Words by Isaac Bober
No matter how good the new ‘Commodore’ is, and it is very good, the market has moved on. And so, Holden is pinning its hopes on the seven-seat Acadia it’s imported from the US of A to help win back buyers flocking to the Toyota Kluger, Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento, and others.
Indeed, as of October 2018, Holden was a staggering 20,000 vehicle sales behind the same time the year before. The largest single cooling off in the whole of the Australian new car market. And while sales of passenger cars continue to slide, sales of SUVs continue to grow. So, no pressure on the Acadia, then.
What’s the price and what do you get?
There are three variants in the range – LT, LTZ and LTZ-V – and each one can be had as either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Our test car is the top-spec LTZ-V with all-wheel drive which lists from $67,990 drive-away; the 2WD version is priced from $63,990 drive-away. The LTZ-V AWD manages to undercut the Mazda CX-9 Azami LE which is priced from $66,490+ORC, but the Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander (admittedly a diesel) is cheaper at $60,500+ORC as is the Kia Sorento AWD at $58,990+ORC for the GT-Line, although the Holden is better priced than the top-spec Nissan Pathfinder Ti AWD ($66,190+ORC) and the Toyota Kluger Grande at $69,246+ORC.
And there’s not a lot missing from the Acadia LTZ-V AWD which offers adaptive suspension and 20-inch alloys, dual-pane sunroof, 360-degree camera with high-res reversing camera, partial digital instrument cluster, Bose sound system, heated and ventilated front seats, leather interior, powered tailgate, wireless phone charging, advanced park assist, autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control and more.
What’s the interior and practicality like?
The interior, like on a lot of newer Holden product, is a bit of a mixed bag and runs from leather of varying quality on the seats to soft-touch plastics on the dash, chunky, cheap-looking buttons and hard scratchy plastics down by the transmission and the doors. And, I’m sorry, but the faux wood paneling isn’t fooling anyone.
Even on our top-spec LTZ-V tester the interior is very conservatively trimmed with only the off bit of contrasting material used, be it the faux wood or some faux brushed alloy trim around the infotainment screen and centre air vents. That said, the fit and finish looks and feels good although the leather on the seats is clearly thicker on the sections your body touches and feels noticeably thinner on the sides of the seat…what that means for longevity it’s hard to say in a week-long test.
overall, the seats are comfortable with decent support through the sides and the base. I’d swapped from a Trailblazer LTZ into the Acadia and after 100km behind the wheel I was becoming fidgety because of the Trailblazer’s short seat base, but that wasn’t the case in the Acadia. The seat base is a decent size, so those of us with longer legs will be fine on longer journeys.
Now, if room is what you want then the second-row of the Acadia will suit you down to the ground. There’s so much space in the back that you’ll easily fit three adults across the back. There’s plenty of foot and legroom and even with the dual-pane sunroofs fitted to our LTZ-V headroom is excellent. The back-seat slides forwards and backwards to give more legroom to those travelling in it, or to those travelling in the third-row. The seat back can also be reclined. There are air vents mounted in the roof and fan controls on the back of the centre console. There are also charging outlets too.
To get into the third-row you simple grab the lever on the seat shoulder and the backrest will tilt and the seat will slide forwards. The opening isn’t as large as it is on the Trailblazer we tested recently but I had no problems climbing into the back. I’ve got the same gripe with this third-row access as I had with the Trailblazer and that is that it’s the 60 of the 60:40 split that’s on the kerb-side, no doubt something that couldn’t be changed in the Acadia’s transition from left- to right-hand drive.
Once in the back there’s not a whole lot of room for a six-footer like me and, although the seats are comfortable headroom is limited and footroom for my Size 12s is almost non-existent. That said, the seats are comfortable and there are creature comforts like cupholders and directional air vents as well as USB charging for both seats. And there are top-tether anchors too ensuring the third-row seats can be used to hold a childseat. The rear-most windows are well positioned to ensure those traveling in the third-row won’t feel closed in.
What about the boot? The tail-gate on our LTZ-V is powered and the space when you’re using all three rows measure 292 litres which grows to a massive 1042 litres with the third-row seats folded flat. Drop the third- and second-row seats and you’ve got 2102 litres of room to play with.
