Five 90’s Cars That Still Look Fresh Today

Some cars age incredibly well. Whether it’s because they ushered in trends ahead of their time or just have clean designs that have stood the test of time, some vehicle’s designs belie their age. Third Auto has compiled a selection of five vehicles from the 1990’s that fit the criteria below.

1996 Ford Taurus

 

 

When the 1996-1999 third-generation Ford Taurus made its debut in the mid-90’s in caused a stir with is radically ovoid styling. At the time it was criticized for being over-styled, which it was alongside its staid contemporaries. However, over the decades consumers have embraced the complex surface treatments seen on the Taurus and we can now find similar forms on current vehicles, like the 2018 Toyota Camry. Relatively small headlamps for the era make the Taurus fit well with more modern sedans as lighting technology has advanced to allow for smaller fixtures. Around back, contoured metal and curvy window openings lend the Taurus a clean and airy look.

1998 Volvo C70 Coupe

 

 

Volvo’s shapely coupe and convertible of the 90’s was the C70, which was produced from 1998-2004. Introduced at a time when the brand’s design philosophy was morphing from boxy to sleek, the C70 handsomely meshes both looks together. The coupe with its gorgeous greenhouse has aged better than the convertible, which can look tired nowadays with its ragtop up. A high trunk lid has long been a Volvo design signature and having that present has allowed the C70 to age well as traditional sedans and coupes had increasingly tall trunk lids as the 2000’s progressed. The muscular C70 has aged significantly better than contemporaries like the droopy 1996 Acura CL and extremely low and wide 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII, which are both at odds with taller vehicles of modern times.

1996 Chrysler Minivans

 

 

Simplicity is key to creating enduring designs. With attractive organic forms and minimal ornamentation, third-generation Chrysler minivans have aged remarkably well. Compared to Mazda MPV’s, Mercury Villagers, or Chevrolet Ventures of a similar vintage, the Chrysler minivans are cleaner and better proportioned. Especially now as modern CUVs have become increasingly shorter in height, they’ve essentially reached a parity with those of  90’s minivans, allowing these bastions of a bygone era to look right at home on the road among a herd of brand-new crossovers. The minivan formula has not evolved significantly in terms of styling since this generation, in fact some might argue it has since devolved as designs became increasingly un-harmonic into the 2000’s with the introduction of the oddball 2003 Nissan Quest and awkward 2011 Honda Odyssey. Even the Chryslers minivans struggled to gain back the handsome styling of this generation right up until the 2017 introduction of the Chrysler Pacifica.

1994 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

 

 

The oldest design example on our list is the early-90’s Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which was produced 1994-2000. It ushered in a modern design language that would make its way across the brand throughout the 90’s. Classic proportions, clean lines and a high trunk lid make this baby Benz still look fresh and modern. Stacked up against the 1994 BMW 3-Series with its black plastic door and bumper trim, the C-Class looks sleek and elegant.

1996 Subaru Legacy Outback

 

 

Subaru’s saving grace came in the form of the “world’s first sport utility wagon”. By hitching up the suspension and adding a veneer of ruggedness to their Legacy station wagon, the brand was able to ride the SUV wave beginning with the 1996 Subaru Legacy Outback. Prescient in many ways, the Outback signaled the market potential for crossovers, which were essentially tall station wagons designed to look like sturdy SUVs.


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[Images: Chrsyler, Subaru, Ford, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Wikipedia]

 

Does Recent Patent Filing Reveal Future CTS?

With a new coupe design unveiled through a patent finding, new insights are available into future Cadillac designs. With the midsize CTS sedan ready for a refresh, will it adopt the design language found on the mysterious coupe? Time will tell, but we certainly hope so.

We’ve grafted on a new front and rear clip based off of the coupe design and it provides a striking refresh for the attractive but rather bland CTS. With Lexus’ designs getting increasingly adventurous, the brand needs to liven up the sheet metal with more complex surfacing and distinctive detailing in order to live up to its “Dare Greatly” mantra.

