The Holden Acadia replaces the outgoing seven-seat Captiva but it’s so much more than just a new model in a fully-imported line-up – it’s the company’s flagship SUV and a signal of the support GM has promised to keep the lion brand roaring.
Similar to the recently-introduced Equinox, the Acadia has been uniquely produced in right-hand drive just for Australian and New Zealand markets. And as SUV sales increase the importance of the two models becomes paramount - it needs the Acadia to be a winner.
Landing into the market this October, the Acadia is late up against established quality players such as the Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and sharp new rivals like the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace.
But the Acadia, based on the same GMC model built and sold in the States, has unique bold Yankee styling that could deliver an acre of space with all the bells and whistles for competitive coin. And while its origins might be rooted in Tennessee, Holden spent considerable time performing local tuning that can make a model stand out against rivals.
Details are still only being drip fed with pricing yet to be announced, but so far we know the whole range will come standard with automatic highbeam LED headlights, 20-inch wheels, a dual sunroof, electric tailgate, keyless entry and push-button start ignition, eight-inch colour infotainment system with sat nav, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, three-zone automatic climate control, USB ports in all three rows and a rear-vision camera.
Standard safety features are AEB, lane keeping assist with lane departure warning, speed sign recognition, following distance indicator, active trailer assist, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and rear parking assist. It’s a pretty comprehensive kit that ticks the boxes required to get a modern five-star ANCAP rating - though it’s yet to be tested.
Closing in on its local launch, Holden gave us the keys to a pre-production Acadia LTZ-V for a few laps around the Lang Lang proving ground in Victoria. The model grade was further equipped with premium appointments such as leather seats, heated and cooled electric front seats and a Bose audio system.
As the outside proportions suggest, inside is a roomy cabin with plenty of space. The front pews are big and soft with good ergonomic support, and the electric adjustment was comprehensive. The second-row is on a sliding rail so leg room is adjustable to make the third-row more flexible. While not offering great knee room in the very back for adults it is better than some in the segment.
Connecting all the space together is plenty of thin plastic cladding that detracts from the premium feel. Fake timber elements aren’t convincing either but the infotainment system is well integrated and its presentation looks great on a crisp high-resolution screen.
In front of the driver is a half digital and analogue binnacle cluster, mixing elements of safety tech like traffic sign recognition with conventional dials.
We didn’t have time to deep dive into the system but it appears there will be options for multiple users and customised settings for nearly every device in the car, like automatic defogging, tilting mirrors on reverse, electric tailgate options and wiper sensing speeds. On top of that it’s Apple Carplay and Android Auto compatible with sat nav built in.
Technology convenience for passengers is the focus elsewhere with USB ports located front to rear, including in the third-row, and pockets on seat backs for cradling devices.
Put up against top-tier rival variants this pre-production model won’t win on quality feel alone, but for space the cabin is big and the styling pleasant, with enough premium gear to overshadow some of the basic layout.
ON THE ROAD
Packing the same 3.6-litre V6 as the new Commodore VXR and RS-V under the bonnet the Acadia on test takes a different route than the usual four-cylinder turbo crowd. It produces 231kW at 6600rpm and 367Nm at 5000rpm through the same twin-clutch all-wheel drive system and nine-speed automatic.
That torque is a bit less than rivals like the CX-9 which develops 420Nm, but with over 200kW on tap the 1800kg Acadia moves along swiftly. Acceleration feels prompt at any normal speed and the nine-speed automatic shifts conveniently and quickly, dropping a cog or two down with heavy throttle input and going into over drive for better fuel efficiency at higher speed.
A front-wheel drive variant will also be available but this V6 was attached to all-wheel drive with Holden’s ‘Traction Select System’ that gives the option for 2x4 (front-wheel driven), 4x4, sport, off-road (locked all-wheel drive) and towing.
Limited to driving on sealed roads the 'off-road' mode wasn't tested, but throttle response and gear shifting were tight in sport while all-wheel drive had good grip over a slick wet surface. There are no paddle shifters on the steering wheel but there is a manual gear rocker somewhat awkwardly positioned on top of the gearshift selector that’s more for towing than sporty driving.
More importantly the large body felt well composed and under control around quicker corners with Holden’s local tuning program adding well-balanced bump control and compliant yet taught stability from the front end.
The steering was also direct, accurate and reasonably quick from lock to lock around tight corners, eager to turn-in but not stiff in response.
For a large SUV it’s surprisingly nimble and the V6 has a good amount of grunt, though it might be a little thirsty compared to smaller turbo engines - Holden is yet to announce fuel consumption figures.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Compared to the Captiva it replaces the Acadia is a step up in every measure. We'll reserve final judgement until we drive the showroom-ready models later, and know all the details, but first impressions are that the Acadia will be a roomy choice within a heavily contested market.