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2017-2018 Midsize SUV Comparison: Which is the Best Fit for Your Family?


Family-style flexibility.

The midsize SUV segment has been as busy as the families who depend on them. The 2017 model year brought us updated versions of the Toyota Highlander and Nissan Pathfinder, as well as a totally redesigned GMC Acadia. Now, 2018 brings us a brand new entry from Volkswagen, an all-new version of the Chevrolet Traverse and an updated Ford Explorer. All of this following a 2016 model year that brought us all-new takes on the Honda Pilot and Mazda CX-9. Whew.

Six of those eight models were available in time for this year’s midsize SUV comparison, so we gathered them up and headed out on a strategically indirect route to the Southern California mountain community of Big Bear Lake. When we weren’t driving them in back-to-back succession we were exploring cubbies, crawling into third rows and comparing notes. When we returned to our Irvine offices, each of six editors had logged more than 300 miles in these all-new and updated models.

As always, the goal of this comparison test is to help give shoppers like you a sense of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each model, not to name winners and losers. Looking for maximum roominess? Make sure to put the new Atlas on your list. Looking to have a little fun? The Mazda CX-9 is your answer. Each of these six SUVs is the best choice for someone, let’s find out if one of them is the best choice for you. 

In alphabetical order:

2017 GMC Acadia Comparison

2017 GMC Acadia

Starting Price: $29,995

Max Capacity: 7

Completely rethought for 2017, the new Acadia proved the outlier in this test.Read more

2017 Honda Pilot Comparison

2017 Honda Pilot

Starting Price: $31,685

Max Capacity: 8

The Kelley Blue Book Midsize SUV Best Buy for 2017 continues to meet our lofty expectations. Read more

2017 Mazda CX-9 Midsize SUV Comparison

2017 Mazda CX-9

Starting Price: $32,460

Max Capacity: 7

The best-looking, most fun-to-drive entry in the segment. (The same thing we say about almost every Mazda.)Read more

2017 Nissan Pathfinder Midsize SUV Comparison

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Starting Price: $31,250

Max Capacity: 7

Impressively enhanced for 2017, and one of the roomiest third rows. Read more

2017 Toyota Highlander Midsize SUV Comparison

2017 Toyota Highlander

Starting Price: $31,590

Max Capacity: 8

Easy, practical and proven. Read more

2018 Volkswagen Atlas Midsize SUV Comparison

A bit less domesticated



Starting Price: $29,995 | Price yours

Above Average: Tech, powertrain

Below Average: Roominess, versatility

Consensus: Smaller new Acadia is nicer, less family-oriented


The GMC Acadia wasn’t just redesigned for 2017, it was repositioned. While the outgoing model was dimensionally similar to its Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave corporate cousins (redesigns of which are coming for 2018), GMC’s version is now shorter than the others and is even offered in two-row configurations. If the roomier, 3-row-only 2018 Chevy Traverse had been available, in fact, it’s likely the Acadia wouldn’t have been along for this comparison test.

And while our two-row Acadia test vehicle indeed proved the clear outlier in the group, putting more than 300 miles on the odometer gave us an even better sense of what it is and what it isn’t. From an interior volume perspective, the 2017 GMC Acadia is almost more of a 2-row SUV with the added benefit of an available occasional-use third row. Our Acadia All-Terrain tester, with its advanced all-wheel drive system and 2-row-only layout, is very clearly aimed at Jeep Grand Cherokee shoppers.

So if you like the idea of a comfortable crossover but would prefer the more rugged vibe of a classic SUV, and you’re willing and able to sacrifice some cargo space and third-row roominess — or do without a third row altogether — keep reading to get a clearer picture of whether or not the new Acadia might be the choice for you and yours.


2017 GMC Acadia

2017 GMC Acadia Ratings
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See pricing and reviews


Highway Driving

Our test vehicle’s 20-inch wheels probably didn’t help, but our highway evaluation notes contained more nitpicks than highlights. The ride was a bit firm, the steering required more attention than most, and there were visibility challenges when changing lanes (mitigated by our vehicle’s blind-spot warning system). And even with a sticker price of more than $47,000, our Acadia didn’t have adaptive cruise control or lane keep assist, increasingly popular features we’d expect on an all-new vehicle stickered at close to $50,000.

Power was not an issue, however, with the Acadia’s 3.6-liter V6 providing 310 horsepower, the most in the group. And while the Acadia demonstrated a few relative shortcomings on the highway, none of them were significant enough to turn off an otherwise interested shopper. 

City Driving

The Acadia was more impressive in the city, thanks to a solid powertrain that’s both smooth off the line and responsive when asked for more. Although it was among the smaller vehicles in our test, the Acadia felt larger, in part becuase of a long dash spanning the distance between the driver and the windshield. In many ways the Acadia delivers the larger feeling of GMC’s Yukon full-size SUV but in a smaller, more efficient package that’s far easier to maneuver about town and through parking lots.

Interior Appeal

The Acadia’s interior received mixed reviews from our testers. On the plus side, materials and construction were solid and practical considerations included an easily accessible forward bin with power and USB ports, well-placed cupholders and a roomy center-console bin. On the design front, however, it was neither as attractive as the Mazda CX-9 nor as digitally enhanced as the Volkswagen Atlas.


Combining dedicated 4G LTE internet connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, plus OnStar telematics services, the 2017 GMC Acadia boasted one of the strongest technology suites in the test. The editors also praised the intuitive interface and redundant hard controls, providing several ways to perform the same function according to the situation and user preferences.

Rear Seat

The 2017 GMC Acadia includes a third row of seats at its base price of $29,995, but as you climb the price ladder it either disappears or becomes optional. Acadia models with the All-Terrain package are 5-passenger only, which is what we had for our test. But simply looking at the manufacturer’s specs makes it clear the Acadia’s availble third row is among the smallest in the category. Again, we suggest considering the Acadia a two-row SUV with the advantage of an optional third row.

The Acadia’s second row wasn’t the roomiest in the test, either, but every one of these SUVs offered plenty of room to keep at least two adults comfortable for hundreds of miles. 

Cargo Area

Again, compared to the other SUVs in this test (save the Mazda CX-9, perhaps), the Acadia’s cargo roominess is lacking. But compared to a Jeep Grand Cherokee the Acadia offers an extra 5 cubic feet of cargo area behind the second row.

Fuel Economy

Power often comes with a price, and the Acadia’s test-leading horsepower cost a couple extra miles per gallon in EPA-estimated combined fuel economy. But it performed a little better than that in our observed fuel economy, and even at the EPA numbers the Acadia would only cost around $10 more per month compared to the test average.

Resale Value

While stalwarts like the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander still lead the way in midsize SUV resale value, the redesigned Acadia promises to hold onto its value far better than the model it replaces. And for the next several years, we’re forecasting it to retain a greater perecentage of its sticker price than the aging Jeep Grand Cherokee.


Inside and Out Photo Gallery: 2017 GMC Acadia