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In the vast middle ground between station wagons and full-size sport-utility vehicles are crossovers. And few crossovers come off so smartly as the GMC Acadia, an eight- or seven-passenger utility vehicle that shares some of its running gear with the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave, but wears a suit of chunky sheetmetal all its own.
Available with either front- or all-wheel drive, the Acadia has a single powertrain motivating all versions. It's a 3.6-liter V-6 with 288 horsepower, coupled to a six-speed automatic that takes some prodding to snap off shifts. Acceleration is fine, but the Acadia's ride and steering feel are finer--and towing capacity is as high as 5200 pounds, depending on which model you've specified.
The Acadia's interior sports a pair of buckets in front and a three-child bench seat in the way-back, but whether it seats seven or eight depends on the middle row, a bench unless optioned up to captain's chairs. The front two rows are perfectly comfortable, even for large adults. They'll even find ample head room in the back seat, but clambering back there won't be elegant, and the low bottom cushion won't be very supportive.
In any Acadia, both the second and third rows of seats fold almost flat to boost cargo storage. From 20 cubic feet with the third-row seat in the upright position, the Acadia's storage capacity blooms to more than 115 cubic feet when the rear two rows of seats are folded. The cargo floor sits higher than in some crossovers, but a power tailgate helps make loading up the Acadia easier.
Safety scores are excellent. Both the NHTSA and the IIHS give the Acadia their top overall ratings, and the crossover comes with standard stability control, curtain airbags, with an option for a rearview camera.
The Acadia comes in base SL form with the usual power features, a CD player, and a cloth interior. By the time you've paid up to the Denali version, you'll be nearing the $50,000 mark--but you'll have DVD navigation, mahogany wood trim, heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, and USB and Bluetooth connections for your phone.
It's nearly as useful as a minivan, and doesn't have the sliding side doors that condemn those vehicles to "swagger-wagon" status, at best. The Acadia's a little tougher than that--and it looks the part, too.