The all-new Holden Acadia seven-seat SUV is here in NZ

Is Holden's Acadia SUV the new Commodore?

HOLDEN ACADIA
Price range: $49,990-$71,990.
Powertrains: 3.6-litre V6 (231kW/367Nm, 8.9-9.3 litres per 100km), nine-speed automatic, FWD or AWD.
Body style: Five-door SUV.
On sale: Now.

We've talked a lot about the controversial change from the all-Aussie Holden Commodore to a new European-sourced model. But the reality is that for modern buyers, a "big six" family car is now much more likely to be an SUV than a traditional sedan or station wagon. In fact, the Kiwi market for large SUVs has grown 65 percent in five years.

Time to meet Holden's Acadia seven-seater. It's powered by Commodore's V6 engine and nine-speed transmission, and the starting price of $49,990 puts it right amongst the Commodore LT four-cylinder ($45,990) and the entry V6 model, the RS-V ($58,990).

Make me an instant expert: what do I need to know?

Is this today's "big six" family car? Acadia puts Commodore powertrain into an SUV package.
SIMON WATTS/BW MEDIA
Is this today's "big six" family car? Acadia puts Commodore powertrain into an SUV package.
Acadia is a large seven-seat SUV straight from the United States, where it wears a GMC badge. It was launched at home last year - the reason for our wait is that GM didn't initially have a right-hand drive development programme in place.

The upside of coming in a little late is that Holden got to do quite a bit of tweaking in its own time and has also picked up the nine-speed transmission (the US Acadia models still have a six-speed).

Acadia has the same basic engine and transmission package as the Commodore V6, albeit with different intake and exhaust systems, across the three-tier range: LT, LTZ and LTZ-V.

The LT is still pretty well kitted out. You get Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, Traffic Sign Recognition with intelligent speed assist (a first for any GM vehicle outside Europe), haptic seat alerts, keyless entry/start, sat-nav, triple-zone air conditioning, blind spot alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, lateral impact avoidance and a drive-mode selector.

The Bluetooth system can accept two devices simultaneously and every Acadia has five USB ports spread across the three rows, including 2.1-amp outlets for charging iPads.

Entry LT and LTZ have passive suspension, but top LTZ-V (pictured) steps up to adaptive technology.
SIMON WATTS/BW MEDIA
Entry LT and LTZ have passive suspension, but top LTZ-V (pictured) steps up to adaptive technology.
The LTZ adds leather upholstery, power adjustable/heated front seats, wireless phone charging, power tailgate and automated parking.

The flagship LTZ-V brings FlexRide adaptive suspension with 20-inch alloys (18in on the LT/LTZ), extra power adjustment for the front passenger seat (up from eight-way to 10-way), memory for the driver's chair, ventilation for both front seats, dual-panel sunroof, gas-discharge headlights, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera and Bose audio.

Theoretically you can have the Acadia in either 2WD or AWD in any variant, although the reality is that only the LT will be stocked in that configuration (it's front-drive, by the way). The LTZ and LTZ-V are AWD as standard, with the 2WDs available as special order. In any specification there's a $4000 price differential between front-drive and four-paw.

Drive modes aplenty - including special settings for off-road and towing.
SIMON WATTS/BW MEDIA
Drive modes aplenty - including special settings for off-road and towing.
Even the 2WD models get a drive-mode selector with normal, sport, snow and towing settings. The AWD models retain those (normal remains a 2WD mode for fuel-saving), but add AWD and an off-road setting.

Where did you drive it?

Growly V6 adds character to the drive. But it's still a big, heavy SUV on winding roads.
SIMON WATTS/BW MEDIA
Growly V6 adds character to the drive. But it's still a big, heavy SUV on winding roads.
From Auckland north, crisscrossing between coasts: from Kaipara on one side to Omaha Beach on the other.

It was a somewhat ambitious launch programme from Holden given that this is a large American SUV and the drive route took in some pretty demanding roads, including one we often use for, let's say, "special" test cars. Say no more.

Acadia swallowed it all in relatively relaxed fashion. The powertrain has plenty of character, with a nice V6 growl and very slick nine-speed gearbox.

We only drove AWD models, but in both entry LT and top LTZ-V guises.

The AWD isn't the sporty torque-vectoring setup from the Commodore, but a system similar to that in the Equinox: dynamic front-to-rear torque split and pre-emptive power adjustment. It's definitely a road-oriented system.

Acadia is Holden's highest-tech model - even if the cabin styling looks very traditional.
SIMON WATTS/BW MEDIA
Acadia is Holden's highest-tech model - even if the cabin styling looks very traditional.
Holden describes the passive suspension tune on LT and LTZ as "touring" oriented. It's relatively soft and squishy, but still well-controlled on Kiwi backroads. Good steering too.

The biggest dynamic issue is the all-season tyres, which squeal all too readily in tight corners as the weighty Acadia starts to lean.

The LTZ-V is a different story. Holden has put a huge amount of work into the adaptive suspension and it rides on higher-quality rubber. It feels substantially better sorted than the LTZ.

Yes, the lower-end models have a cushy ride in urban and motorway settings; but with the LTZ-V you can have that and a sportier cornering attitude too.

What's the pick of the range?

Choice of 2WD or AWD - but Holden's betting the higher-end models will all be the latter.
SIMON WATTS/BW MEDIA
Choice of 2WD or AWD - but Holden's betting the higher-end models will all be the latter.
There's a strong pricing argument with the LT and the equipment levels are impressive with the LTZ, but it's pretty obvious the LTZ-V is the one that Holden has poured all of its effort into.

It's a $12k jump from LTZ to LTZ-V, but you're getting a lot for that money. The FlexRide suspension alone is a valuable addition and it comes with a worthwhile tyre upgrade. Adaptive cruise control is also a must-have on a big, luxury cruiser like this and the 360-degree camera offers 17 different views, including towbar hitching assistance.

Whichever you choose, it's a big fella. Holden claims Acadia has more second and third-row legroom than either Mazda CX-9 or Toyota Highlander.

Big time: all Acadia models have seven seats. And five USB ports.
SIMON WATTS/BW MEDIA
Big time: all Acadia models have seven seats. And five USB ports.
What it doesn't have is a lot of design flair in the cabin. Technology and comfort yes, but the fit and finish isn't quite up to Japanese or Korean quality. That's easy to accept in a lots-of-metal-for-your-money $50k model, but a bit harder in the flagship LTZ-V. It's still our pick though.

 

Why would I buy it?

Meet the Acadia, GMC-style. Just for reference (and maybe for the grille).
SUPPLIED
Meet the Acadia, GMC-style. Just for reference (and maybe for the grille).
Because you want a large SUV that's got a really masculine character. Because you like a growly V6 engine. Because you want a lot of space.

Or because you know a bloke who can hook you up with a GMC Acadia grille. On that last note, buyer beware: apparently slight changes to the right-hook Acadia mean the American GMC grille isn't a straight swap.

Why wouldn't I buy it?

You're turned off by Americana. Or freaked out about petrol prices, because there's no diesel option for this two-tonne SUV.