Pros: Bold styling; up to eight-passenger seating; vast cargo space; carlike handling; very good fuel economy; compliant ride; comfortable interior

Cons: Not as capable as an SUV; limited maneuverability; poor rear visibility

Like its nearly identical siblings from Buick and Chevrolet, the GMC Acadia offers an extremely complete motoring package emphasizing passenger comfort, drivability, functionality, fuel economy and spaciousness. So spacious, in fact, that it can seat up to eight passengers and still have a reasonable amount of cargo room.

Although the three large GM crossovers are mechanically and structurally the same, each establishes its own distinctive personality with unique features and design cues. While the Buick Enclave is the most upscale and the Chevrolet Traverse focuses more on utility, the GMC Acadia bridges the two by offering an even mix of practicality and rich user content. Furthermore, the Acadia distinguishes itself with bolder, squared-off styling that speaks to its GMC truck heritage.

Despite its commanding exterior, the Acadia is not a truck. It is not designed for heavy trailering or off-road venturing. For these kinds of activities, a full-size SUV like the Tahoe is recommended. That said, the Acadia is still capable of towing a 5,000-pound boat and treading through virtually any kind of road condition when equipped with all-wheel drive. That kind of competence is more than sufficient for the needs of the vast majority of American families.

For 2012, the Acadia remains mostly unchanged, aside from a few minor additions. These include an additional interior power outlet for all Acadias and side blind-spot mirrors for the top two trim levels.

Combining the visual appeal of a wagon, the comfort and practicality of a minivan and the rugged utility of an SUV, the 2012 GMC Acadia is one of the most well-rounded offerings among large people movers.

Comfort & Utility

The Acadia?s interior is well crafted and handsome. It?s not as upscale as the Buick Enclave, but it certainly exudes more of a premium feel than the Chevy Traverse, thanks to its high-quality materials and solid appearance. An optional two-tone color scheme and ambient lighting help elevate this interior?s visual appeal. The trucklike character of its exterior spills into this cabin as well.

The Acadia is available in seven- and eight-passenger configurations. Front seats are well positioned and supportive. The second row offers a three-passenger bench or two captain?s chairs as well as a Smart Slide feature, which makes access to the third row remarkably convenient. The third row itself can comfortably fit two adults, which is something many large SUVs can?t claim. For two children, it?s downright spacious.

In terms of cargo, the Acadia is extremely roomy. The second row bench splits 60/40, while the third row splits 50/50. This setup allows a diverse number of passenger and cargo hauling combinations. And with both rows folded down, the Acadia benefits from a long, low cargo floor with more room than most will know what to do with. Even with all seats up, there is more usable space behind the third row than many SUVs provide.

The 2012 Acadia is available in five trim levels: SL, SLE, SLT-1, SLT-2 and Denali. Standard convenience features for the base SL include cruise control, a manually adjustable tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker stereo. SLE trim brings an eight-way power-adjustable driver?s seat, a power rear liftgate and a backup-camera system.

The midlevel SLT-1 gets leather upholstery, front seat heat, tri-zone automatic climate control and a 10-speaker premium audio system, while the SLT-2 adds driver?s seat memory and four-way power-adjustable passenger seat. The range-topping Denali is fully loaded with all of the previously mentioned features plus cooling front seats, a head-up display and dual sunroofs.

Technology

Depending on the individual trim level, standard advanced electronics for the Acadia include a USB interface, Bluetooth connectivity, rear parking sensors and a backup-camera system. Optional technologies include a rear DVD system and touchscreen navigation with real-time traffic data.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The 2012 GMC Acadia is available in front- or all-wheel-drive configurations. It is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine producing 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. This unit is managed by a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual mode.

Estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway with front-wheel drive; the all-wheel-drive model offers 16/23 mpg.

Safety

The Acadia?s safety equipment includes ABS, stability control, traction control and six airbags, including three-row head curtains. It also comes equipped with the OnStar emergency telematics service.

The Acadia earned the highest crash test ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Driving Impressions

The 2012 GMC Acadia delivers, above all, a comfortable and well-controlled ride. It is smooth and quiet without feeling floaty, which results in daily commutes that high on pleasure and low on fatigue.

Like its Buick and Chevy counterparts, the Acadia benefits from carlike handling, a function of its unibody construction. It feels sharper and more secure than most large SUVS, which inspires plenty of confidence in corners. Still, drivers must remain conscious of the Acadia?s size, which could become a detriment on narrow city streets or crowded parking lots. Among other concerns, low-speed maneuverability is limited, as is the Acadia?s rear visibility.

The Acadia?s power gives it a smooth and confident manner. And when the need arises, it can accelerate strongly, both off the line and in passing situations at highway speeds. However, don?t expect the same performance when the vehicle is loaded down with passengers and cargo or when towing something heavy.

Although not meant for off-road, the Acadia is more than capable in harsh weather and on rough roads. Its available 19- and 20-inch wheels are especially helpful in wet and snowy conditions.

Other Cars to Consider

Ford Flex - The Flex offers more expansive rear seating and a greater list of creature comforts and user technology. The Acadia is superior in ride and handling.

Mazda CX-9 - The CX-9 is sportier than the Acadia and bests it in handling and overall quickness. The Acadia offers more interior room for passengers and cargo, and its plushness makes it a better bet for long-distance interstate cruising.

Chevrolet Traverse - Based on the same GM architecture as the Acadia, the Traverse is very similar in all respects. The Acadia?s interior materials are of better quality, but the Traverse has a roll-mitigation system not found on the Acadia.

Dodge Durango - The Durango is a traditional SUV and, as such, offers more off-road and towing prowess. However, the Acadia is ahead in space, ride comfort and fuel efficiency.

AutoTrader Recommends

Of the 2012 GMC Acadia?s five trims, the midlevel SLT-1 is our pick. It?s equipped with the most balanced array of amenities and offers the best value. The uplevel SLT-2 and Denali models are perhaps excessively loaded with creature comforts. To round out this Acadia, we suggest considering stand-alone options such as navigation and the rear-seat DVD system, especially for families who like to travel. And everyone, especially those who live in cold climates, should consider the all-wheel-drive version.

author photo

Shamit Choksey has a love for automobiles that worked into an early career writing and developing cop shows for network television. Later, diving even further into the world of wheels, he became a writer/producer for the Emmy-nominated PBS/Discovery Channel series "MotorWeek." These days, Shamit lives in Southern California, serving as a media consultant and journalist within the automotive industry. Incidentally, his wife and two sons are not impressed by any of this.

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