So, turns out people don’t particularly like minivans anymore. Can’t blame them – they’re big, slow, hideous, mind-numbingly boring, and make you look like the ultimate soccer mom. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard some poor sap wistfully say “Yeah, I had to sell my [insert sports car] and get a minivan for the kids.”
Well fear no longer, yearning car enthusiasts, a new(ish) breed of car-based SUVs are available to haul that family around, and you don’t even have to settle for a big, gas-guzzling SUV. Sell that minivan now – large, crossover SUV give you enough room to seat eight people and haul their crap around without trying to hide your face from passersby. Some would even call them stylish.
Honda has one called the Pilot, Mazda calls theirs the CX-9, and Ford’s got the Flex. Don’t think GM isn’t in on the game; they have (count ’em) four large crossovers – all based on the same platform. GM offers the Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook, and the two we’ll be taking a look at today, the GMC Acadia and Chevy Traverse.
All four serve the same purpose, but are for four different buyers. GM spokesperson Brian Goebel told me “The Chevy Traverse and GMC Acadia appeal to distinct customer bases and are developed and packaged accordingly.” Styling differences are obvious inside and out, but we’ll go over that later. Assuming you’re brand-agnostic though, Goebel says “The Acadia offers more items standard in various packages (like rear camera), while Traverse customers are more value-oriented.” Mr. Goebel also said that the suspensions are tuned different based on customer feedback.
Accordingly, I found the GMC’s suspension to be a bit too posh, as it tended to float and act unresponsive in the name of a softer ride. The Traverse felt more responsive and car-like in its handling.
Let’s talk about specs:
Fuel Econ. (city/hwy)
Curb Weight (lbs.)
Max. Cargo (cu. ft)
You get the idea – they’re nearly identical. Same size, same transmission, same engine, etc. So which one to buy comes strictly down to matter of preference and budget. The Traverse, as Mr. Goebel puts it, is more “value-oriented,” meaning that it’s the entry-level version of the GM large crossover quartet.
Personally, I like the Traverse better anyway. I think it looks better inside and out (although the Acadia felt higher quality inside.) The Chevy handles better, but the GMC takes bumpy roads with more elegance. Both seat up to eight, and have the same basic interior layout with a cargo capacity of 116/117 cubic ft.
Both come with a 6-speed automatic transmission and the same 3.6-liter V6 engine. In the Traverse, the engine produces 281 hp for the LS and LT trims, while the LTZ gets 288 hp due to the dual-exhaust system. The Acadia gets 288 hp across the line. It’s a good engine with plenty of pep. Both front- and all-wheel-drive layouts are available – AWD will cost you an extra $2000.
We were given a FWD Acadia and AWD Traverse to test out, and I found the FWD layout of the Acadia to be slightly off-putting – it just doesn’t feel right having the front wheels alone power something this big – I’d opt for AWD.
In terms of styling, I found the Traverse to be the more alluring of the two, inside and out. The Acadia has a work truck appeal – boxy and rugged (and will look better with “dubs,” if that’s your thing,) whereas the Traverse is more modern with swooping lines, curves, and an attractive two-tone interior. Nothing wrong with either one – it’s all about preference.
The primary differences between the Chevy Traverse and GMC Acadia (other than styling,) lie in the equipment. The Traverse is offered in LS, 1LT, 2LT, and LTZ trim levels. LS is the base model, giving you standard stuff like 17-inch steel wheels, A/C, 8-passenger seating, and all power accessories.
Stepping into the LT models gets you 18-inch alloys, parking assist, side-view mirrors with blind spot mirror, and for the 2LT, a rearview camera, power liftgate, bluetooth, dual-zone climate, and remote start. The top-of-the-line LTZ adds touch screen nav, heated windshield washer, heated and cooled leather seats, dual exhaust (with that extra 7 horsepower,) and 20-inch wheels.
The Acadia is better equipped as standard, and is also offered in four trims – SL SLE, SLT-1, and SLT-2. SL starts you off with 18-inch alloys, front and rear air, power accessories, and a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio.
The SLE adds fog lights, power liftgate, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, remote start, bluetooth, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power seats, and rear parking sensors with back-up camera. SLT-1 buyers get bigger wheels, tri-zone climate, leather upholstery, 10-speaker Bose audio, and the SLT-2 adds even more stuff – bigger wheels, perforated leather, driver memory, and more available packages. As you could imagine, the Acadia can get expensive fast.
Before You Buy
Both the Chevy Traverse and GMC Acadia are good at what they do, and strengthen the “new GM” image by exuding high quality, smart design, and personality. The engine and transmission are powerful with class-leading fuel economy. A few competitors to look at (if you weren’t paying attention before) include the Mazda CX-9, Ford Flex, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Veracruz, and Toyota Highlander.