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HOLDEN’S history of seven-seater SUVs is a little like that of young Goldilocks. For many Aussies, the short-lived Suburban monolith of the late 1990s was just way too big, while the mid-sized Captiva a decade later was too small. Is the intriguing new Acadia, out of America, sized just right?
At a shade under five metres long, the crossover from Tennessee is a triumph of packaging, managing to accommodate seven full-sized adults with comfort and space to spare. And it comes complete with all the air vents, cupholders, storage facilities and other thoughtful detailing a septet of travellers could wish for. The Acadia also offers an impressively long and boxy cargo area, for effortless loading capability.
Read now: Holden Acadia review
And all this within a similar footprint to the Toyota Kluger that Detroit’s designers used as a template.
Much like its imposing, mini-Cadillac Escalade styling, the Acadia’s pricing stands out, opening below most rivals, yet still buying you goodies such as AEB (with cyclist and pedestrian recognition), lane-keep assist, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts, reverse camera, auto high beams, traffic-sign recognition, keyless entry/start, three-zone climate control, sat-nav, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, five USB ports and 18-inch alloys on the base LT, with five years’ warranty. The Holden’s showroom appeal is palpable.
Additionally, buyers can expect sound real-world economy from the same 3.6-litre V6 found in the related ZB Commodore (they share many platform elements), partly due to local calibration of the standard nine-speed auto, driving either the front or – for $4K extra – all four wheels. Growly and grunty right from the get-go, this powertrain combo’s acceleration is pleasingly rapid, providing the sort of off-the-line torque response old Holden owners would recognise.
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GMH’s engineers also managed to make worthwhile chassis improvements over the US equivalent, particularly on the range-topping LTZ-V, which comes with locally tuned adaptive dampers on the standard-fit 20-inch wheel and tyre package. The results are well modulated (if a tad too light for some tastes) steering, reasonable handling control, and an unexpectedly composed ride, particularly over gravel.
However, in FWD models that V6 muscle all too often overwhelms front-wheel traction (particularly in the LT and LTZ on 18s), resulting in unsettling tyre scrabble and torque steer. Consider stretching to the calmer AWD versions instead.
The centre row, meanwhile, has not been altered for our right-hand-drive needs, so the heavier, two-person portion of the seat must be folded and slid forward for kerb-side third-row access. Some ergonomic issues also prevail (such as the auto’s awkward tip shifter and laggy engagement); and the baggy and ill-fitting carpet on some examples were eyesores.
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Acknowledging that a proving ground is hardly the natural habitat for large seven-seaters, it nonetheless spotlights inconsistencies within model ranges, with the scrappy front-drivers holding the Yank back from progressing through to the next COTY stage.
Invariably, the LTZ-V AWD, with that extra Holden input, turns out to be the only Acadia that’s just right.