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Interpretation of Refreshed CTS

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[Images: Cadillac Society, Cadillac, ThirdAuto.com]

Throwback: 90’s & Early-2000’s Car Brochures

The 90’s were the golden age for car brochures. Before digital totally took over, printed brochures were manufacturer’s primary platform for driving foot traffic into dealerships. Today we’ve gathered an amalgam of snapshots from various brochures from the 90’s and early-2000’s.

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Third Auto maintain an extensive library of car brochures from Daewoo to Roll-Royce from mid-90’s through 2010. If there’s a brochures you’d like to see featured, send us the year/make/model on Facebook.

[Images: Mitsubishi, Land Rover, Oldsmobile, Toyota]

Design Analysis: 5 Generations of Land Rover Discovery

The Land Rover Discovery made its U.S. debut for the 1994 model year, as the SUV craze was underway and Ford Explorers and Jeep Grand Cherokees became ubiquitous on the highways and byways of America. Offering the go-anywhere capability of a Jeep, the brand cache afforded by its famous Range Rover stablemate, and a unique design that was at once awkward and attractive, the Discovery was a sales hit. Over the generations it  has undergone a series of evolutionary and revolutionary changes, leading up to the modern and nearly unrecognizable fifth generation.

First Generation: 1994-1998 Land Rover Discovery

When it came to SUV’s in the 90’s, image was everything and shoppers were more than willing to sacrifice practicality to drive something that looked like it could traverse through a jungle. Just knowing that your SUV could crawl up a mountain or forge a stream conveyed power to SUV buyers at the time, fuel-economy be damned!

Perhaps the Land Rover Discovery took the off-road-ready look to its highest level, offering available brush guards, off-roading accessory lamps, a rear-mounted spare tire, mud flaps, an extra sunroof and side roof-mounted windows meant to allow passengers to take in the outside views while on safari. It was over-the-top and superfluous, but somehow it all worked. The Land Rover Discovery was the height of style in the mid-90’s.

Second Generation: 1999-2004 Land Rover Discovery Series II

 

 

A subsequent update for the 1999 model year saw the styling refined, with the most noticeable differences being high-mounted tail lamps and a more substantial front bumper. The classic design elements were all carried over and the interior was slightly improved to provide a more comfortable experience, however many of the practicality compromises remained. Referred to as the Discovery Series II, this generation was a faithful update to the original and retained its unique look and character.

Third Generation: 2005-2008 Land Rover LR3

Major changes came in the form of the third-generation Discovery, referred to as the LR3 in America, which went on sale in the U.S. for the 2005 model year. A significant overhaul saw interior space increase significantly and a brand-new platform meant that the LR3 was much more civilized and sophisticated, better suited to handling daily driving duties. Although off-road tech remained in place, this generation became too large for some off-roading purists because its dimensions made it difficult to maneuver in some situations.

 

 

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Stylistically, the LR3 was an ultra-modern interpretation of the classic Discovery design elements. In the processes of modernizing, character lines and motifs that made the Discovery so distinct were smoothed out, toned down and stretched over a super-sized body. The rear-mounted spare tire gave way to an unadorned tail end. Although it still looked unique compared to the competition, the LR3 lacked the rugged proportions and charm that made its predecessors so appealing. It became anesthetized.

Fourth Generation: 2009-2016 Land Rover LR4

 A mid-cycle refresh saw the LR3  named changed to LR4, and marked a return of some of the Discovery’s charming design elements. An updated front end swapped out ultra-modern headlamp fixtures with a more classic design and a grille treatment borrowed from the Range Rover gave the face of the LR4 more personality than the LR3.

The removal of excessive cladding visually gave the LR4 a lighter and more athletic appearance, making it appear less ungainly although the massive proportions remained. Equipped with the right wheels and in certain complimentary colors, the LR4 was able to recapture the spirit of the Discovery and Discovery II. There was hope that the next update would see an even further development of the styling’s return to more classical forms. However, that would not be the case.

Fifth Generation: 2017-Present Land Rover Discovery

 

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2017 saw the release of the LR4’s successor, now officially called Discovery again in America. Taking on a whole new design aesthetic heavily influenced by the Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Evoque, the fourth-generation discover was the most radically updated, with soft contours, less height and horizontal tail lamps replacing vertical ones. The latest Discovery is virtually unrecognizable compared to its predecessors, and no longer stands out from the crowd in terms of styling, although efficiency, interior packaging and driving dynamics are all significantly improved.

