We've had an early play in the Holden Acadia SUV
It is fair to say that Holden has been caught out by car buyers' wholesale shift to SUVs.
Not only did Holden not have the most convincing SUV line up to start with, but the shift also came at the expense of the large car, a segment the company had a very strong presence in. You know, that Commodore thing.
While the Trailblazer is a strong competitor in the large ladder-chassis SUV segment, the poor old Captiva hasn't been getting any younger. Or better. In fact even Holden people will admit that the Captiva is a value-based proposition, with its cheap pricetag being its most appealing feature.
But to make up for that slow start in the exploding SUV segment Holden has chosen to replace the Captiva with two different vehicles, both sourced from General Motors in the US: the Equinox will replace the five-seat Captiva later in 2017, with the seven-seat version of the Captiva carrying on alongside until the larger Acadia replaces it some time in 2018.
It has become something of a habit with Holden lately to give journalists uncharacteristically early access to new vehicles - as the company reinvents itself as a distributor rather than manufacturer.
That's how we got a very early drive of the 2018 Commodore earlier in 2017 and it's also how we got behind the wheel of both Equinox and the Acadia well before both officially launch.
Because the Equinox is mere months away, the examples we drove were close to final production. But the Acadia featured here is very much an early development car.
While the NG Commodores we sampled earlier were "65 per cent" cars, the Acadia was closer to 80 per cent. In reality this meant it was largely complete apart from the final textures on the RHD-specific internal plastics, and the calibrations of the various electronics and suspension weren't quite finalised.
Although they must be pretty close, because the Acadia was impressively comfortable and composed around Lang Lang's banked high speed track. It was also fantastically stable and impressively responsive for such a large machine.
In the US, the Acadia is powered by the choice of two petrol engines - a 2.5-litre four-cylinder or a 3.6-litre V6, both hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission. But the one thing we weren't given any information from Holden on is the Acadia's local powertrain. It's still one of those secret things.
The Acadia will be available in 2WD and 4WD configurations, with the latter version being an on-demand system (albeit pre-emptive and very responsive), with no low-range transfer case. This, combined with the Acadia's modest ground clearance means that it is very much a large road-oriented SUV, with the Colorado-based Trailblazer being the capable traditional off-roader in Holden's revamped SUV range.
There's no getting away from the fact that the Acadia is very much a big American SUV - there's lots of chrome slathered over its bold, bullish exterior, and on the inside the seats are plush and armchair-like, with more cupholders scattered around the interior than a rational person would ever deem necessary.
This doesn't mean that the Acadia handles like a big American SUV, however, as Holden's engineers have had (and will continue to have) significant input into the big guy's local set up, which has clearly paid dividends in its handling without obviously compromising its ride.
The rest of the interior - or, at least the finished portion - is impressive. The overall feel of the Acadia's cabin is reminiscent of the Jeep Grand Cherokee in terms of material, but it's really to early to make a call on fit and finish.
Another secret tucked away inside the Acadia was the comprehensively covered infotainment touchscreen, which is apparently a next-generation system that still includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone projection systems.
The screen appeared to be a respectably large size and will also double as a display for the Acadia's 360-degree camera system.
Like the Equinox, Holden has gone all out to pack as much new technology into the Acadia as it could. This sees the Acadia getting keyless entry and pushbutton start, wireless phone charging, ventilated and heated front seats, a customisable driver display, a power tailgate, triple-zone climate control, USB charging ports in all three rows of seats and a full suite of safety systems and driver assists, including trailer sway control, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, advanced park assist and haptic vibrating seat alerts.
While the final production version is more than a year away, things are looking promising so far, with the Acadia seeming to be a fairly convincing competitor for the likes of the Toyota Highlander and, if the price is right, the Mazda CX-9.