Patrick G. Mahoney

GM's first entry in the crossover SUV (CUV) field is worth a hard look. Car-like unibody construction and a transverse (sideways) mounted engine may seem to fly in the face of GM's "Professional Grade" slogan, but the Acadia should stir interest with prospective SUV/CUV owners.

This is a true seven-seater (with available seating for eight) that doesn't skimp on storage. A 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing and automatic six-speed transmission delivers good acceleration and best-in-class fuel economy (EPA est. 18/city, 26/highway for FWD models) that outshines Toyota Sienna, Honda Pilot, Acura MDX, and Ford Edge. The V6 engine puts out 275 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. With the $425 towing package, the Acadia can pull up to 4,500 lb.

The Acadia starts at a bit under $30K, which buys seat-mounted side air bags up front, side curtain air bags for all three rows (GM says most seven-seaters only provide air-bag protection for the first two rows), antilock brakes, and electronic stability control to help prevent rollovers. Front and rear A/C and a CD/MP3 player are also standard.

GM moved the rear wheels back so fender arches don't interfere with rear-seat access. The bottoms of the second-row captain's chairs flip upward and the seats slide forward with the tug of a single lever, which GM calls SmartSlide. The third-row seat offers the kind of room found in full-size SUVs, and there are individual A/C outlets and reading lamps in both second and third rows. Both rows of seats fold flat, but even with the seats up there's 20 ft3 of space behind the third row.

The ride is steady and solid. Steering feels assured and surprising nimble considering the vehicle's size.

I liked the heads-up display, a $350 option that displays vehicle speed and other info on the windshield. But I more than compensated for any efficiency gain by spending too much time with my eyes on the navigation display, due in part to a lack of familiarity with its nuances. I also appreciated the ultrasonic rear-parking assist (standard in the SLT-2). For novices like me, backing something this big can be intimidating but parking assist reduced the stress.

My overall impression of the Acadia was surely colored by the host of standard equipment on the SLT-2, with its base price of $35,370. Another $5,240 brings the touchscreen/navigation system, dual skyscape sunroofs, 19-in. ultrabright aluminum wheels, head-up display, and cargo-area audio controls. The total was $40,745, including destination charge.