Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com
June 12, 2013
Monday: Chevrolet Malibu Turbo
Wednesday: GMC Acadia Denali
If there is one vehicle or group of vehicles that show the success of General Motors after bankruptcy a few years ago, many would point towards their full-size crossover lineup. The Lambda full-size crossovers (Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, and the dearly departed Saturn Outlook) came at time when buyers were looking for something with a lot of space and got much better fuel economy than than traditional body-on-frame full size SUVs. The Lambda crossover formula of one engine, two different drivetrains, and number of different models brought many buyers into the showroom and helped keep GM somewhat afloat.
For the 2013 model year, GM has given the Lambda trio a bit of a nip and tuck on the exterior and interior. Cheers & Gears' Managing Editor, Drew Dowdell was one of the first people to drive 2013 Buick Enclave and came away very impressed. Now it's my turn and I got my hands on the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali. Would I come away as impressed? Read on.
The 2013 Acadia Denali received a major transformation unlike the Enclave and Traverse, and it has become the best looking of the trio. GMC designers thought it was time to let the Acadia embrace the ‘Professional Grade' mantra. This is very evident in the front as the Acadia gains a similar front end as the new 2014 trucks. The Denali model adds a really cool looking chrome “three-dimensional” grill, body color-matched lower cladding, and a set of LED daytime running lamps. Other Denali cues include a set of twenty-inch machined alloy wheels and chrome exhaust exits on the rear bumper.
Moving inside, the Acadia Denali really increases the level of luxuries from the outgoing model. To start, the dashboard has soft-touch upper surface with French stitching that is paired with metal trim pieces. Seats for all three rows are wrapped in what GMC calls ‘Cocoa Dune’ leather, which is a darker shade of beige that looks really good. One part of the interior trim that needs to be dinged is the shiny, fake wood trim on the door panels and center console. It doesn’t look like it should belong here at all.
One item GMC kept from the old Acadia is the room and comfort for the new model. Front seat passengers are treated to power seats with heat and ventilation. Second row passengers get loads of headroom, while legroom is surprisingly somewhat tight for taller passengers. You can adjust the seat to give yourself more legroom if you feel somewhat tight. The third row has enough space that adults can fit back here somewhat comfortably, but it's best reserved for kids.
Techwise, the 2013 Acadia Denali comes with the newest version of GMC’s Intellink infotainment system that uses which uses touch-sensitive buttons and a high-resolution screen to provide audio, navigation, Pandora, Bluetooth, and a number of other functions. Using the system is easy with the capacitive touch buttons and voice commands, but I think the touchscreen could be bit larger since the information seems a bit crowded and it's not always easy to do certain things, like change a station. Also, I want to talk to the person who decided that the best place to put the trip computer buttons on the bottom of the unit. It took me ten minutes just to figure out that’s where the buttons were placed. Who thought this was a good idea? Who?!
An odd omission from the Acadia Denali is a proximity key and push button start. I would be ok with this if this was a Chevrolet Traverse or the base Acadia. But this is the Acadia Denali, a vehicle that as tested costs $52,075 and it doesn’t have this?! It's a little thing I will admit, but a good amount of the competition has this feature. Come on GM.
Under the hood is the venerable 3.6L DI V6 engine that has powered Lambda trio since their introduction back in 2007. Power output still stands at 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. That’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission to either the front wheels or all four wheels via an AWD system.
Tipping the scales at 4,850 lbs, the 3.6 really isn’t suited for the job. It will get you moving, but you’re just wondering if there is an invisible boat and trailer hooked up to the vehicle. The Acadia Denali and for that matter the entire GM full-size crossover lineup need a new engine as soon as possible. The six-speed automatic is very quick when down and upshifting, and doesn’t exhibit any type of noise, vibration or harshness. The EPA rates the 2013 Acadia Denali AWD at 16 City/23 Highway/18 Combined. During my time, I averaged around 17 MPG. This is mostly due to me driving in the city for most of the time and keeping the pedal close to floor to get it moving.
The refreshed Acadia Denali also retains the excellent ride and handling qualities from the previous model. The fully independent suspension and dual-flow dampers give a very luxurious ride that a number of competitors can only dream of. Even on the roughest roads here in Southeast Michigan, the Acadia Denali didn’t flinch. Out on the highway, the smooth ride combined with a very quiet interior make the Acadia Denali one of the best road trip vehicles out there. Steering is surprisingly accurate and offers just right amount of weight, which means the Acadia does ok when going around a corner. Yes the Acadia Denali does weigh 4,850 lbs, but at least you and your passengers will not experience any type of motion sickness.
GM knew it couldn’t mess with the massive success of the Lambda crossovers when they were working on the refresh. So they kept what worked and improved the areas that needed it. After spending a few days with the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali, I say its almost the best in class in large crossover. For it to become the best, GM just needs to work on putting a more powerful engine into it.
Disclaimer: General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline.
Year - 2013
Make – GMC
Model – Acadia
Trim – Denali AWD
Engine – 3.6L SIDI V6
Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM – 288 @ 6,300 RPM
Torque @ RPM – 270 @ 3,400 RPM
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/23/18
Curb Weight – 4,850 lbs
Location of Manufacture – Lansing, MI
Base Price - $47,945.00
As Tested Price - $52,075.00 (Includes $895.00 destination charge)
Navigation & Rear Seat Entertainment - $2,240.00
White Diamond Tricoat - $995.00