NZ signs fine for Acadia

Holden has revealed more about the Acadia large sports utility coming on sale in November.


LESS than two weeks out of a three year programme to Holdenise a vital big American SUV for local sale was spent on New Zealand roads – but it was all quality time, dedicated to finetuning a system that makes this the most advanced car the brand has ever offered.

This was made clear today as Holden New Zealand brought in the engineer leading the Acadia’s localised development across the Tasman to divulge information about the model, all part of a spruik to raise interest ahead of the November 2 public release and a mid-October media drive.

Dan Pinnuck (pictured) spoke to media at the home of Scott Brown, the United States’ ambassador to New Zealand, who laid on lunch.

The official residence in Lower Hutt was a fitting venue because the V6 wagon, with seven seats over three rows, represents a new level of the relationship Holden has with General Motors in America.


Holden NZ has declined to disclose how many versions of Acadia are coming and what prices will be attached, nor will it provide technical details relating to the drivetrain, save for saying that all versions will have a 3.6-litre V6. The power and torque outputs have yet to be announced, but the model already on sale in America has 231kW and 367Nm, putting it ahead of the Toyota Highlander, perhaps the most relevant competitor.

The NZ-bound powerplant is largest of two engines provided the rig in the US (the other being a 2.5) and marries to a nine-speed automatic. Some versions will be front-drive and others will have a more complex all-wheel-drive that disengages drive to the rear wheel set for normal road use to save on fuel.

The model is more all-American than any previous US product that Holden has seconded over the years, in that it is the first model that is built for the brand in the United States. Previous cars that have strong American design and engineering DNA, such as the now defunct Cruze and the Equinox crossover that have been on sale since January, have always been built outside of the US. The Equinox, for instance, is out of Mexico.

In addition to sourcing from a plant in Tennessee, Acadia also delivers other Holden firsts.

One is that it is the Aussie arm’s first vehicle from GMC – which once produced only commercial models but has now reincarnated as the General’s sports utility and crossover specialist.

Also, it is set to assume as the Holden flagship model, a status that has only ever previously been accorded pure passenger cars, including a fair swag of four-door Commodore derivatives. At the moment, too, the Commodore VXR performance hatch is effectively the family kingpin.

However, Holden NZ boss Marc Ebolo says it makes sense to elevate an SUV to that role now – the market prefers SUVs over traditional road-based cars and, while no volume expectations are being given, Holden also expects Acadia and Equinox to be its strongest sellers in the long term.

The heat is also on Acadia doing well because Australia and New Zealand are the only right-hand-drive market, so presumably big volumes are requisite to offset what would have been a engineering expense.

Acadia also deserves top dog position because it raises the bar on technology, mainly in respect to its active safety suite.


Acadia’s arsenal of aids surpasses those in the Commodore, which also raised the bar on entry in April.

It will get an autonomous emergency braking system that can detect pedestrians and cyclists as well as vehicles, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, rear-parking assist, automatic high beam headlights and traffic sign recognition, among other things. It will also get keyless access and push-button start, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat-nav, three-zone climate control, USB ports in all three rows and a rear-vision camera.

The traffic sign recognition, which uses a camera to read speed signs and signal that information to the driver, is especially relevant, as this is the first Holden to take this tech. It also has a lane departure warning system and an auto emergency braking set-up which also actively identifies hazards, from other vehicles to people – not only pedestrians but also cyclists.

It’s the latter set-up that has been subject to a testing schedule in NZ that, though modest in time span – it took just 10 days – was intensive.

Two vehicles were seconded to NZ from a fleet of 16 undergoing a far more extensive Captured Test Fleet programme schedule that started in earnest in June and has seen cars across the Tasman clock up thousands of kilometres.

The main thrust of the NZ programme was to confirm that the road sign tech worked with our signs - no problem as ours is basically to world-class European Union standard. A different story in Australia, where the absence of national standard has allowed each State to create variances that have been something of a challenge to overcome.

Today’s presentation also enforced that, even though Holden is no longer direct designing, engineering and building cars, it still has a bit of a hands-on role in tailoring imported product.

This has occurred with Acadia’s front strut and multilink rear suspension, though more directly with the editions with Continuous Damping Control. This works with a terrain selector dial on the console, which adjusts the steering effort, throttle response, transmission shift points and drivetrain settings for various on and off-road scenarios. Holden engineers were able to finetine the CDC settings directly, with the end result that the sport calibrations are much racier and firmer than American buyers experience.

CDC seems set to restrict to the AWD editions, which appear likely to be the premium editions. The front-drive models - which also allow for different drive modes (but with fewer options) and have a passive suspension – were also retuned by Holden, but with these it was a case of GMC undertaking the work wholly in America under direction from Melbourne.

Two more all-American GM vehicles are set to hit here before year-end, in the form of the Chevrolet Camaro muscle coupe and mega-sized Silverado pick-up, but those will represent as Holden Special Vehicles’ product.

Australia and New Zealand are the only right-hand-drive markets for Acadia, so presumably the brand expects big volumes to offset what would have been a engineering expense.