2012 GMC Acadia Denali AWD Review By Steve Purdy


2012 GMC Acadia Denali
	AWD (select to view enlarged photo)
2012 GMC Acadia Denali AWD

2012 GMC ACADIA DENALI AWD
Don’t mess with a sure thing

By Steve Purdy
TheAutoChannel.com
Michigan Bureau

Three of GM’s most successful products are the trio of full-size, three-row crossovers assembled in the Lansing, MI, Delta Township plant - Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and this week’s tester, GMC Acadia. This one is loaded with the Denali trim level and all-wheel drive. All three are modestly updated this year, but unless you pay attention closely or happen to own one you’ll probably not notice the differences.

Replacing the ultra-practical minivans of yore these crossovers have led sales since their introduction in May of 2007 as 2008 models. In the beginning there were GMC, Buick and Saturn versions. The Chevy Traverse was introduced to the lineup not long before the Saturn brand went away.


2012 GMC Acadia Denali
	AWD (select to view enlarged photo)

Our tester is the top-of-the-line GMC Acadia Denali with a base price of $44,690. The entry level SL comes in at just $33,415 and there are three trim levels in between. All come with the same V6 powertrain, OnStar, Sirus XM radio, Stabilitrak, hill-hold assist, extra power outlets and lots more stuff. The Denali comes with massive 20-inch wheels and tires, HID headlamps, dual chrome exhaust tips and unique facias front and rear with body flares and special color schemes. Our touchscreen navigation with rear camera adds $1,890 and the DVD-based entertainment system with headphones adds another $1,445. Along with the optional White Diamond Tricoat paint for $795 and the $895 destination charge we’re looking at a sticker price of $51,615 for this beauty.

While the Buick Enclave is the prettiest of these GM siblings, in my humble opinion, and the Chevy Traverse a bit plain, the GMC Acadia projects an upscale appearance and offers solid content. It needs to in this market segment where some mighty nice, high tech vehicles vie for attention. See our recent story on the new Infiniti JX, for example.


2012 GMC Acadia Denali
	AWD (select to view enlarged photo)

Visually, this thing is big. Weighing in at darn close to two-and-a-half tons with the all-wheel drive, and over 4,600-pounds with front-wheel drive, it can’t help but feel substantial. The 118.9-inch wheelbase allows for impressive passenger and cargo volume. With all the seats in place we have over 24 cubic-feet for our stuff in back and with the second and third rows folded we have an impressive 117 cubic-feet. The SL model comes with a second row bench seat making an 8-passenger configuration, but the other four trim levels come with second row captains seats (bench seat optional) for a 7-passenger arrangement. The seats fold quite easily and the third row is easily accessed by pulling one lever and sliding the seat forward. I would advise sending the youngest and most agile riders back there though.


2012 GMC Acadia Denali
	AWD (select to view enlarged photo)

From the driver’s seat, where I spent much time this week, we have a comfortable and classy environment. Excellent materials fit well and project a fairly luxurious feel throughout. Controls are easily and sensibly managed with everything residing where we expected. The dark wood grain trim across the dash and on the doors add a very subtle measure of luxury. The navigation screen is not the most attractive, in my view, but quite functional. I’m not drawn to the deep technology so tend not to explore these systems in as much depth as my colleagues, but I’m annoyed if they aren’t easy to use for the basics. This one annoyed me not at all.


2012 GMC Acadia Denali
	AWD (select to view enlarged photo)

Under the hood is one to the 10 best engines in the world, according to Ward’s. It is a direct-injected, normally aspirated, 3.6-liter V6 with 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, mated to GM’s trusty 6T75 6-speed automatic transmission. On full throttle it gets up and goes, singing nicely to near 7,000 rpm. In hilly northern Michigan it felt a bit tepid at freeway speeds trying to climb the longer grades, but it is pushing a lot of air. It downshifted smoothly when it needed to. Loaded with kids and gear towing a trailer I expect you’d want some more power. Acadia’s towing capacity is a decent 5,200 pounds. That’s enough for a medium size boat or travel trailer.

The EPA rates the Acadia with all-wheel drive at 16-mpg in the city and 23 on the highway. On our 400-mile round trip to Traverse City - about 85% freeway - we managed 20.9 mpg on regular fuel. With a 22-gallon fuel tank we made it there and back without refueling.


2012 GMC Acadia Denali
	AWD (select to view enlarged photo)

Suspension is well balanced and compliant on a variety of road surfaces. Some of our local roads are falling apart and lurching into potholes can be disconcerting with some bigger vehicles if they are too softly sprung. The Acadia handled them well feeling plenty stiff and firm without being too harsh. Again, we did not test it loaded, but I would predict that the suspension tuning would not be a problem. I thought the road noise on some coarse-surfaced concrete roads at higher speeds intruded a bit more than it should.


2012 GMC Acadia Denali
	AWD (select to view enlarged photo)

Safety features include all the usual air bags, chassis dynamics and body reinforcements that are common on most vehicles today. NHTSA gives a perfect 5-star overall score resulting from frontal, side and rollover testing.

GM’s standard warranty covers the Acadia powertrain for 5 years or 100,000 miles and the whole vehicle for 3 years or 36,000 miles.

I was surprised that nearly everyone we encountered this week seemed awed by the Acadia Denali. It may have been the striking 20-inch, six-spoke, shiny wheels or perhaps the sparkly White Diamond paint. We were stuck by the sheer size inside and the luxurious feel. It was a dream on our long drive to the beautiful North Country.

While some of the three row crossovers cost less and some include more gadgetry we thought the Acadia offered a good balance. You might want to put it on your shopping list.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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