What’s Next?

There is a chance that echoes of the distinctive Discovery of old will appear in the styling details of the resurrected Land Rover Defender, which is expected to be revealed soon. While the Discovery has shed much of the character that made it so endearing, perhaps the Defender will carry forth the brilliant design and styling that made the 1994 Land Rover Discovery an icon.

 

 

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RELATED: Design Analysis: 1999-2003 Land Rover Discovery Series II

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[Images: Land Rover, Wikipedia, Amazon]

Which Generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class Looks Best?

A style icon and international status symbol, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has long been a force to be reckoned with in the full-size luxury sedan segment. Today we’ll look back at four generations of the S-Class, starting with the 1992-1999 third-generation S-Class, known as W140, and ending with the current S-Class, the W222, which was introduced in the U.S. for model year 2014.

1992-1999 S-Class (W140)

Often referred to as “over-engineered” this generation S-Class was clearly synthesized during the decadent 80’s. It launched after years of delays amid a global recession in the 90’s and was perceived as overly complex. The W140 was too late in its development stages when the extraordinary 1989 Lexus LS hit the market costing tens of thousands of dollars less, so upon its arrival the W140’s value proposition was called into question. In terms of styling the W140 took the elegant and imposing lines of the previous generation and essentially super-sized them. Trapezoidal tail lights were joined by a decorative horizonal strip along the truck opening. The A- and D-pillars were both sharply angled and the bodysides were intersected with decorate color-coded plastic trim on early models and with bodycolor paint below a scuff guard on later versions. The no-nonsense interior was beautifully constructed and classically Teutonic, but did not move the style needle forward much, as it was essentially an update on the prior generation. The overall effect was imposing and solemn, the W140 S-Class was a big and serious looking vehicle, both inside and out. Holding a place in the ultra-luxury sphere, the 1992 S-Class has a starting MSRP of $69,400, a staggering $25,100 more than the 1992 Lexus LS’s starting MSRP of $44,300.

2000-2006 S-Class (W220)

Lightness would come in the form of the fourth-generation S-Class, known as W220, which was introduced for the 2000 model year and sold through 2006. Physically and stylistically less heavy than its predecessor, sweeping lines and sculpted bodysides replaces the slab-sided and boxy aesthetic of old. The S-Class’s dimensions also downsized slightly during this generation, although interior space increased due to creative packaging. Ovoid headlamps echoed the E-Class and Maybach concept car and the tail lamps had more style flourishes than the staid previous generation. Sweeping changes came to the interior as well. Described as “Italianate”, generously applied wood trim enveloped the cabin and circular lines replaced squared-off shapes and this was the first S-Class to feature an integrated navigation system. The W220 was a big leap forward in terms of style, however quality suffered as the automaker sought to achieve cost savings to better compete with the Lexus LS. The 2000 S-Class had a starting MSRP of $69,700 for the V-8 S430, down from an MSRP of $73,900 for the equivalent 1999 S420, opening up accessibility and leading to this generation being the best-selling S-Class to date. For comparison, by 2000 the Lexus LS400 MSRP has risen to $54,005, narrowing the price gap to $15,695.

2007-2014 S-Class (W220)

Marking a return to its boxy and imposing roots, the fifth-generation S-Class, known as W220, picked up styling cues, especially in the rear, from the Maybach. It looked more substantial both inside and out than the previous generation, with increased dimensions and a noticeably taller trunk line. Higher quality materials lined the interior which featured a layered and more complex design, and enhanced infotainment capabilities. Readily available AMG packages saw many S-Classes of this generation outfitted with aprons and large AMG wheels, which sat in juxtaposition to the formal lines. This shook off some of the design elements seem on the prior generation to adopt a more serve and brooding look, especially noticeable with the exaggerating rear wheel arches and sharply curved headlamps. Deploying the mid-size E-Class to battle it out with Lexus, this generation S-Class had a significant increase in its starting MSRP, jumping $15,700 from the 2000 model year MSRP to a starting price of $85,400 in 2007. The large price increase curtailed accessibility and reinforced S-Class exclusivity and pushing it well beyond the 2007 Lexus LS’s MSRP of $61,000 and creating a $24,400 gap between the models.

