTZ-V on test here.
With a list price of $67,490 plus on-road costs, it’s the most expensive Holden money can buy. But, the times being what they are, Holden is currently offering this top-of-the-line model for $67,990 drive-away. That places it at the upper reach of the large-SUV segment under $70K, where the Toyota twins – Prado and Kluger – dominate the sales charts with a 28.4 per cent market share. By comparison, the Acadia (all variants) accounts for just 2.6 per cent of sales.
You do get a lot of SUV for the money, though, the LTZ-V wanting for nothing in terms of equipment. Our test car came with no options, chiefly because there are none to be had. You can, if you like, spend an extra $550 for a handful of paint colours, but our quite striking Glory Red example is one of two exterior colours that come standard. So, what you see is what you get.
The first thing that strikes you is the Acadia’s sheer presence. It’s bold and it’s brash, in the way only an American SUV can be. No surprise, really, considering the Acadia has been transplanted from its spiritual home in Spring Hill, Tennessee, where it started its life as a GMC Acadia.
Interestingly, while it’s classified as a large SUV in Australia, in the US, the Acadia is very much considered a mid-size crossover, even shedding some length and weight in this new-generation car that made its debut in 2017. Cultural differences, then.
It is a big thing, though, at nearly 5m long (4979mm), 1916mm wide, and 1767mm tall, and with a kerb weight of 2032kg. But, those dimensions and that heft quickly disappear once you’re on the road.
Powered by a 3.6-litre petrol V6 pumping out 231kW (at 6600rpm) and 367Nm of torque (at 5000rpm), channelled in this instance to all four wheels via a nine-speed torque converter auto, the Acadia feels meaty on the road. In a good way. There’s a nice surge of acceleration from standstill, always progressive and tidy. Rolling acceleration is a boon, too, the big SUV making light work of overtaking.
The nine-speed auto never feels intrusive, instead shuffling through its near double fistful of ratios effortlessly and seamlessly. Step on the throttle for an overtake, for instance, and the kick-down is instant and intuitive.
There are various drive modes to toggle through, via a rotary dial on the console – the Acadia can be left in permanent 2WD (front-wheel) or switched over to AWD. There are also snow/ice, performance and tow modes.
But perhaps the Acadia’s crowning glory, in this spec anyway, is its plush ride. When Holden transitioned from manufacturer to importer, assurances were made that local tuning would continue to feature on Holden vehicles. And that translates to the Acadia’s ride, which is cushioning without being floaty. It is, in a word, sublime.
As befitting a top-spec model, the LTZ-V comes standard with adaptive dampers that do a fine job of isolating all but the gnarliest of imperfections, and that’s despite sitting on standard 20-inch alloys with low-profile (235/55R20) Continental rubber all round. Surprising, too, that noise suppression in the cabin is also excellent. Kudos to the local tuning guys.
The steering has also been tuned locally, and while on the light side, it’s not so light that feedback is compromised. There’s an inherent confidence in the way the Acadia handles itself, even when having a bit of a ‘go’ through some minor twisties. Not that, we’d venture, too many Acadia owners are ever likely to chuck it at some corners with any type of gusto. But, if they were, they’d be pleasantly surprised how well all the constituent parts – engine, transmission, suspension, steering – come together as a package that remains resolved and comfortable.
Inside, the LTZ-V wants for little. While the cabin design itself errs on the side of American, it all feels well screwed together. Our tester had nearly 7000km on the clock and showed no sign of rattles or squeaks that can sometimes creep into new cars at that age.
The materials present well, adding a premium air to the interior, with plenty of yielding surfaces. The seats, trimmed in Jet Black leather-appointed material with contrast stitching and piping, look and feel luxuriant. The driver’s and passenger’s seats are heated, cooled and electrically adjustable, along with lumbar support. In the depths of winter, those heated seats are a boon on cold mornings.
It’s light and airy, too, inside, thanks to the split-pane panoramic roof, the cabin soaking up the winter sun.
Infotainment comes courtesy of GM’s latest-generation myHolden Connect software displayed on the Acadia’s 8.0-inch touchscreen. It’s packed with features, including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, in-built satellite navigation, DAB+ radio, and a 360-degree camera.
While Bluetooth pairs with your phone as quickly as we’ve seen in any car, the voice-activated commands proved glitchy at times, with Holden’s equivalent of Siri not recognising my commands or offering entirely incorrect responses to my requests. You need to speak quite slowly and annunciate your commands. It can get annoying.
