2012 GMC Acadia Denali AWD Review By Steve Purdy
2012 GMC Acadia Denali
2012 GMC ACADIA DENALI AWD
Don’t mess with a sure thing
By Steve Purdy
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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