PRO’s: Great comfort, wonderful usability, all-weather capable, good power.
CON’s: Sub-par interior materials, sluggish handling.
FINAL THOUGHT: The 2011 GMC Acadia Denali is a good looking, 100% usable vehicle that brings big room and comfort to the table. In short, this is what a crossover should be.
In the past every crossover I’ve driven has suffered from an identity crises. They’re not trucks, so off-roading is out of the question, and with a general lack of space for both passenger and cargo, using them as a full-on family truckster generally isn’t in the cards either. So what then are they actually good for? Well, up until now I hadn’t found one that was good for anything, until that is, I met this guy – the 2011 GMC Acadia Denali. The first thing you notice about this baby is that it’s a big vehicle. In fact it dwarfs just about everything else in the crossover segment. Its rugged good looks, stance and all-weather capabilities make it feel more like a truck, thus making it more attractive to male buyers who don’t want to drive a minivan or standard crossover. It also has power, storage space and all-wheel drive which makes it not only practical, but enjoyable to pilot.
As mentioned this is the Acadia Denali, which means that just about everything, both inside and out has been upgraded. Outside the Denali has been given the full court press. White Diamond tricoat paint, chrome honeycomb grill, special 20-inch two-tone chrome wheels and exhaust tips, unique front and rear fascias, power rear lift-gate, and of course HID headlamps help round out a very presentable package. In fact I was actually quite surprised as to the amount of looks that it got, especially as I was driving through the streets of NYC. As mentioned this Acadia has a presence to it, which from a buyer standpoint is a very attractive thing.
Inside the luxury continues with just about everything one could ask for in an SUV/crossover. Front seats are heated and cooled with power adjustments. Out back twin leather wrapped captains chairs and a full third-row bench seat are in position to greet up to 5-additional passengers. Dash and door panels (front and rear) were two-tone, but in all honesty felt cheap due to the plastics that were used. For a vehicle with the Denali name attached I definitely expected better. The Acadia was released back in 2007 which may explain this, however with a price tag of over 50K, a little leather or fabric strategically placed would do wonders. *See 2011 Chevrolet Cruze.
The Acadia had no shortage of electronics either. Touch screen navigation with integrated back-up camera, satellite radio, remote start, bluetooth, dual-zone climate controls and rear audio controls with a drop down DVD entertainment system helped to round out a very nice package. Oh and let us not forget GM’s amazing heads-up display, a feature that I would love to have on every car I drive.
Climb into the Acadia Denali and you’ll immediately notice that this is one comfortable vehicle. So comfortable in fact that I wouldn’t hesitate to drive it cross country. Front seat support is about average, which is fine for a non-sporty vehicle and there is plenty of leg and shoulder room, something that I usually find in short supply. For comparison, the Acadia provided more driver and passenger comfort then the Cadillac Escalade ESV I recently tested.
Access to the third row seat was also a snap due to the quick fold-forward captains chairs. As mentioned this is the first cross over that I feel is truly useful, and the amount of cargo space in the Acadia just helps to illustrate that. Keep the second and third row seats up and you’ve got 24.1 cu-ft of usable space. Fold them down however and that jumps to a whopping 116.9 cu-ft. Not to shabby if you ask me.
Get the Acadia on the road and you’ll be treated to a nice compliant ride that offers up little in the way of drama. Keep in mind though that this is a heavy vehicle (4,936 lbs) so quick side to side transitions are not your friend. In everyday driving the Acadia handles just fine, but when pushed, its high curb weight becomes evident, something I found out first hand when hit an exit ramp a little too spiritedly.
We’ve been getting clobbered up here in the Northeast with snow, which was fine by me as it gave me a chance to try out the Acadia’s all-wheel drive capabilities. Traction, even while driving through the deepest snow was never a problem and with the Acadia’s wide track, driving confidence was never an issue. The traction control/AWD system was also not as intrusive as it was on some other GM vehicles that I’ve driven.
Power in the Acadia comes from a 3.6-liter V6 that pumps out 288 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. For a vehicle of this size that may not seem like a lot of grunt, but believe me when I tell you that this thing actually gets up and moves. It was a nice surprise and one that I didn’t expect. It also delivered some decent fuel economy for such a large vehicle. In mixed driving I saw a return of around 17 mpg which was better then expected. The Acadia’s Hydra-Matic 6-speed automatic transmission was also a nice compliment to the power of the V6 by providing nice smooth shifts, regardless of where it shifted in the rev range.
After driving the 2011 GMC Acadia Denali around for a full week I came away with a pretty good impression of it. For one, it’s 100% usable in every day life, especially for those with children. It’s got loads of room, offers all-day driving comfort, has every bell and whistle you could hope for and is also a very attractive vehicle. Granted you’ll have to get past the plastic interior, but if you can do that you may just be rewarded with the perfect all-season family vehicle.