One clever feature of the system, though, is how completely configurable the entire car is to your own personal settings. It would take an essay to outline just how this feature works, so instead, check out this video featuring CA founder Alborz Fallah, who goes for a deep-dive into the Acadia’s personalisation function. In short, it’s excellent.
Conveniences abound, such as wireless charging, an array of USB plugs (there are five in total, including two for the second row and one in the oft-ignored third row… Well done, Holden), climate control for the front and second rows, as well as air vents for the third row, cupholders in the front and second rows, and bottle holders in all four doors.
As you would expect from a large SUV, the second row is spacious, offering plenty of head, knee and leg room, while the seats are comfortable and supportive. Outward visibility is good, too. There are three top-tether points as well as two ISOFIX mounts on the outboard seats.
The third row is a real surprise – the Acadia's a genuine seven-seater. While there’s no question it’s tight back there, certainly in terms of leg room, it’s a perfectly usable seating option, even for adults, and certainly for kids. Two top-tether points complete the third row.
Ingress and egress into that third row are also a pleasant surprise, the second-row seat folding up and sliding forward to maximise the available aperture. Nice work, but the mechanism hasn't made the transition from left-hand to right-hand drive, meaning entry and exit to the back row are street-, not kerbside. The kerbside seat does tilt and slide forward, but misses out on the upward movement, leaving a tight opening for getting in and out. Surely, not hard to fix in the manufacturing process.
As expected of a seven-seater, boot space is compromised, certainly with the third in use. There’s a scant 292L to play with, although that expands to a whopping 2102L with both the second and third rows folded flat. A space-saver spare lurks somewhere under the boot floor, requiring the removal of the boot floor, then a compartment hidden under that. It's time-consuming and fiddly. I'd recommend calling roadside assist in the event of a flat tyre.
Operating the folding seats is a cinch, the third row stowed simply by pulling on two cords integrated into the seatbacks. Two levers in the boot do the same for the second row. It’s a simple and quick operation. Accessing that space is done via an electric tailgate featuring hands-free operation. Although, as we’ve often found with this type of function across many car brands, that hands-free feature can be a bit hit-and-miss. It’s a minor gripe.
The Acadia doesn’t want for active safety features, either. There’s high-speed autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind-spot alert with lateral impact avoidance that gently steers the car back into your lane if it detects something in your blind spot, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and one of the most accurate speed-sign-recognition systems we’ve encountered. The Acadia wears a five-star ANCAP rating awarded in 2018.
The usual suite of airbags protect occupants in all three rows, while trailer-sway control will help keep your trailer on the straight and narrow. On that, the Acadia is rated to tow 2000kg (braked), which is about par for the segment.
One final safety feature is Holden’s haptic seat alert that sends a vibration through the seat to warn the driver of any impending problem. It takes you by surprise the first time it happens, but it’s actually an excellent system that can’t be ignored, unlike some more standard audible or visual warnings. It can get a little tiresome, though, particularly in the tight inner-city confines I spend much of my time, the seat vibrating ad nauseum navigating some of the narrower streets in my neighbourhood. You can switch it off, but really, why would you?
While it might be a big lugger, the Acadia proved surprisingly nimble in the tight confines of inner-city Sydney. Thanks to its light steering and the excellent 360-degree camera, parking was never a problem. A reasonably tight (for the segment) kerb-to-kerb turning circle of 11.8m helped, too, the Acadia never feeling unwieldy or cumbersome.
Holden claims the Acadia LTZ-V sips 12.7 litres per 100km on the urban cycle, and after a week in our tester of predominantly urban driving, we saw an indicated figure of 14.7L. A good, long highway run should see that figure reduced somewhat.
Holden covers the Acadia with its now-standard five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing intervals are every 12 months or 12,000km, whichever comes first, and will set you back $259, $299, $259, $359, and $359 for the first five years. That’s a total of $1535 for the first five years or 60,000km. Decent.
So, too, Holden’s offer of a 24-hour test drive, allowing potential buyers to get a real feeling for the vehicle simply not afforded by the once-around-the-block test the majority of dealers offer. It’s a measure of how serious Holden is about getting people through the doors of its dealerships.
And that’s the challenge the once-dominant Lion King now faces: simply getting its range of cars on buyers’ consideration lists. The Holden Acadia is, on all fronts, a compelling proposition that deserves to be taken seriously. Its blend of power, ride, comfort and size come together as an attractive package, particularly in this top-of-the-tree LTZ-V. It’s definitely worthy of consideration.