The load lip is low and so loading and unloading is easy and the powered tail-gate is quick to open and close although there’s no gesture control so you’ll need to put down your bags to open the boot. There are two levers on the kerb-side of the boot that allow you to drop the second-row seats; the third-row seats are raised and lowered via a strap on the back of the seat.
What are the infotainment and controls like?
The Acadia LTZ-V gets just about everything that opens and shuts and so there are buttons everywhere. Fortunately, they’re zoned, so going to the right area, whether it be active safety or seat ventilation is easy.
Despite the price and the fact the Acadia is so feature rich the switch gear feels a little cheap to touch and the writing can be hard to see in full sun. And that’s the same with the infotainment screen which washes out in full-sun.
The infotainment screen measures ??in and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as well as native sat-nav. You can swipe and pinch to zoom on the screen which is of a high-resolution with a crisp picture so it’s a shame the screen washes out. There’s not a whole lot of depth to the infotainment system and so it’s fairly simple to navigate your way around and there’s smartphone connectivity if you’re more comfortable in that world.
One little oddity, was the fact the screen in our tester seemed to have a magenta cast to it…didn’t alter the reversing camera image but it did tinge the screen when my iPhone was connected. Weird.
While the controls and switchgear are all easy to use and practical in the way the dash has been laid out the general feel of the dash is rather plain. Beyond the faux timber-loot metal and the faux brushed alloy it’s all very black. And, sure, other brands, like Kia and Hyundai, love a conservative, black interior but, unfortunately the Acadia’s interior lacks the sophistication those other brands are able to achieve.
What’s the performance like?
Under the bonnet is the same (roughly anyway) 3.6-litre V6 that features in the new Commodore but the Acadia gets a different exhaust and intake set-up. Power is 231kW at 6600rpm and 367Nm at 500Nm which doesn’t necessarily sound like a whole lot of oomph given the size of the vehicle but this thing feels properly lusty when it’s up and running. And despite peak power and torque arriving quite late just looking at the throttle is enough to have the front wheels chirping.
The engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission which is nice and smooth above 30km/h but can feel a little clumsy below that. And even with the transmission wanting to run to top gear quickly for fuel efficiency reasons, the Acadia will still light up an inside wheel when cornering briskly.
In the end, what you really need to know is that this thing has plenty of grunt. And, load up the family and all their luggage and you’ll barely notice it. Whether you’re going up or down hill this thing has grunt for days and doesn’t need to be revved hard to get the best from it. It’s also a very quiet engine and even sticking my full Size 12 into the thing raised nothing but a meaty and distant growl. The engine is one of the Acadia’s strong points and this car sees the engine perform much better than it does in the Commodore with none of that car’s lag.
What’s it like on the road?
There’ll be those who, if it hasn’t been pointed out, will immediately see the AWD badge on the back of the Acadia and think it’s an all-wheel drive. But it isn’t. Well, it is but it isn’t if that makes sense which it probably doesn’t. And thinking it’s an all-wheel drive, the first time you move off from a standstill and give the thing more than just a whiff of throttle will have the front end chirping and you getting that confused puppy look.
See, the Acadia AWD is set to 2WD by default to save fuel and away from those standing starts or hard cornering it’s unlikely that you’ll notice its driving only the front wheels. Turn the circular drive mode selector on the centre console to AWD and the Acadia becomes a different car entirely.
In my week with the Acadia we experienced hot and wet weather and it was put to work across the Practical Motoring road loop which meant dirt road work too. And while it managed the drive in 2WD with only the occasional chirp here and there, in AWD the thing was sure-footed and confidence-inspiring. On one rainy day, I left the thing in AWD and the grip was impressive and I was purposely trying to get it to break traction. And it was the same on dirt too.
The Acadia LTZ-V has adaptive dampers and at around town speeds they can feel a little too firm struggling with speed humps and sharp-edged hits which thump through into the cabin. Pick up some speed though, and I’m talking more than 30km/h, and the thing smooths right out with a ride comfort and body control that impresses.
And the Acadia doesn’t go to pieces when you start pushing it either. Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest it’s one of the more dynamic of the seven-seat SUVs on the market.
But, like many others, the steering lets it down slightly. The majority won’t have an issue with its light action but given the Acadia’s cornering ability and thrusty engine I’d have liked a little more weight and feel through the wheel. It’s not hard to place the thing at speed but when driving through car parks it can feel a little ponderous to position, especially when driving up or down those corkscrew ramps in multi-storey carparks.
