2016 GMC Acadia Denali AWD
– Huge cabin space
– Decent handling
– Quiet comfortable ride
– Average fuel economy
– No chance of offroading
– Longer than most cars
The Acadia was a trend-setter of sorts when it first debuted in 2007, at least for the GMC brand. It was the nameplate’s first crossover, after depending on body-on-frame trucks and SUVs for its bread and butter over the past century. Sold alongside the larger Yukon, the Acadia actually offers more practicality for a large family, oddly enough.
The extra-long Acadia got a major facelift in 2013, giving it a more butch appearance up front. It’s not the most handsome of vehicles, but the top Denali trim keeps it interesting with a massive dollop of chrome. The external upgrades include more chrome on the grille, unique-design 20-inch chrome wheels and further chrome trim on the bumpers. Our tester here just survived Dubai’s largest ever sandstorm, which is why it’s looking dusty in the photos, but the metallic paint and chrome bits still shine through.
The Acadia is sort of a stretched midsizer, and so it is expectedly spacious. Legroom in the second row is limo-like, while still leaving just enough space in the third row for adults. Our vehicle was the 7-seater version instead of the 8-seater, so it was set up with two chairs in the middle row instead of a bench, while three can fit in the last row at a pinch. Third-row access is good too, due to the long rear doors and foldaway second-row seats. And yet, there’s still enough cargo room for groceries, but folding away the second and third rows open up van-like cargo capacity. And of course, there is no shortage of cup-holders and cubbies.
The cabin panels used to be all hard plastics in the previous models, but the General has finally fired the accountant and now the dash and door surfaces are all padded with soft-touch leather-look trim. Chrome trim, leather door inserts and padded armrests, and plastic-looking real wood are all in keeping with the Denali’s premium aspirations. The barely-bolstered front seats are power-adjustable and upholstered in leather, offering sofa-like comfort.
The feature set is good, with the usual power accessories, a good-enough CD/MP3 stereo with USB port, Bluetooth streaming audio and phone, and an upgraded touchscreen with colourful graphics, multimedia and navigation functionality. Other features include basic keyless entry with remote start, rear camera, two moonroofs, good tri-zone auto a/c with rear controls and roof vents, power tailgate, multiple airbags and HID headlights, among other items. A rear DVD entertainment system is optional.
The engine remains the standard 3.6-litre V6 carried over from the pre-facelift model, making 288 hp at 6300 rpm and 366 Nm at 3400 rpm. The 6-speed automatic is smooth, with a manual tiptronic feature using buttons on the shift-knob as if to discourage its use. We managed a 0-100 kph time of 8.9 seconds during our test in warm April weather, a tiny bit slower than the previous model as the weight has now ballooned to 2302 kg with all the new equipment. Our Acadia had the optional all-wheel-drive, and its 16.0 litres/100 km of as-tested fuel consumption is average for the midsize class.
The handling is very good for a vehicle of this size, with noticeable but entirely-manageable body-roll and no floatiness over bumps. Indeed, its suspension seems set up to give the feeling of driving a softly-sprung sedan rather than a top-heavy SUV. It can be thrown around corners, within reasonable limits of course, and can be manoeuvred rather easily with its soft lifeless steering and decent ABS-assisted disc brakes.
Parking the Acadia can be a hassle in tight parking lots at shopping malls as the Acadia is longer than cross-shopped rivals such as the Honda Pilot and the Ford Explorer, but the rear camera, sensors and tight turning circle help a lot. The Acadia is at its best cruising highways on cross-country trips, with its excellent suppression of wind and road noises, as well as a comfortable suspension that does not wallow on large potholes, offering up a stable ride. The Denali rides on wide 255/55 tyres on 20-inch rims, which can be quite expensive to replace, so you have to factor that into your future running costs.
As for offroading, the all-wheel-drive version of the Acadia is fine on gravel tracks and sand parking lots, but low ground clearance and a lack of low-range gearing makes sure you stick to the tarmac as long as you can help.
To be honest, a lot of this review was copy-pasted from our old road test of the pre-facelift GMC Acadia Denali, as not a whole lot has changed mechanically. However, what did change is significant, with much better interior trimmings and an updated infotainment system. The Acadia remains a practical replacement for the traditional minivan or large SUV if all you are looking for is a people-mover that’s decent to drive onroad. While it won’t satisfy your cravings to go off-road, the Acadia is perfectly fine when thinking with the sensible side of your brain. The next-generation model has already been revealed, but it is a slightly smaller vehicle, which explains why this older version will apparently continue to be sold alongside that new one.
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