Is it bold and brave? I’m not talking about the new Holden Acadia itself, but Holden’s decision to launch the car here. With petrol prices at a high and demand for hybrids and EVs slowly growing, is there a place for an American-sourced, large SUV with a V6 petrol engine – and no diesel option?

Maybe Holden has the right idea; after all, the ever-popular Toyota Highlander has been with us for a long time now, and that’s only available in a V6. There’s also the Nissan Pathfinder (V6 only), and the Lexus RX350 range (V6 only).

GM manages to sell around 90,000 Acadias a year in the USA – how well will it sell here? Only time will tell. On a side note, Australia and New Zealand are the only RHD markets in the world for the Acadia, so we should all feel a bit special about that.

In August, we went to the initial launch of the Acadia in Wellington – this time it was going to be a drive day north of Auckland.

According to Holden New Zealand the large SUV segment has grown 65% over the last five years – that’s a huge increase, so perhaps it does seem like the perfect time for the Acadia to hit the showrooms. For New Zealand, there will be three models, and true to other Holdens, you can choose from the LT, the LTZ, or the top-spec LTZ-V. The cheapest model is the LT in two-wheel drive (2WD) at $49,990, or all-wheel drive (AWD) at $53,990. Next up is the LTZ, 2WD $55,990 or AWD at $59,990. The LTZ-V in 2WD is $67,990 or AWD $71,990. There’s no denying that’s pretty sharp pricing, for a large, V6 7-seater SUV. We’ll go through each model and its features once we have a test car for a week.

The interior dimensions of the cars show that the Acadia has more second and third row legroom than either the Highlander or the popular Mazda CX-9.

There’s also a hitch guidance system with a hitch camera view for hooking up a trailer. Safety systems abound in the Acadia, with claims that this is the most safety-equipped Holden to date. There’s AEB of course, this time with pedestrian and cyclist detection; Blind Spot Monitoring with Lateral Impact Avoidance (which will stop you changing lanes if it detects someone in your blind spot). As mentioned at the initial launch, there’s also Road Edge Detection, which works with lane departure warning. Road Edge Detection will pick up edges of the road, even where there is no white line to go by.

All models have the same drivetrain, the 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine that’s also used in the Commodore, and the same 9-speed automatic transmission. The engine develops 221kW of power, and 367Nm of torque. It includes variable valve timing, engine stop/start, active fuel management (which cuts fuel to cylinders 2 and 5 where it can, to save fuel). Claimed combined fuel consumption is 8.9L/100km for the 2WD model, and 9.3L/100km for the AWD version.

The 9-speed auto has a Tow/Haul mode, and includes technology like Shift Stabilisation to minimise upshifts and downshifts. On the suspension side of things, the Acadia spent time in Australia getting its suspension, steering, and dampers tuned for local conditions. The focus for the suspension has been on a comfortable ride, so this is something we’ll be checking out during our drive today. The AWD system is similar to the Equinox, where it controls torque front/rear, as needed. There is user-selectable AWD, which means you can disconnect it on the fly, at any speed. Some people like this ability, and run a car always in 2WD to save fuel, keeping AWD for when it’s really needed.

Like the Equinox, the Acadia LTZ-V has a haptic seat, so it will vibrate the a part of the driver’s seat if there is a potential hazard approaching, like a car in your blind spot. Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR) is new and a first for Holden. In fact the Acadia is the first GM car outside of Europe to use TSR, which can be used in conjunction with Intelligent Speed Assist. Something extra that we’ve not been seeing on other 7-seat SUVs lately is the abundance of USB ports. There’s 5 of them in the Acadia, and all are 2.1-amp charging, meaning that the USB ports can charge an iPad.

Holden New Zealand are calling the Acadia the King of Swagger, and their television commercials will be angled towards this, with a theme along the lines of you don’t turn up in an Acadia – you Arrive in it.

Drive Time

Enough talk about swagger, time to see if this car delivers it. We grabbed a mid-spec LTZ model finished in black, and hit the road. Driving it, it doesn’t feel as big as it should, and that V6 petrol engine made sweet noises as we accelerated onto the motorway. We headed north towards Kaukapakapa, through a mix of very windy roads, and then some long straights with open sweepers.

The Acadia is at home on either of these types of the roads. The chassis is a real highlight of this new model – it rides beautifully, but can actually hustle around the corners as well, for this size and weight of car. I switched the car to 2WD mode on the corners, and if you really push on then the front tyres will start scrabbling for grip on the tighter bends, but under normal driving I couldn’t feel any difference.

On the long straights, the engine is almost inaudible, unless you floor it to overtake, then you are rewarded with that sound that only a V6 petrol engine can make.

We did a car change, and moved into a top-spec LTZ-V model, so now had things like vented front seats, an active dashboard, Qi wireless phone charging and the Flexi Ride Active Suspension.

Since the LTZ-V rides on 20” alloy wheels, the ride felt a bit firmer than the LTZ with its 19” alloys, but the handling improved yet again. Trying this car in Sport mode did make for quicker gear changes, but the steering didn’t seem to firm up too much.

As passenger, I took a look around the cabin. Admittedly, some of the materials look a little cheaper than I had expected, and there seems to be quite a few hard plastics around the cabin, especially where your hand falls.

The vented seats were great though, a hot Auckland day made these a welcome option to have.

Before we got to the lunch venue, we spent quite a few kilometres on a metal road, and the over 2-ton Acadia really impressed here. It should have been a bit of a whale on this twisty metal road, but it rode well and took the corners in its stride. Surprisingly excellent.

After lunch, we moved back into an LTZ. We tried to find a base 2WD LT model, but there was only one to share around. The AWD LTZ did just fine, the grip from the AWD system showing as the car got thrown around with a bit more verve on more tight and twisty sealed roads.

It was time for our last car swap, and while we were waiting for cars to arrive, we took the time to check out the third row of seats. Let me just say, legroom in the second row is very generous, even if you slide the whole second row forward. But we did find an issue with the Acadia – access to the third row is a little limited, as the second row slides forward, but not quite enough to get larger teenagers easily through. Small kids wouldn’t care, but it looks like the conversion from LHD to RHD may have missed swapping the split second row of seats over. Behind the driver is a single seat, and that tips forward on a cantilever system, and is brilliant – but this seat really needs to be on the kerb side of the road.

At last though we managed to get into the base model, the 2WD $49,990 LT Acadia. Our electric seats were gone, but overall the car felt the same – after all, it’s the same engine as every other model. We used the voice control for the SatNav, and this got our destination added to the cars SatNav automatically. For near on $50K, you get a lot of car for your money with the LT.

So now we wait for a test car to arrive, where we can use it as a Daily Driver for a week and see if this new Holden really has the swagger they say it does.

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