I’ve spent a whole July in the USA, and two words sum it up: Freaking Hot. Everywhere is hot, and when you drive from LA to New York, you get to see all the different types of heat.

Stepping out of your air-conditioned car in Arizona, and your throat will burn with the intense heat, let alone the dust. Heading further south to places like New Orleans, and it’s hotter, sure, but the intense heat is now mingling with intense humidity. New York in July? Just H.O.T. all over.

I think it’s fair to say New Zealand in July isn’t like this at all.

We have our good days of settled weather, but on the whole, it’s a dangerous time to try and plan any sort of outdoor event. But that doesn’t deter a company like Holden New Zealand, who wanted to celebrate the fourth of July – America’s day of Independence. Holden isn’t an American company of course, but one car in its SUV range is made there; the full-size SUV Acadia is ‘proudly built in Tennessee’, according to the sticker on one of the door jambs.

This trip would be a celebration of Independence Day in the USA (although a day ahead of them, so bazinga!), and a chance to rediscover Holden’s big, American SUV, the Acadia.

So it was on an intensely wet day that I flew up to Auckland to do a two-day trip in 4 Acadias to the ‘Tennessee of the South’, a.k.a Tauranga. While enjoying the US-built cars and their luxury (all four were top-spec LTZ-V models), we’d also be sampling some fine dining, American-style.

It’s been a while since I’ve been in the Acadia – we went to the release of the car and then the launch, but that’s about it for me. John from DriveLife tested the Acadia out, and gave it a 5-chevron rating  – he loved it. So for me, a couple of days in the car was going to be a nice refresher to what this car is really like, over a two-day trip

I had to run to our car, as the rain was torrential at this point – and it wouldn’t let up at all, all today and into the next. We headed out from Holden New Zealand’s headquarters near the airport, and since we had an extra passenger, I hopped in the back seat. There’s gallons of room back there, comfy seats and two USB ports for charging phones, along with dual rear AC controls. 

The rear AC has proper air vents in the roof too, which some manufacturers avoid and stick to the cheaper option of using centre console vents only.

Still in Auckland, our first stop was for lunch at Sal’s Pizza. Sal’s bases their tag line on ‘Authentic New York Pizza, and I’d be interested to see how their pizzas compare to ‘actual’ pizzas we have bought across the US on road trips we’ve done there.

I have to say that Sal’s do make great pizza, and are a very close equivalent of anything in the USA. In some ways better, and you guessed it – just as big – but not as oily or covered in orange cheese. Nine hungry people didn’t get through half of the pizzas brought out to us. Leftovers were boxed up (not quite American doggy bags, but we could pretend) to be eaten later.

It was time to hit the road proper, the rain still absolutely bucketing down. At home in Wellington? A nice day. Typical. Three black and one Steel Blue Acadias hit the motorway, trying to see through the spray thrown off logging trucks.

Our first stop was a ‘get out and stretch’ one at Whangamata Surf Club, but after we got there and saw the weather hadn’t changed, it was a “yeah-nah” moment, and we continued on to Tauranga.

Almost looking like the FBI has turned up, in a very wet Whangamata

Dinner that night was supposed to be an American-style event at Morepork American BBQ, but something got lost with the translation from New Zealand English to American, and they were closed for the night.

Not to worry, we wandered through Tauranga to Rye Kitchen, who were packed with others celebrating American Independence as well. It wasn’t quite the American food we were expecting, but all meals were made beautifully and tasted great.

After breakfast the next day, we hit the road again, with me driving back to Auckland via Matamata. It’s hard not to like the Acadia on a trip like this; long, straight roads at times, and that delicious 3.6-litre V6 and 9-speed automatic (same as used in the Commodore) doing their thing very nicely. That V6 sounds so sweet when you wind it out some, and it will get you past slower traffic quickly and effortlessly if you plant it.

Seat comfort in the front is even better than the back seat, there are heated and ventilated front seats, as well as the ever-handy wireless phone charging, a haptic driver’s seat, and a huge panoramic sunroof, so all is not lost.

As you’d except, there’s heaps of room up front too. It’d make a great family car on a long trip, with an excellent 1,042 litres of boot space with the third row folded down.

We cruised on to Auckland, raining most of the time, and strong winds too. The Acadia took all this in its stride, as you’d imagine with a hefty 2,032Kg of weight planting you on the road.

