GMC Acadia Denali has heavy, truck-like ride
A couple years ago General Motors went away from minivans, opting for full-size crossovers that carry seven or eight passengers.
One of those is the GMC Acadia, the first front-drive unibody truck that GMC has offered. It’s a close cousin to Chevrolet’s Traverse and Buick’s Enclave, the largest of these is 201.8 inches long. Acadia is an inch shorter, if that really matters.The pearl white ($795 extra) test truck was the new top-level Acadia Denali with front-wheel drive, although an all-wheel drive version is available. In our climate, I’d opt for the latter.
This truck-like trio is incredibly comfortable and the Denali takes that up a notch compared to lower level Acadia’s with heated and cooled leather seats, Bose audio system, rearview camera, remote start and head-up display for the main gauges. There’s a second row sunroof and 20-inch chrome clad wheels along with the chrome mesh grille that sets GMC trucks apart from their Chevy counterparts.
Acadia is roomy and powerful. Its 3.6-liter direct injection V6 delivers 288 horsepower, an increase from earlier model’s 275 horsepower. That is put to good use by a smooth shifting, nearly seamless six-speed automatic. Certainly GM’s powertrains for these big SUVs are top-shelf.
But these are big, heavy SUVs. The Acadia weighs in at 4,722 pounds while it rides on a 118.9-inch wheelbase. It feels heavy, too, though not so much when accelerating. The V6 feels powerful. It’s in the driving where the weight shows itself.
You feel it in the turns, where the truck has a top-heavy feel, and when you begin to apply the brakes. You feel it push the truck, and you may tend to let up for just a second when you’re making a tight turn to let the truck settle a second. Acadia is still easy to control, as the steering is fairly light, but it’s also fairly vague. Firming it would instill the driver with a bit more confidence.It didn’t help that our area was socked with a fair amount of snow during my drive. This being a two-wheel drive model, turning was not as precise as it might have been with AWD.
Ride also remains more truck-like on big bumps than you might suspect in a unibody vehicle. I felt more bounce over large frost heaves than I had expected.
Braking is good from the four-wheel discs, and there is stability and traction control to help in damp conditions.
Inside, there’s room for six or seven adults, and if you get the optional bench for the second row, you can seat eight. Climbing in back isn’t difficult, as the second row seats fold up readily to allow access. In the test truck, the second row captain’s chairs also are far enough apart for smaller folks to scoot between them to the third row.
Acadia offers good storage room, with 24.1 cubic feet of space behind the third row seat and 68.9 cubic feet if that seat is folded. The interior is relatively quiet, so folks can talk and in the test car could watch the rear seat DVD system, a $1,445 option.
The leather seats are fairly flat and easy to ride in for a distance. Up front, they have a power lumbar. All the controls are easy to use and get at. Denali has three-speed heated and cooled seats and a two-position memory system.
I like the generous overhead lighting, the power rear hatch with a wiper, and the rearview camera that comes with the Denali. This one added a navigation system with XM-Nav Traffic for another $1,890 and the camera uses its screen. The head-up display is nice, but not a necessity.I’m not happy with the buttons on the cluttered center stack. I counted 36 buttons and two knobs. On top of that, many are tiny and hard to use if you’re wearing gloves. I wish the two sunroofs had solid sliding shades instead of the pull-over screens. A vehicle of this price also should have a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, not a manual model as this one had.
The test truck started at $43,220 and ended up at $48,125 with options. That’s better than the Buick, but a touch more than the Chevy, as you might expect. If that’s too rich for your blood, there’s a base SL FWD that starts at $31,840 and the AWD model adds $2,000 to that. An AWD Acadia Denali starts at $45,220.
This one will tow 5,200 pounds, when properly equipped. If you need more power and towing ability, look at the GMC Yukon or Chevy Tahoe with a 320-horsepower, 5.3-liter V8.
Gas mileage is never great in the trucks. I managed just 14.8 mpg in very cold weather, and the EPA says to expect 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.