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The Cheap Bastard Review: GMC Acadia

September 13, 2015

I was contacted recently to see if I would be interested in writing a review of a GM product. Since my family is in the market for a new car and we were heading out of town on a long weekend trip, I jumped at the chance to get the test driving started. At the time, I was given a choice between a Chevy Volt, which would have been too small for our needs and an Acadia, which was more than big enough. 

I went with the Acadia even though it’s above our price range and the size we would normally choose. 

Here’s my review in my own inimitable Cheap Bastard style. If you’re in the market, I hope it helps:
The sign said Portland was 29 miles away and I let out a silent cheer knowing I’d finally get a chance to stretch my legs after driving from Bend, Oregon.

The only problem was, I couldn’t tell what the mileage meant because I couldn’t find the odometer anywhere on my dashboard and the navigation system wasn’t responding to my voice commands.

Welcome to my weekend test drive of a 2016 GM Acadia All Wheel Drive Denali.

I was one of a number of bloggers asked if I would be interested in taking a new GM vehicle on a test drive recently—and I jumped at the chance. Not only because it was a cool opportunity, but also because we had already planned to spend a weekend in Bend and we weren’t all that thrilled with the idea of driving our ailing 15 year-old Subaru Legacy Outback on the trip. Not that there’s anything wrong with our car, if you don’t mind waiting a minute or two while the transmission decides if it wants to shift into drive or not after backing out of a parking space.

The trial not only gave us piece of mind, it allowed us to start test driving new cars.

And the Acadia 2016 certainly is a great one if you like to drive big. It’s just short of 17 feet long, and it comes with the standard compliment of bucket seats in front, two removable bucket seats in back and an optional third fold down row, which my kids loved, especially when half the seat was up and the other half was folded down.

The model I drove had heated seats, a heated steering wheel and it drove like a charm. As much as I love my Toyota Corolla, the small car ride is loud and occasionally choppy. So, I worried that the Acadia would be big and clumsy in comparison. Instead, it felt surprisingly nimble and easy to drive, making it kind of the Buddy Ebson of cars. (Those of you of a certain generation who can recall long, tall Jed Clampett dancing with Shirley Temple and Barnaby Jones chasing after bad guys know what I mean.)

The car also had a lot of cool features including the accident avoidance system, the blind spot alert with rear cross traffic alert, which came in handy because I’m not used to driving such a big vehicle. I’m not saying I had any close calls, mind you, it just gave me an added dose of confidence.

I also liked the automatic power rear door.

My favorite feature?

Believe it or not, the rear window lock. It seems my 7 year-old just loves to mess around with car power windows and the only way I can get him to stop is to hit the window lock button, which locks all of the windows in the two cars we drive (except for the driver’s side, of course). In the Acadia, it only locks the back windows.


And I also like having my speed projected on the driver’s side window where I can see it as I drive.

Of course, my kids would tell you they loved the DVD player and wireless headphones.

There are some things that are over the top, however. There’s the connection for the Xbox, the heated power steering wheel (whatever happened to gloves?), the microphone jacks and the two sunroofs to name just a few. But, hey, when you’re paying $53,000 for a car you should get all the bells and whistles.

The only time I have a problem with it is when those bells and whistles become distracting and, man, can those add-ons take your mind off the road, even when you’re not texting or talking. The ironic thing is, some of them seemed to be designed to cut down on distractions.

The voice-activated navigation system is a good example.

About a third of the the way into the trip I decided to enter the address of my destination because I realized I’d forgot to bring directions. When the system asked for the name of the city first, however, it did not compute.

First, my wife asked for Bend, Oregon and the system didn’t understand her. So, she said it slower, but no luck. Then I tried. I asked for it loudly, I asked for it slowly, I even sang it a time or two. It took all four of us yelling in unison to get it to respond. And then it gave us directions to a town in Indiana.

Of course, part of the problem had to do with the fact that I didn’t understand how all of the controls worked. Although I spent 20 minutes listening to a technician explain each and every one of them, I still didn’t get how to get all of the information I wanted while driving. Yes, I know what button to push to get the tire air pressure reading and the percentage of life left in the car’s oil because I kept unintentionally getting them again and again. Once I lost the odometer, however, I couldn’t get it back to save my life.

Which is how I ended up being thankful that we were 29 miles out of Portland on the way back home…until I realized that I had no odometer to track my progress.

Despite my personal failings, the Acadia is a fun car to drive if you plan to take your family through the mountains or if you want all the latest, state-of-the-art conveniences.

As for me, I’m looking for something just a little smaller.


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