2015-Present S-Class (W222)

Smoothing out some of the harshness of the (*), the **** generation S-Class was introduced for model year ***** and is currently in production. This was more of an evolutionary design that is distinguished by downsized tail lamps which appear better integrated into the sheet metal, a graceful character line with scalloping along the doors replacing, toned down wheel arches and a softer contouring of the head lamp fixtures, which now incorporate three rows of LED daytime running lights. Inside, a large infotainment screen dominates the dash and is connected to the instrument panel. The blocky design found in the previous generation made way for more organic forms along the door panels and console and ornate speaker grilles became a design signature introduced on the S-Class that would make its way throughout the Mercedes-Benz range. The 2015 S-Class carried a starting MSRP of $92,900, a $7,500 increase over the 2007 W220’s starting price. Meanwhile, the 2015 Lexus LS’s pricing $75,465, leading to a price gap of $17,436 between the two models.

Design Analysis: 2019 Volvo S60

For 2019 Volvo completely restyled its S60 sedan. Adopting the design philosophy that debuted on the Volvo XC90, Thor’s Hammer headlamps, sharply creased contours and a minimalist tail light design are all present an accounted for. Compared to the last generation design the 2019 S60 looks better-proportioned, especially up front where the grille is better matched to the headlamps and the front overhang is significantly reduced. Pricing starts from an MSRP of $35,800.

2018-2019 Volvo S60 profile

Inside the interior design is now aligned with the rest of the vehicles in Volvo’s stable. The clean design is accented with available open-pore wood and generous brightwork. The interior now ranks among the best in its class in terms of aesthetics. Stacked up against the aging BMW 3 Series, the S60’s interior looks fresher and less button-heavy. The Audi A4’s center stack lacks the warmth of the Volvo. Perhaps the closest match is the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which artfully incorporates bright finishes and organic shapes into the cabin design.

2019 Volvo S60 interior

2019 Volvo S60 interior

2018 Audi A4 interior

2018 Audi A4 interior

2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class interior

2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class interior

2018 BMW 3 Series interior

2018 BMW 3 Series interior

Overall, the 2019 Volvo S60 looks to be a formidable competitor in the compact luxury class. The exterior design is both graceful and aggressive, removing all the awkward proportions and angles found on its predecessor. Inside, the latest Volvo design brings the cabin to the front of its class, alongside the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Look for more details on the 2019 Volvo S60 from ThirdAuto.com as its on-sale date approaches.

2019 Volvo S60 exterior rear

RELATED: Street Sighting: Early 2000’s Volvo S60

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[Images: Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi]

Street Sighting: Early 2000’s Volvo S60

In our last Street Sighting we reported on the quirky Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe of the early 2000’s. Now, as Volvo prepares to release the all-new third generation S60 sedan, Third Auto revisits the original S60 model that was sold through 2001-2005 model years.

Volvo S60 front

Volvo boldly entered the turn of the century with a sleek new design language that debuted with the large S80 sedan in 1999. The curvy lines and shapely contours replaced the brand’s iconic boxy design and made a style statement that reached its zenith with the midsize 2001 S60. The more compact proportions of the S60 was a template for Volvo to be more daring with their design philosophy, as evidenced by the exaggerated hipline curve and emboldened taillight treatment compared to the conservatively executed S80.

Volvo S60 rear

Also available in wagon form, known as the V70, the S60 sedan competed against the likes of the Acura TL, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Cadillac CTS and Infiniti G35 in the entry-level luxury sedan category. Of all the vehicles within its class, perhaps the Volvo aged best, especially when equipped with larger wheels.

The crème de la crème of the S60 range was the R model. Equipped with performance and aesthetic upgrades, the radical S60 R was powerful and imposing. At a time when BMW 3 Series were the ubiquitous luxury performance sedan, the S60 R offered an eccentric alternative.