This is also where vision comes into it. In general driving the vision out of the Acadia is pretty good, although the raked windscreen and the thick-ish A-pillars and the fact you can only see a sliver of bonnet (and the feel-free steering) mean low-speed placement can feel ponderous. While on the topic of vision, the rear window looks big but from the inside and looking out of it it’s not. And if you’ve got all three rows in use then your vision will be blocked totally. Thankfully the reversing camera is excellent and the vibrating seat to indicate when you’re close to an obstacle, rather than an audible warning, is absolute genius.
If you want to get a little jiggier with the Acadia, and it’s happy to oblige, you can select Sport via the drive mode selector which tightens up the dampers and holds onto gears for longer allowing for that sensation of going faster than you are. I doubt most buyers will ever select the Sport mode as the regular drive mode allows more than enough fun for this type of vehicle.
What’s it like off the road?
There’s not really a lot to talk about here. The Acadia offers 203mm of ground clearance on our tester which is ‘okay’ for a rough-roader but don’t expect to take this up or down anything rougher than a gravel road. The big side steps reduce obstacle clambering and the suspension doesn’t have a lot of travel for negotiating rougher tracks.
Turning the drive selector dial to Off-Road tweaks the traction control to allow a touch more wheel spin and dulls the throttle response to ensure your foot doesn’t jerk on the throttle when bumping about on a rough road. Watch our video review to see some light-duty rough roading in the Acadia.
But, the thing will go as far on a rough road as owners would want it to…if they want to go somewhere rougher and still want the Holden badge and seven seats then they should be looking at a Trailblazer. The Acadia is ahead of vehicles like Toyota Kluger on a rough road and on-par with the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe AWD.
Does it have a spare?
Yes, but only an 80km/h-limited space saver spare. And it’s a pain to get to it. You’ve got to lift the boot floor and, unclip some straps and then remove some foam storage containers.
Can you tow with it?
Yes, up to 2000kg with a 200kg towball download. The Acadia comes ready wired for towing, you just need to buy a towbar and trailer brakes. Holden’s even fitted every Acadia with its tow-haul mode in preparation for towing duties which tweaks the transmission to ensure it’s in the right gear for the load.
What about ownership?
Holden now offers a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty with service intervals set at every 12 months or 12,000km. The first four services cost between $259 and $359.
What safety features does it have?
There’s no ANCAP rating for the Acadia yet but we’re expecting one to be announced soon. The Acadia offers an impressive standard safety suite with airbags, including curtains that reach back into the third-row, reversing camera with dynamic guide lines parking sensors and in our LTZ-V a 360-degree camera and front parking sensors. Then there’s the usual traction and stability controls, as well as lane keeping assist which is one of the better systems on the market in that it’s not overly intrusive. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert is standard as is autonomous emergency braking. In our tester, there’s also active cruise control which doubles the AEB’s range to 160km/h. There are also seatbelt reminders for all seven seats and a reminder to check the back seat when the system detects a rear seatbelt has been used to make sure that no-one is left behind.
So, what do we think?
The Holden Acadia will be dismissed by the trolls as being, like the Commodore, just another cast-off. But njust about everything sold here is essentially a cast-off from another market. Moving on. If you play the ball and not them man/woman then the Acadia has a lot going for it and is competitive against its key rivals and in some cases, outperforms them.
2019 Holden Acadia LTZ-V Specifications
Price From $67,990 drive-away Warranty 5 years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 12 months, 12,000km Safety TBA Engine 3.6-litre V6 Power 231kW at 6600rpm Torque 367Nm at 5000rpm Transmission 9-speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive (as tested) Dimensions 4979mm (L), 1916mm (W), 1762-1767mm (H), 2857mm (WB) Ground Clearance 203mm (20-inch tyres) Kerb Weight 1874-2032kg Towing 2000kg Towball Download 200kg GVM 2675kg (2WD), 2722kg (4WD) Boot Space 292L (with all 7 seats in use), 1042L (5 seats), 2102L (2 seats) Spare Space-saver Fuel Tank 82L (AWD) Thirst 9.3L/100km (AWD)