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Edmunds: Acadia vs. Odyssey vs. Sequoia

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I saw them filming this over a month ago on Angeles Crest; they really do test these cars hard. And I have to agree with their verdict... minivans might be uncool, but they're unbeatable in terms of packaging and carlike handling. We managed to fit seven people and skis, snowboards, jackets, and boots in the Ody last winter. Four-by-eight sheets of plywood fit easily too.

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(Edmunds didn't have an image of all three together, so here's one; just ignore the car in the foreground :-p)

Cross-Functional Team Players

By Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

Date posted: 03-09-2008

"What's the best car?" It's a question that often comes up in casual conversation with people we've just met. Normally, we'll respond with something along the lines of, "It depends on what you use your car for."

But the question had us thinking. What is the best choice for most people? You know, a typical family doing typical things like home improvement projects, picking up relatives and all their holiday gear at the airport, transporting the kids to kung-fu class....

Once we ruled out off-roading and towing as specialized activities, we settled on a framework. The vehicle had to accommodate at least seven typical adults and still fit in a normal garage. This still didn't narrow the field much, as you can find dozens of full-size SUVs, crossovers and minivans that all fit the bill.

So here we have assembled the best and most sizable examples of their respective classes of full-size SUV, crossover and minivan to determine if bigger is better, or if crossing over truly hits the sweet spot, or if the lowly minivan has enough capability.

Among full-size SUVs, we settled on a 2008 Toyota Sequoia SR5 4x4 packing $5,545 in options including navigation, a towing package, parking sonar, power-adjustable driver seat, running boards, cold-weather package, cargo mats and a roof rack. Total bill: $43,605.

GM's Lambda crossovers have quickly made a name for themselves as front-runners among crossovers, and so we threw into the mix a 2008 GMC Acadia SLT-2 AWD equipped with goodies totaling $3,165. A panoramic sunroof, 19-inch wheels, a towing package, fancy paint and a head-up instrument display bring the Acadia's total to $42,180.

Minivans don't come any better than the 2008 Honda Odyssey, still the benchmark in its class. The Odyssey we tested is decked out in range-topping Touring trim and checks in at $40,645. All of the numerous features found on Touring models come "standard," following the typical Honda strategy of bundling options into trim levels. Suffice it to say that not all Odysseys are equally equipped.

3rd Place: 2008 Toyota Sequoia

Let's be clear: Had this comparison test included towing or driving off-road, the finishing order would likely have been very different. The Sequoia is a full-on truck, built not on a carlike unibody platform like the Acadia and Odyssey, but instead using beefy body-on-frame construction to handle much larger towing loads than the other vehicles could ever dream of managing.

As such, the Sequoia's tow rating is 7,500 pounds, or two-thirds more than the Acadia. And unlike either the Acadia crossover or the Odyssey minivan, the Sequoia SUV offers a low-range transmission transfer case, giving it unparalleled ability to drive out of spots that would otherwise make it stick or slip.

It is precisely this over-the-top capability that prevents the Sequoia from scoring better in the test of daily use. Since it's based on a heavy truck platform, the Sequoia's heft and height wage a losing battle with Sir Isaac Newton when it comes to dynamic maneuvers and fuel economy. Not surprisingly, the Sequoia is the thirstiest vehicle of this group at the pump, with EPA estimates of 13 mpg city/16 mpg highway, averaging 15.2 mpg during its time with us.

Crowded parking lots are anathema to the Sequoia. Its bulk and forever-long rear doors make for difficult entry and exit and are a recipe for door dings. The cargo area's liftover height is nearly 9 inches higher than the Odyssey, yet the big Toyota won't carry nearly the volume of stuff as the minivan.

Our test truck's running boards are a boon to height-challenged drivers and an annoying obstacle for taller folks, but the fact that they are even offered should prompt would-be buyers to put a reality check on their own ability to climb in and out of an SUV. Ironically enough, the running boards put a serious dent in the Sequoia's ground clearance — one of its fundamental advantages over the minivan and crossover.

Considering it casts such an imposing silhouette, the Sequoia's manners are all the more impressive. It rides surprisingly well and extraneous road and wind noise have been banished, though the lifeless steering makes this bruiser drive even bigger than it is.

