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2007 GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook

GM Arrives On The Crossover Scene In A Big Way

    In case you’ve been out of the new vehicle market for the past few years, allow us to catch you up. SUVs are dying; sent to their graves by rising gas prices and fickle consumers who demand better ride and handling quality than the big, lumbering body-on-frame workhorses can ever hope to provide.
     They aren’t always quick, but automakers are smart and they know Americans like their vehicles big, comfortable and capable. That’s why they’ve repackaged those characteristics into an integrated body and frame architecture that allows for the room and style of an SUV and the driving characteristics of a car. It has worked like a charm and crossover sales are increasing like Hollywood’s adoption rate. But up until now crossovers have been midsize or less, and that has kept large families and soccer moms on the sideline.
     GM’s new crossovers, the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook, are ending that. They can seat eight people in comfort or haul 116.9 cubic feet of stuff when the 2nd and 3rd rows are folded. GM’s own full-size Tahoe SUV doesn’t even offer that kind of real estate.
     In more ways than one these crossovers are big news. And our time in a fully loaded Acadia and a modestly equipped Outlook convinced us they will live up to their considerable hype.
     Under the skin both vehicles share a new architecture GM calls Lambda and it provides a rigid foundation that every aspect of the vehicles benefit from. Body panel gaps were tight and even all around and broken pavement and rough dirt roads never produced a squeak or groan. Of course the downside to having such a strong steel cocoon is weight. Our front-wheel drive Outlook weighed 4,720 pounds and our all-wheel drive Acadia punished the scales to the tune of 4,936 pounds.
     Both vehicles use the same all-aluminum 3.6-liter DOHC V6 which spins to its 6,600 rpm power peak smoothly and quietly. With dual-exhaust the engine makes 275 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. We love the engine and it does the best it can here, but a vehicle this heavy needs serious torque to get moving with spunk. We think a modern 3.0-liter diesel would be a beautiful fit for these vehicles, but we don’t expect one anytime soon.
     The V6 works with a modern 6-speed automatic to return EPA ratings of 17/24 for an all-wheel drive version or 18/26 for front-wheel drive. We saw between 18 mpg and 20 mpg during our time in the vehicles. Our all-wheel drive Acadia downshifted a gear or two at the slightest hint of a hill and it got on our nerves in record time. Fortunately, the lighter front-wheel drive Outlook hunted for gears significantly less, even over the same hills. And unlike Ford’s Edge, GM provides drivers with a manual mode operated by a rocker switch on the side of the shifter. Props to GM for allowing true manual control and not programming the tranny to upshift on its own.
     Neither of these vehicles are what we’d call fast, but owners coming from minivans or other large SUVs will find the performance comparable and completely adequate.
     Large ventilated brakes come on both models with 12.8-inch discs up front and larger 13-inch discs at the rear. The Saturn had standard 18” wheels and the Acadia wore ultra bright 19” wheels for an extra $695. The big tires and giant 118.9-inch wheelbase have a downside when it comes to maneuverability; both vehicles have turning radiuses of more than 40 feet.
     We’ll put up with a few extra turns in the parking lot for the great ride and excellent proportions that come with the XL wheelbase. Both vehicles put their standard “ride and handling suspensions” (coil-over-strut design at the front and a linked H-arm rear with coil springs) to good use soaking up every bump and frost heave they encountered far better than any solid axle SUV could. As a bonus the GMC and Saturn are really quiet, so in addition to filtering out everything before you feel it, they also block everything before you hear it. It’s as comfortable a people hauler as we can remember experiencing.
     The comfort continues inside where there is plenty of space in the first two rows and possibly the most useable and comfortable third row of seats this side of a minivan. We really liked the second row captain’s chairs in our Acadia, but the bench seat in our Outlook folded and slid out of the way just as easily and offered the maximum capacity of eight passengers. GM’s Smart Slide second row is the best seating design going in SUVs, allowing for a wide, flat walkway to the back row through the long second row doors.
     There are a few hard plastics in the interior but nothing objectionable for a vehicle in the $30,000 range, and only moderately so in a model like our $45,000 Acadia. We actually preferred the light wood trim and stitched door panels of our Outlook to the fake aluminum and hard plastic interior panels in the more expensive GMC, but the logbook had praise for both vehicle’s seats and controls. There are great cupholders on the center console and good storage space with another molded cupholder in each door. GM’s corporate climate controls and family of radios and navigation systems continue to be easy to use and rewarding to operate. We also appreciated the details like the overhead console-mounted LED that cast a soft orange glow on the center console so drivers can find their drinks and miscellaneous items at night. The gauges of both vehicles are particularly easy to read although the lid to the dash top cubby always took several stabs to open in our Saturn tester.
     Both vehicles come loaded with safety equipment, including front, side and head curtain airbags and are expected to earn 5-star crash test ratings. Another nice bonus is the peace of mind that comes with the 5-year or 100,000 mile powertrain warranty.
     We tested the Acadia first and when our time with the first GMC crossover was up we thought it was a fine alternative to large SUVs or minivans that don’t offer the same capability in snowy climates. Our model was fully loaded and went for $44,860. We were just as content with the Saturn until we saw the window sticker and realized just how much vehicle you were getting for the $31,929 as-tested price. We barely missed the extra $13,000 of equipment. In fact, our Saturn had the very fairly priced Convenience Package, which for $1,045 includes useful items like a power liftgate, rear parking assist, remote start, 115-volt power outlet and heated wiper fluid. It also had a pretty but unneeded $395 worth of premium paint that would be better off going toward a monthly payment in our opinion.
     The GMC Acadia and the Saturn Outlook represent a new breed of large utility vehicles that can tow 4,500 pounds, transport eight people in comfort and return far better mileage than the large SUVs that used to do the same work. GM stands to rack up some serious crossover sales, but the real winners here are the consumers who buy them.

The Good:
Lots of room, comfortable seats, cushy ride, quiet interior, good mileage, possibly the best third row available.
The Bad:
They weigh a lot, too much transmission hunting, less expensive Saturn has nicer interior materials than GMC.
The Verdict:
Before you buy that new SUV check out GMs big crossovers. You’ll be glad you did.


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