I’m starting to see more Acadias on the road, although Holden didn’t have sales figures at hand. I think if they can get people in the driver’s seat, buyers will struggle to find a reason not to buy it – with no diesel option probably being the only reason. These top-spec models we drove are priced at $71,990. Compare that to others in the class, and you’ll see it represents great value.


Before we hit the road with the Acadias, Holden gave us a run-down on their ‘new’ sales campaign, called Holden SmartBuy.

“Our latest campaign continues to promote the benefits of Holden SmartBuy, which revolves around a regular and affordable weekly payment and Guaranteed Future Value,” said National Marketing Manager, Marc Warr.

“Customers pay a deposit at the start of the term, then commit to manageable weekly payments. The beauty of SmartBuy is that, at the end of the term, the vehicle has a GFV. People then have a choice of three options: trade up to a new model, using any equity as a deposit, make one final payment and own the vehicle outright or simply return it to the dealership.

“We will also be running a concurrent programme with incredibly attractive pricing across key models in the range, meaning Holden drivers have even more options to choose from when they come to making their purchasing decision.”

Entry into the Holden SUV range is from $25,990*, or $91 a week, for a Trax LS, through to a weekly payment of $145 for an Acadia LT 2WD – or a one-off payment of $49,900*.

“Irrespective of which option people choose, all new Holden drivers will enjoy three-year free scheduled servicing, three-year roadside assistance and three-year warranty as part of their experience,” said Mr Warr.

“We announced at the start of the year a need to re-establish ourselves as a challenger brand, but one with a rich and diverse range of SUV and LCV models which can fulfil a wide and varied array of customer requirements,” said Mr Warr.

Apparently – but don’t quote Holden on this – 50% of new car sales in the UK are done by the same method, so Holden New Zealand have high hopes that this will be repeated here.

Time will tell.

All-new Holden Acadia: Model information

 Engine: 3.6 litre V6 petrol

Power: 231kW

Torque:  367Nm

Fuel use:
Two-wheel drive: 8.9-litres/100km
All-wheel drive: 9.3-litres/100km

 5-Star ANCAP Safety Rating – standard on all models:

  • Traffic Sign Recognition with Intelligent Speed Assist
  • LED Daytime Running Lamps
  • Side Blind Zone Alert
  • Lateral Impact Avoidance
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist
  • Autonomous Emergency Braking
  • Forward Collision Alert with Head-Up Warning
  • Following Distance Indicator
  • Rear Park Assist
  • Rear View Camera
  • Seven airbags which provide side head-protecting curtain airbags and extend to cover all three seating rows

Feature Highlights

Standard on Acadia LT

  • Traffic Sign Recognition with Intelligent Speed Assist
  • 2000kg braked towing capacity
  • Hitch Guidance with Hitch View
  • Towing Package (accessory ball mount & tow ball required)
  • Passive Entry Push-Button Start (PEPS)
  • Satellite Navigation
  • Tri-zone Climate Control
  • 18″ Alloy Wheels
  • LED Daytime Running Lamps
  • Side Blind Zone Alert
  • Lateral Impact Avoidance
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist
  • Autonomous Emergency Braking
  • Driver Mode Control
  • Forward Collision Alert with Head-Up Warning
  • Following Distance Indicator
  • Rear Park Assist
  • Rear View Camera
  • AWD Optional

Acadia LTZ

Additional features to LT:

  • Leather-appointed trim
  • 10-way power adjustable driver seat
  • 8-way power adjustable front passenger seat
  • Heated front seats
  • Auto dimming interior mirror
  • Chrome door handles
  • Front fog lamps
  • Rain sensing wipers
  • Wireless phone charging (for compatible devices)
  • Hands-free power tailgate
  • Front Park Assist
  • Advanced Park Assist
  • AWD standard

Acadia LTZ-V

Additional features to LTZ:

  • 10-way power adjustable front passenger seat
  • Memory driver’s seat
  • Ventilated front seats
  • 20″ Wheels
  • Dual-panel sunroof
  • Bi function HID headlamps
  • FlexRide Adaptive Suspension
  • Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go
  • 360-degree camera
  • 8-inch colour driver information display
  • 8 Speaker Bose Premium Audio with amplifier and subwoofer
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Fred Alvrez
How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm a driving instructor and an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.


  1. Great review; I’m seriously considering one of these, it’s at the top of my shortlist. Other reviews I’ve read (NZ and Aus) say the Acadia has adaptive cruise control.


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