Compared to its rivals here, the Sequoia's sticker price buys a lot of draft-horse capability but fewer features — the SR5 we tested is equipped with cloth seats, a manual liftgate and the entry-level powertrain. Still, the Sequoia's powertrain combination of the base, 276-horsepower 4.7-liter iron-block V8 and five-speed automatic is a fine choice, as it delivers a broad power band and cooperative transmission calibration, behaving in a fashion that's reminiscent of the optional 5.7-liter V8 and six-speed box but without the added cost.

Despite contending with the Sequoia's weight of 5,920 pounds, the 4.7-liter V8 manages to propel the big SUV to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, just 0.1 second slower than the Acadia.

If you're hauling serious mass like a boat or headed for the type of treacherous terrain that truly requires a low-range transmission, choosing the Sequoia is a no-brainer. But for mainstream use on public roads, the Acadia and Odyssey are much smarter choices.

2nd Place: 2008 GMC Acadia SLT-2

Right away, the GMC Acadia signals its clear intention of distancing itself from traditional SUVs and minivans. This is hands-down the handsomest vehicle in our test, as it balances smart proportions with a lean athleticism that's missing from the others.

The level of standard equipment in the Acadia is comprehensive, too. We were able to score an all-wheel-drive version with leather upholstery and still squeak in under the sticker price of the relatively sparsely equipped Sequoia.

Getting into the Acadia is much easier than the Sequoia, thanks to the Acadia's lower step-in height. The GMC's interior controls fall more readily to hand, too, though the plasti-chrome accents scattered about fuss up the Acadia's otherwise functional and clean presentation.

The Acadia's second-row seats slide and fold into a clever stack to allow easy access to the third row, itself roomy and comfy enough for adults.

Once under way, Acadia's 275-hp 3.6-liter V6 has plenty of urge, propelling the 4,936-pound Acadia through the 0-60-mph sprint in 8.0 seconds, the quickest in our test. It sounds both pleasing and odd — the intake burbles, the air-conditioning compressor chuffs on and off and the power steering pump whirs away at idle.

The Acadia's drivability comes up short of the Sequoia and Odyssey due not to the Acadia's engine but instead to its six-speed automatic transmission, which lacks effective grade logic and continually grasps for high gears in an effort to maximize fuel economy. Nevertheless, the Acadia's as-tested fuel economy of 15.4 mpg is nearly as poor as that of the Sequoia. We're a little surprised, as the Acadia's EPA fuel economy estimates are significantly higher at 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway.

What's more, the Acadia's torque-converter engagement calibration is so soft that the Acadia will briefly roll in the wrong direction as you modulate the throttle to crawl up or down hills at a walking pace. Again, the Acadia's competition did not exhibit this trait.

Twirl the Acadia's steering wheel and things improve considerably. It turns into corners quickly and precisely, and you're left with the positive impression that GM has benchmarked sport sedans rather than SUVs in crafting the chunky feel of the Acadia's primary controls. Its steering and routine handling are worlds better than the Sequoia and nearly match that of the lighter, lower Odyssey. The Acadia's chassis reinforces this sense of refinement and solidity with suspension damping that strikes a fine balance between impact absorption and control.

In fact, there's little that the Acadia doesn't do to a high standard. It drives naturally, offers ample space for seven and provides plenty of comfort and convenience equipment than the others in our test. Its biggest shortcoming is on the utility side of the equation relative to the overachieving Odyssey.

It's hard not to think of the smartly styled 2008 GMC Acadia as a highly accomplished minivan in drag, wearing four conventional doors as if ashamed to fully embrace its potential for utility. In the end, the well-rounded Acadia left us wondering what the outcome would have been if it shed its conventional rear doors for sliding ones.

1st Place: 2008 Honda Odyssey Touring

Let's talk utility. The Honda is the only vehicle in our test that could swallow a sheet of plywood or 10-foot lengths of PVC pipe and still allow you to close the rear liftgate without placing the center HVAC stack in peril. Likewise, a tall dryer box that slides neatly into the cargo area of the Odyssey simply does not fit in either the Acadia or the Sequoia.

