Bigger is Good
At just over 201 inches long and nearly 79 wide and 70 tall, the Acadia is a sequoia among two bonsais, overshadowing its competitors by as much as 10.4 inches in length, 2.7 in width, and 1.9 in height. Moreover, the GMC's 118.9-inch wheelbase stretches 10.6 inches beyond the Acura's. For maneuvering through parking lots or pulling U-turns, the massive GMC, with its 40.4-foot turning circle, is the least suited of the group. But for hauling people and gear, it's just the opposite, boasting the most cargo volume-119.9 cubic feet behind the front seats-and the most first- and third-row room. Further, the second row sports the slick Smart Slide feature, which allows the captain's chairs to be folded and slid forward at the pull of a lever for easy access to the third row. Our $45,360 tester further dazzled with a touch-screen nav ($2145), a dual sunroof ($1300), a DVD system ($1295), and a useful head-up display ($350), options that compensated for the comparatively low-rent plastic and lack of a backup camera. Looking for a minivan in crossover clothing? The Acadia is it.

With the GMC's big size comes big burden. It depresses the dirt with 5044 pounds, which makes the 4604-pound CX-9 feel more like a Miata by comparison. On mountain roads during our test, the Acadia's size and mass were felt, and not in a positive light. "It's heavy and not a lot of fun in the twisties," notes one editor. "Its heft is its Achilles' heel-it just feels like a big, heavy rig," says another. Numb steering that needed consistent corrections, soft nonadjustable dampers, and a spongy brake pedal that went incommunicado for the first inch of travel did little to help things.

That said, the GMC's wide track, long wheelbase, and broad 255-section Goodyears afford it the plushest ride and, aided by standard StabiliTrak, enabled it to be hustled from one side of the mountain to the other without losing sight of the others, evidenced by its CX-9-matching 28.2-second time in the figure eight and respectable test numbers-0 to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds, the quarter mile in 16.4 at 83.6 mph, 60 to 0 mph in 138 feet, and 0.79 g of lateral acceleration. Granted, all the numbers place the GMC third in a three-vehicle test, but in light of its corpulence and 3.6-liter engine, the numbers aren't too shabby-especially considering it matched the quicker, lighter MDX's fuel economy. Speaking of the engine, it's a smooth piece whose 275 horses and 251 pound-feet are low on NVH and high on refinement. The same, however, can't be said of the six-speed automatic, which hunts for gears with the same fervor as Ted Nugent does deer. Moreover the odd manual control-a rocker button with plus and minus symbols-on the gearshift is less intuitive and more difficult to operate than the others', which can be operated quickly and blindly.

At the end of the trip, the GMC's size, a blessing for passengers and parties, and excessive weight were deemed too cumbersome, hindering its fun-to-drive factor. And, at over 45 large, the Acadia's bottom line helped sink it to the bottom of the hot tub. Picking a winner between the other two, though, required a much steamier debate.