What was tested? 2007 GMC Acadia AWD SLT-2 ($37,370).
Options: Navigation system ($2,145), sunroof ($1,300), aluminum wheels ($695), DVD system ($1,295), premium paint ($395), head-up display ($350), cargo area audio controls ($150). Price as tested (including $735 destination charge): $44,435.
Pros: With a car-like unibody design, it drives far better than most big SUVs. It's refined, roomy and silent.
Cons: It's expensive, with a nearly $30,000 base price. And some parts in its interior feel cheap for such a premium vehicle.
Of all the cars in the world, my favorite are the tiny two-seaters that feel like metal mosquitos.
It doesn't matter if they're uncomfortable, cramped, impractical and powered by small rodents. They're fun. And that's all that counts.
So, as you can imagine, I'm usually unhappy when I have to drive a full-size SUV - even a big, expensive one that looks like something you'd see on MTV with girls dancing on it. Usually these big SUVs are built on truck platforms that jiggle and shake as they move down the road, exactly the opposite of what I want in a vehicle. They feel like they're built in several big sections, all of which are held together by rubber bands. And how could a sports-car guy possibly enjoy driving something that feels like that?
When I started to drive the GMC Acadia, I expected it to have that jiggly, sloppy, flabby feeling that's so common in the giant SUVs. It's certainly big, with an imposing, cathedral-like presence and a cabin that seems to be designed for NFL linemen.
But it didn't drive at all how I expected.
Actually, it felt like GMC had put a Volkswagen Golf on growth hormones. The whole thing seemed to move in one piece with the kind of solidarity you rarely find in small SUVs and never, ever feel in big ones. It didn't shake. It didn't jiggle. It didn't shimmy.
The secret to this carved-from-granite feeling is in its design. Unlike most big SUVs that have flimsy bodies mounted on a thick truck-like frame, the Acadia is built with unibody construction just like a compact car. It feels like it's built in one piece because it is.
The concept isn't new, but it's rare on this scale. It's more common on vehicles like the Ford Escape or Nissan Murano. It's especially rare for GMC, a company that advertises its vehicles are tough, capable and "professional grade" - not necessarily refined.
The Acadia, though, is refined. Thanks to its super-stiff, car-like construction, it's disturbingly quiet. Even when it's going 70 miles an hour on a country road, it's silent enough to freak you out.
That's the good news.
The bad news? Well, I realize it's become a cliche with General Motors, but the interior still feels a tad plasticky, especially in such a premium vehicle. It's dramatically better than the GM interiors of a couple years ago, but some parts still feel cheap in what would otherwise be a fairly luxurious SUV.
That brings up another sore spot: the price. If you think of this as a regular family vehicle, it's too expensive for many buyers, with the cheapest model carrying a sticker price just 10 bucks shy of $30,000. Adding things like all-wheel drive and luxury features quickly drives the price even higher. My test vehicle rang up at more than $44,000.
Granted, at that price and with that level of equipment the Acadia becomes more of a luxury SUV than a people hauler. The GMC tester came with a navigation system, rear-seat DVD player and other features that added nearly $7,000 to the price.
But it does have one thing going for it. It drives well enough that even I - Mr. Sports Car Purist - can't bring myself to hate it.