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2013 Acadia comes armed for an army of elbows

- - Thursday, November 15, 2012

The designers of the 2013 GMC Acadia crossover SUV had a lot of things to account for in developing a comfy interior - including as many as 16 pointy, sensitive elbow bones that would be part of a fully loaded eight-passenger vehicle.

General Motors global human factors engineer Joan Hertely and her team spent hundreds of hours creating resting places that considered angles, dimensions and the right materials to achieve maximum comfort.

"The process begins with benchmarking," said Hertely, who has 12 years of armrest engineering experience. "We look at what works, what doesn't, and start compiling criteria for width, length, angle, height, adjustment options, comfort, reach and overall design. And those factors consider door handles, cupholders and switch locations."

Not all armrests can be treated equally, so a crossover that seats up to eight takes months of planning. The driver's armrest needs to accommodate more controls. The front center armrest needs to both slide and open for storage, and must be level with armrests on the front doors. The four rear outboard armrests are designed with cupholders, which need to be positioned to avoid spills. Optional second-row captain's chairs have armrests that move with the seatbacks and can be adjusted up and down, requiring additional design criteria.

"Once a layout is in place after having been evaluated and optimized over a hundred hours in a stationary buck, further testing continues out on the road," said Hertely. "We took countless drives with Acadias, paying close attention to how each armrest feels on both elbows and forearms, because people rest their arms differently. And the cupholder integration was new, so we had to ensure a level of comfort with the holders in use."

More new car shoppers are discovering Acadia's purposeful engineering. October sales for Acadia were the best for that month since 2007, the model's first year on the market. And through the first 10 months of 2012, Acadia is on track for its best sales year ever.

"I never thought I would drive anything but a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz," said Illona Olayan, an Acadia owner from Jacksonville, Florida. "But I drove an Acadia and was amazed by the great quality and craftsmanship. I'd recommend one to any family. It's fun, functional and good looking."

According to auto shopping site Edmunds.com, Acadia "offers a winning combination of comfort, features, cargo space and performance in a utility-style package." The 2012 Acadia won Edmunds' "Best Retained Value" award for SUVs between $35,000 and $45,000, as well as a 2012 ALG Residual Value Award in the full-size utility segment.