Furthermore, the deep well in the cargo area of the Odyssey allows it to swallow eight plastic crates while maintaining full occupancy of all three rows. In comparison, the intrusion of the Sequoia's rearmost seatback restricted capacity to only two such crates, while the Acadia's angled rear window also prevented it from carrying more than two. With the Odyssey's third row folded down, it gulped down 14 crates to the Sequoia's 12 and the Acadia's 11.

Other trump cards that the Odyssey boasts over its swinging-door competition are its remote power-sliding doors. Whether confronted with crowded parking lots, or if your arms are full of kids or gear or both, power-sliding doors make conventional doors seem downright dopey.

Put simply, neither the Sequoia nor the Acadia could touch the Odyssey's ability to swallow stuff, or its ease of loading and unloading passengers or cargo.

Much of this stems from the Odyssey's minivan morphology, which provides a low floor and squared-off body. This makes for carlike driving dynamics and graces the Odyssey with a more efficient use of interior space than the high-riding Sequoia or middle-ground Acadia. It's a win-win situation for the Odyssey.

However, the Odyssey can't match the straight-line acceleration of the others, and the option of all-wheel drive is not even available. The 4,550-pound Honda's foot-to-the-floor acceleration lags behind the Acadia by several ticks of the stopwatch due to the Odyssey's peakier 3.5-liter V6 that produces 241 hp, some 34 hp fewer than the Acadia.

There isn't a manual mode for the Odyssey's five-speed automatic either, though the smarts of its calibration renders this offense less egregious. Fuel economy of our Odyssey test vehicle landed within its EPA estimates of 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway, delivering 18.7 mpg during its stay with us.

Significantly, the Odyssey Touring is available without the controversial Michelin PAX run-flat tires for 2008, a move that puts $600 in your pocket and provides a more supple ride. Indeed, the Odyssey performs with grace and never loses its composure even when driven with gusto, as body roll is nearly absent and the steering retains accuracy and enough (but not too much) heft.

The Odyssey's low floor and wide door apertures ease access to the second and third rows, and cabin materials in the Odyssey look and feel first-rate aside from a rattly door in our test vehicle, which disrupted the illusion of luxury. The center seat in the second row is a joke, however, so this "eight-passenger" minivan is realistically suitable for seven people, unlike the Sequoia, which has space aplenty for eight.

Vehicle packaging has become something of a Honda hallmark, and the Odyssey — perhaps better than any others in Honda's lineup — exemplifies this, rife as it is with bins, nooks and clever touches. The flip-down center console between the front seats is a good example of this, and it brings serious intent to the phrase, "Don't make me come back there!"

Check Your Ego at the Sliding Door

OK, we managed to get through this entire comparison test without a single mention of image. A minivan's sliding doors are nearly universally reviled for representing the exchange of one's soul to the devil of practicality. Even the mention of the word "minivan" causes the inflammation of oversensitive egos, putting the brain's logic center on the fritz.

The irony is that a more effective method for entering and exiting a vehicle has yet to be devised. After spending two weeks in the company of the multipurpose vehicles you see here, any concerns regarding the image conveyed by the Odyssey's sliding doors were pummeled into submission by their overwhelming convenience.

We've compared the SUV, the CUV and the MPV in every way you can with the 2008 Toyota Sequoia, 2008 GMC Acadia and 2008 Honda Odyssey, and you just can't resist the inevitability of the result. Once you consider that the only vehicle here with sliding doors also boasts the most carlike dynamics and unmatched functionality, the minivan is once again the vehicle to beat when it comes to real-world family use.

The manufacturers provided Edmunds these vehicles for the purposes of evaluation.

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Not a surprise that the minivan won...it's only rational that the boxiest vehicle would most likely have the most usable volume and practicality.

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I'm not surprised at the pecking order here. It resembles the efficiency of each vehicle based on people carrying and utility. The full size Sequoia is the least efficient, the Acadia is a good compromise of both (and I love mine), and the Odyssey is the most efficient. I'm glad to see they had many good things to say about the Acadia, and I agree on all counts about the transmission and NVH issues. I hope GM fixes these for 2009.

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It was a fair review...the Acadia is the best compromise, but the Odyssey is the most efficient. The Sequoia is only good if you need to tow stuff.

