General Motors reported earlier that sales of the GMC Acadia were up almost 45 percent in the first quarter of this year. At first blush, that sounds like faint praise. Considering how dismal vehicle sales were last year, it’s not hard to find vehicles that have posted double digit increases this year.
This statistic, however, is significant at least two reasons. First, the uptick demonstrates the resilience of the Crossover Utility Vehicle segment. Through hot and cold markets, CUVs continue to sell. Also important is the amount of the gain; 45 percent is a big number, even following a bad sales year.
The big news for the GMC Acadia full-size luxury crossover in 2011 is the availability of a new, premium model — the Denali. GMC reserves the Denali treatment for its top-line offerings. The Acadia Denali is set apart visually by signature design elements, like body-color cladding, fender flares and moldings, and a chrome, honeycomb grille, framed by high intensity discharge headlamps. Completing the look are chrome, dual exhaust tips, chrome accents and special badging. The Acadia Denali rolls on 20-inch two-tone, six-spoke chrome rims.
Like the rest of the Acadia lineup, the top-shelf Denali’s are available in front- and all-wheel drive versions.
Prices start at $31,840 for FWD models and range to $45,220 for a Denali with AWD. A loaded model like my test driver stickered for $49,525.
Denali models are all about refinement, and most of that is on display inside. Slide into the perforated leather seats and the driver’s view takes in a leather-wrapped wheel with mahogany trim. A head’s-up display projects speed and a programmable variety of other information low onto the windshield.
Overhead is a two-stage sunroof system, with sliding front element and fixed glass rear section. Heated and cooled front seats are standard on Denali, as is a 10-speaker Bose sound system, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity and a rearview camera system. Even on luxury models like this, there’s room for optional gear. My test Denali had the two biggest ticket items: a touch screen navigation system ($1,890) and a rear seat DVD entertainment system ($1,445).
Standard seating in Denali includes a pair of captain’s chairs in the second row and a split, folding bench in row three. So equipped, there’s ample room for any size adult in rows one and two. The third row is best suited to kids. While the second row seats can be moved forward to add to last row legroom, headroom is tight for taller folk in the way back, and getting in and out requires flexible dexterity.
Cargo capacity starts at 24.1 cubic feet, and expands to 68.7 cu.-ft. behind the second row and almost 116 cu.-ft., with second and third row folded. The top-hinged liftgate door swings high and liftover height in back is comfortably low. The second row headrests (or the heads of rear seat passengers) create a good-sized blind spot in the driver’s 3/4 rearview. When the seats aren’t in use, the headrests can be flopped forward, which improves visibility.
Acadia’s “low and away” instrument panel has a cool, car-like presence. Two-tone colors break up the dashboard plastics nicely, although there are no soft touch materials used, which we found to be surprising in a premium luxury class vehicle. GMC’s controls are admirably straightforward, especially for the navigation/sound system combo.
All Acadia’s are powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 engine.
The direct injection six is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission. The pairing provides ample power, cruises quietly and can be equipped to tow as much as 5,200 pounds.
The EPA rates an AWD Denali at 16 miles per gallon and 23 mpg highway. Acadia’s all-wheel drive system is fully automatic, requiring no input from the driver, and pays dividends on wet and dry road surfaces. Monitoring road surface conditions, throttle response and wheel speed, the system regulates the flow of power between the front and rear axles.
Other safety related equipment includes six airbags, disc brakes with ABS, electronic stability control system with reaction control and rollover mitigation. Acadia sits relatively low for a large crossover. This enhances handling stability and also makes it easier to get in and out of the vehicle.
Acadia’s popularity in a still-soft market is testimony to its versatility. It packs plenty of room for people and cargo into a comfortable space. Particularly in top-line, Denali trim, the GMC crossover is a handsome choice in a premium crossover. — Dan Lyons, Motor Matters
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010