Wheels to Watch: GMC Acadia sheds weight, gets nimble

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Posted: Jan 12, 2016 1:36 PM
Wheels to Watch: GMC Acadia sheds weight, gets nimble

DETROIT (AP) — Automakers unveiled new vehicles on the second of two press preview days at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The show opens to the public Jan. 16. Here are some of the buzz-worthy new cars and trucks at the show.

GMC ACADIA

General Motors' big family-hauling crossover SUV is getting a significant makeover for the 2017 model year. For starters, it's smaller and 700 pounds lighter, which GM says boosts the gas mileage to about 28 miles per gallon on the highway compared with the current EPA-estimated 24 mpg. The Acadia should get 22 mpg in city driving, helped by GMC's first use of technology that turns off the engine at stop lights. GM's market research showed that people wanted a smaller, more efficient and maneuverable SUV, yet they still wanted three rows of seats, said Rick Spina, executive chief engineer for GM crossover vehicles. So, GM decided to downsize the decade-old Acadia and make it more maneuverable on city streets and in parking garages. Engineers were told to justify every gram going into the SUV, Spina said. "Part by part, you ask every engineer, can you make it lighter? Can you put holes in it? Can you use a thinner gauge (metal)?" The redesigned SUV is about 7 inches shorter than the outgoing model and just under 3 inches narrower. The weight loss allowed engineers to downsize the engine. GM added a new 194-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder motor, plus an available 310-horsepower 3.6-liter V6. One new safety touch: The Acadia gives the driver a visual reminder near the speedometer to check the rear seats, so as not to leave children or valuables behind. Downsizing the Acadia is a smart move that makes it more appealing in a hot-selling part of the market, Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell said. Even though gas prices are low, people still want fuel efficiency even in larger vehicles she said. The SUV, to be produced in Spring Hill, Tennessee, goes on sale in the spring. The redesign could spread to the Acadia's siblings, the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse. Pricing wasn't released.

VLF AUTOMOTIVE FORCE 1

VLF Automotive is a new, Michigan-based supercar company with deep roots. It is run by General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, former Fisker and Aston Martin designer Henrik Fisker and automotive supplier Gilbert Villarreal. Its first vehicle, the $229,000 Destino, is a now-discontinued Fisker Karma hybrid with a 638-horsepower Corvette ZR 1 V8 engine. Its second vehicle, revealed Tuesday at the Detroit auto show, is the Force 1. It's a heavily modified Dodge Viper with a 745-horsepower, 8.4-liter V10 engine. The Force 1 will be built in limited numbers starting this spring; it's priced at $268,500. VLF plans to open seven dealerships in North America this year.

NISSAN TITAN WARRIOR CONCEPT

Nissan looks ready to enter the market for jacked-up pickup trucks with the Titan Warrior Concept. The company says the truck is built on a commercial-grade chassis with looks inspired by desert racers. The diesel-powered concept has black flared fenders and oversized 37-inch tall off-road tires on 18-inch wheels. It's about 3 inches taller and 3 inches wider on both sides to fit the bigger tires and a new long-travel suspension, the company says. The Warrior comes with a matte silver finish with orange accent stripes. No word on when the truck might come to market or its cost.