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i have driven several minivans, and i have driven the lambdas.

the honda van is a decent drive but seriously, it rides a bit to hard for most mom and pops and even a few sport sedan likers. you feel too much through the floor and steering wheel. i am not suggesting isolation. i am merely suggesting some minor softening of the suspension and tuning out harsh road impacts through the steering. the odyssey has a flimsy feel in the chassis that hey, it feels great when new, but I don't see it holding up under pothole season and such. I will give the ody kudos for feeling semi light for its size. it could stand to be less loud inside. parents and kids like quiet vans.

the acadia (outlook) has more refined overall road manners, with the exception being you really feel some of the acadia's bulk. steering is weighted nicer and bump isolation and control is better and less harsh. It maybe has less roll stiffness, but i think considering the size, that's an ok tradeoff with the much better overall comfort. the lambdas are super quiet.

the honda is the only van that feels slightly upscale.

they should have waited on this comparo for the flex.

i suppose now the media has killed off vans, its time to make them cool again?

I am guessing the vw routan will be pretty decent. it doesn't have cryslers dumpy looks, or poor 2nd row seating. and it should have better handling.

the ody lacks AWD.

Edited by regfootball
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It's hard not to think of the smartly styled 2008 GMC Acadia as a highly accomplished minivan in drag, wearing four conventional doors as if ashamed to fully embrace its potential for utility. In the end, the well-rounded Acadia left us wondering what the outcome would have been if it shed its conventional rear doors for sliding ones.

Fewer sales.

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A fullsize minivan and midsize crossover will get about the same number of sales if done correctly (10-12K per month for both). A fullsize crossover like the Acadia has proved less popular so far. Even the Chevy Uplander is as popular as the Acadia (around 5K sales per month), the most popular fullsize crossover to date. While sales of minivans have fallen, many are no longer sold, and the cheaper versions of those remaining have disappeared. Well-equipped minivans are just as expensive as the Lambda crossovers, most with far less power.

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A fullsize minivan and midsize crossover will get about the same number of sales if done correctly (10-12K per month for both). A fullsize crossover like the Acadia has proved less popular so far. Even the Chevy Uplander is as popular as the Acadia (around 5K sales per month), the most popular fullsize crossover to date. While sales of minivans have fallen, many are no longer sold, and the cheaper versions of those remaining have disappeared. Well-equipped minivans are just as expensive as the Lambda crossovers, most with far less power.

Well, I don't have specific numbers in front of me, but I have a distinct feeling that a huge number of Uplanders are put into rental fleets. I know there has been some fleet business on Acadia, but I bet the percentage is alot lower than Uplander.

Also, you are comparing a Chevrolet product that has a much greater distribution network than the GMC product.

A better look at the overall picture would be either compare how Enclave is doing compared to the old Terraza.....or wait until Traverse gets here and gets going for 6 months or a year....then see how THAT product compares to previous Uplander sales.....

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traverse's success will be wholly pricing dependent.

new highlander was getting way too much love at the autoshow last week. the cx-9 was lonely. the highlander has probably been the one to connect with bipolar housewives across the USA.

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Well, I don't have specific numbers in front of me, but I have a distinct feeling that a huge number of Uplanders are put into rental fleets. I know there has been some fleet business on Acadia, but I bet the percentage is alot lower than Uplander.

Also, you are comparing a Chevrolet product that has a much greater distribution network than the GMC product.

A better look at the overall picture would be either compare how Enclave is doing compared to the old Terraza.....or wait until Traverse gets here and gets going for 6 months or a year....then see how THAT product compares to previous Uplander sales.....

Then compare Sienna sales to the Highlander, or Odyssey to Pilot—they're pretty much even. Are you saying the Terrazaor Uplander are even close to being competitive minivans, on par with the Lambda crossovers?

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Then compare Sienna sales to the Highlander, or Odyssey to Pilot—they're pretty much even. Are you saying the Terrazaor Uplander are even close to being competitive minivans, on par with the Lambda crossovers?

Not at all.

I think the GM minivans are some of the most poorly-conceived products that GM has given us. Contrary to that, I think the Lambdas are some of the most well-conceived products GM has ever given us....

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