Volvo S60 R rear

Available in a range of compelling colors and equipped with glorious wheel designs, the Volvo S60 has style that has stood the test of time and still looks fresh 17 years on.

See more coverage of unusual 2000’s cars in our “2000 & Late” series:

2000 & Late: 2002-2005 Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor

2000 & Late: 2002-2004 Nissan Altima

[Images: ThirdAuto.com, Wikipedia]

Design Analysis: Generation One (2000-2006) BMW X5

The BMW X5 traces its origins back to the 2000 model year when the first generation made its debut. This was the first SUV for the automaker and joined the 3- 5- and 7-Series as well as the Z3 and Z8 in BMW’s lineup. This pre-Bangle era was when BMW hit its peak, both in terms of driving dynamics and design.

The first generation X5 was an imposing and serious-looking vehicle that incorporated classic BMW design elements into a crossover shape. Artful design composition utilized light and shadows to minimize the visual mass of the tall door panels. Especially visible on silver X5’s is the concave surface below the protruding scuff guard  that bisects the door into distinct sections and significantly lessens its mass compared to a more conventional design slab-sided designs, common among traditional SUV’s of the era.

A perfectly proportioned grille and wheel designs the continue to look fresh today, make the first generation X5 a trend-setter that was highly influential on crossover designs rolled out in subsequent years from other manufacturers. Black cladding along the entire base of the X5 served to give the SUV a rugged look, while simultaneously hiding visual mass.

Stunning design continues in the back of the X5. The classic Hofmeister kink is present and nicely incorporated into a gently contoured D-pillar. Subtle surface detailing is present on the tailgate as well where a horizontal line bisects concave and convex sheetmetal. The exhaust tips were masterfully integrated into negative space in a blacked out valance  below the bumper, giving the X5 a wicked and menacing look.

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[Images: ThirdAuto.com, Wikipedia]

 

2019 Acura RDX

The Acura RDX has been completely redesigned for the 2019 model year. Slotted below the mid-size Acura MDX in the brand’s SUV lineup, the RDX is a luxury compact crossover that competes with BMW, Audi, Lexus, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz segment entries. Prices start from an MSRP of $37,300. For 2019 the RDX’s V6 has been swapped out for a turbocharged four-cylinder, which saves weight and delivers improved fuel-efficiency.

Pros: Less Expensive Than Competitors, Comfortable Interior, Good Ride/Handling Balance, Standard Advance Safety Tech, More Interior Space Than Some Competitors

Cons: Generic Rear Styling, Oddball Interior Design

Looks Best In: Fathom Blue exterior/Ebony interior

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Competition: BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5, Infiniti QX50, Lexus NX

Safety Score: As of publication date the 2019 Acura RDX has not yet been crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Summary: Whereas the last Acura RDX was a vehicle that sold more based on its value pricing than its styling and driving flair, the 2019 model has transformed into a no-excuses entrant in the compact luxury SUV segment that can hold its own against the likes of BMW an Mercedes-Benz and still costs thousands less. Compared to the Lexus NX and Infiniti QX50, the 2019 Acura RDX offers a more sporty driving experience and more interior room.

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[Images: Acura]

 

Shopper’s Guide to Popular Compact Cars

When searching for a compact sedan or hatchback, most shoppers are looking for a good value, strong fuel-efficiency and a roomy interior. The four top-selling compacts offer those qualities in spades. The Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra and Chevrolet Cruze all come in a variety of trim lines ranging from basic to sporty and luxurious. Today’s compacts can be equipped with the latest infotainment and advanced safety features.

Generally compact cars will have a louder and busier ride and narrower interior than larger and more expensive mid-size counterparts, however compact cars will achieve superior gas mileage and fit more easily into parking spots. When shopping for any vehicle, Third Auto recommends test driving multiple vehicles within the class to find the best fit for your individual needs.

We’ve compiled a comprehensive review of America’s most-popular compact cars below. See the pros, cons, best color combination, safety score and more in our full reviews. Sift through the clutter and make shopping for a compact car simple by using our straightforward reviews as a guide to find the best vehicle for you.

