by Frank A. Aukofer

In pocket billiards, snooker or pool, it’s called “Reverse English.” Among crossover sport utility vehicles, it’s the 2017 GMC Acadia.

A player using the technique aims the cue to strike the cue ball down low, sinks the object ball in the pocket, and the cue ball simultaneously backs up into position for the next shot.

That’s what GMC has accomplished with the new downsized Acadia. It started a decade ago as a midsize crossover with three rows of seats and accommodations for seven or eight passengers. Similar garage mates were the Chevrolet Traverse and the Buick Enclave.

The Acadia has played well. But now the designers have improved its game with Reverse English to position the Acadia for further success in an era when customers increasingly covet crossovers.

The 2017 Acadia is lighter by 700 pounds and marginally smaller inside, by about 19 cubic feet of space, than its 2016 predecessor. It is eight inches shorter bumper-to-bumper but can accommodate five, six or seven passengers depending on the layout.

2017 GMC Acadia Denali
2017 GMC Acadia Denali

That may not read like much on paper. But the 2017 Acadia is a tidier, nimbler vehicle that doesn’t give away much in accommodations. In the seven-passenger version, with sliding second-row seats, it’s easy to divvy up the space so second- and third-row passengers are not unduly scrunched. Climbing into the two third-row seats, however, requires agility despite cleverly designed second-row seats that flip out of the way.

General Motors likely is hedging its bets. The Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave continue as before as larger seven- or eight-passenger crossovers. But there are hints that they may follow the downsized Acadia. For now, the two GM vehicles that share the smaller new architecture are the Acadia and the all-new 2017 Cadillac XT5, a midsize, five-passenger two-row crossover.

Overall, the 2017 Acadia has a personality that’s easy to like—maybe even love. With its more compact overall dimensions, it handles more crisply and imparts confidence in urban and freeway traffic. With the 310-hp V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, it cruises quietly and comfortably for long distances on freeways but welcomes twisting roads as well.

2017 GMC Acadia Denali
2017 GMC Acadia Denali

All-wheel drive models are equipped with five driver-selectable modes, starting with front-drive, in which the driveshaft and rear differential automatically uncouple for improved fuel economy. The tested V6 Denali, with cylinder deactivation during cruising, delivered 18/25/20 mpg on the EPA’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption cycle.

Other settings allow the driver to choose all-wheel drive, which has the capability to transfer power front-to-rear as well as side-to-side so the Acadia can keep going even with traction for one wheel. The sport mode tightens the steering and suspension system for confident handling on curves. Other settings enhance trailer towing and off-road driving.

There are eight Acadia models, starting with the $30,920 SL, which comes only with front-wheel drive. It is powered by GM’s 195-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is rated at 21/26/23 city/highway/combined mpg. It exhibits plenty of power off the line and in passing but is nowhere as turbine smooth as the V6.

Another is the $40,965 All Terrain AWD version that carries five passengers. It is designed for customers who like occasional off-road adventures and carry extra gear.

2017 All-New GMC Acadia Denali Interior
2017 All-New GMC Acadia Denali Interior

Others are the SLE, SLT and Denali versions, available with front-drive or all-wheel drive. Denali, a name GMC borrowed from the original name for the tallest mountain in Alaska, has been very good to the brand. It designates GMC’s top luxury versions and accounts for huge sales chunks of its Yukon, Sierra and Acadia nameplates.

The tested Denali AWD exhibited a luxury interior with comfortable leather upholstery, soft touch surfaces and tasteful faux wood trim. Instruments and controls are ergonomically designed, and easy to read and operate.

Safety and connectivity features abound, including automatic braking for objects and pedestrians, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind spot warning, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, SXM satellite radio, Android and Apple Car Play, and GM’s OnStar system.

Also included was an innovation that is certain to save lives. It’s called the rear seat reminder. On any given trip, if a rear door is opened and closed, the driver gets a reminder to check the back seat when the engine shuts down. It’s designed to prevent those horrific situations where forgetful parents have left children to die in hot parked cars.

That alone makes the Acadia a compelling choice. It’s a complete family crossover.

2017 GMC Acadia Denali
2017 GMC Acadia Denali

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 GMC Acadia Denali AWD four door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:6-liter V6, 310 hp, 271 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 146/13 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,956 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/25/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,845.
  • Price as tested: $52,285.

Photos (c) General Motors