2018 Honda Civic

2018 Honda Civic, priced from  $18,840. Read Third Auto’s Full Review.

2018 Toyota Corolla

2018 Toyota Corolla, priced from  $18,550. Read Third Auto’s Full Review

2018 Nissan Sentra

2018 Nissan Sentra, priced from $16,990, Read Third Auto’s Full Review.

2018 Chevrolet Cruze

2018 Chevrolet Cruze, priced from $16,975, Read Third Auto’s Full Review.

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[Images: Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Chevrolet]

 

2018 Chevrolet Colorado

The 2018 Chevrolet Colorado is a mid-size pickup truck that slots below the full-size Cheverlet Silverado in the brand’s pickup line. With smaller and more efficient engine options, the Colorado can make sense for drivers who don’t require heavy-duty hauling capabilities. It has two truckbed lengths available as well.

Pros: Fuel-Efficient Engines, Available Luxury Features, Available Off-Road Hardware, Available Diesel

Cons: Loud Cabin, Busy Ride

Looks Best In: Deepwood Green Metallic exterior/Black interior

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Competition: Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma

Safety Score: Although the 2018 Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab received good crash test ratings, it was letdown by weak headlamps in an evaluation by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Summary: The 2018 Chevrolet Colorado fills an interesting niche for shoppers who want the layout and convenience of a pickup truck without the stiff penalties at the pump. With a variety of trim lines and engine options, the Colorado can be outfitted in every guise from basic to uber-stylish.

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[Images: Chevrolet]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 MINI Countryman

The 2018 MINI Countryman is a near-luxury compact four-door hatchback that has available all-wheel-drive. Within MINI’s eccentric lineup the Countryman slots above the Hardtop 4 Door. Like all MINI’s the Countryman features a distinctive design inside and out and offers a spirited driving experience with nimble handling and zippy acceleration. Being a more premium near-luxury offering, the MINI Countryman has few direct competitors. While more expensive and less roomy than mainstream competition, it offers panache that is lacking from the likes of Volkswagen or Subaru. Prices start from an MSRP of $27,400.

Pros: Eccentric British Styling, Great Handling, Available Luxury Features, Available Hybrid

Cons: Cramped Accommodations, Less Fuel-Efficient Than Competitors

Looks Best In: British Racing Green II exterior/Chesterfield interior

 

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Competition: Volkswagen Golf, Subaru Impreza, Ford Focus, Honda Civic

Safety Score: Although the 2018 MINI Countryman received good crash test ratings, it was letdown by weak headlamps in an evaluation by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Summary: For shoppers looking for something a little different, the 2018 MINI Countryman offers style in spades. Be sure to try the interior on for size during a test drive because the interior can be too confining for some. 

Thanks for reading Third Auto. Like us on Facebook and check in as we continue to report on car news, car reviews and industry analysis.                                                    

[Images: MINI]

2018 GMC Acadia

The 2018 GMC Acadia is a mainstream three-row mid-size SUV. Based on the same platform as the Chevrolet Traverse, the Acadia is positioned as slightly more upscale.  The GMC Acadia is slotted above the compact GMC Terrain and below the full-size GMC Yukon in the brand’s SUV lineup. Pricing for the Acadia starts at an MSRP of $29,000. Like other vehicles in the GMC lineup, the Acadia is available in the glitzy Denali trim level.

Pros: Handsome & Understated Denali trim, Spacious Cabin, Room For Up To 8, Smooth V-6

Cons: Advanced Safety Gear Optional, Efficient 4-Cylinder Only Available With Front-Wheel-Drive

Looks Best In: Ebony Twilight exterior/Cocoa/ Shale interior

 

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Competition: Ford ExplorerHonda Pilot, Dodge Durango, Nissan Pathfinder, Kia Sorento, Volkswagen Atlas, Acura MDX

Safety Score:  Although the 2018 GMC Acadia received good crash test ratings, it was letdown by weak headlamps in an evaluation by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

 

Summary: While its not quite the most fuel-efficient vehicle in its class, the 2018 GMC Acadia is a good choice for shoppers looking for a three-row family vehicle. The high-end Denali trim is a highlight for the sleek styling details and luxurious interior it provides.

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[Images: GMC]