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  • 2011 GMC Acadia AWD Denali

    Posted on December 2nd, 2010 ninarussin

    GMC adds a new premium grade for its family-friendly crossover vehicle

    By Nina Russin

    2011 GMC Acadia Denali

    The seven-passenger GMC Acadia offers families a fuel-efficient alternative to the larger Yukon. The three-row crossover vehicle comes with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission: available all-wheel drive adds four-season capability.

    Towing capacity is 5200 pounds compared to 8200 for the four-wheel drive Yukon, but a three mile-per-gallon gain in fuel economy significantly reduces ownership costs.

    For 2011, GMC introduces an upscale Denali grade, with fresh exterior styling and premium interior. A chrome honeycomb grille dresses up the front of the car, while twenty-inch wheels enhance performance and add drama to the profile.

    Base price is $45,220 for the all-wheel drive model, not including a $775 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience feature include remote keyless entry, remote start, heated and cooled front seats, OnStar automatic crash notification and navigation service, a dual-panel sunroof, second-row captain’s chairs, a rearview camera and Bose surround-sound audio system.

    A touch screen navigation system adds XM traffic and weather updates ($1890). The rear-seat DVD entertainment system costs $1445, while metallic white exterior paint adds $795 to the base price, bringing the MSRP to $50,125.

    Direct injection gives V-6 engine superior throttle response

    GMC Acadia

    Power from the standard 3.6-liter V-6 engine rivals some small-block V-8s, thanks to variable valve timing and direct injection. Fuel enters the engine cylinders directly rather than through the valves. Direct injection reduces the amount of unburned fuel, hence lower emissions. Large overdrive gears on the six-speed automatic transmission extend fuel economy when engine load is low.

    Acceleration off the line is remarkably good considering the Acadia’s 5000-pound curb weight.  The Acadia has no trouble getting up to speed when merging onto the highway, and has plenty on the top end for passing slower vehicles.

    The transmission progresses smoothly through the gears. I noticed no hunting on steep grades. Shift shock is essentially nonexistent. I was disappointed to find that the transmission lacks manual gear selection: a feature which gives the driver additional control on challenging or wet roads.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consists of a coil-over-strut setup in front and linked H-arm in the back. It is extremely refined, giving the driver exceptional control on pitchy hills and decreasing radius turns. Response from the rack-and-pinion steering system is a little soft on the highway, though drivers will have no problems performing emergency lane changes.

    Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes stop the car in a firm, linear fashion.

    Visibility to the front and front corners is quite good. The side mirrors do a good job of minimizing blind spots to the back. Thick B-pillars limit over-the-shoulder visibility to the left; less so to the right.

    The rearview camera projects a wide angle view to the back on the navigation screen, making it easier and safer to back the car out of vertical parking slots. The camera also shows objects below the driver’s sightline: a useful safety feature for parents with small children.

    Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion from the road, engine bay and windshield. Passengers in all three rows of seating should have no problems conversing.

    Spacious interior

    GMC Acadia Interior

    Inside, the spacious Acadia holds seven passengers, with plenty of room for cargo. Captain’s chairs in the second row eliminate the middle seating position but create an extra path to the third row.

    As someone who is pickier-than-normal about seats, I was happy to find the driver’s position extremely comfortable for my two-hour test drive. Designers managed to give the seatback adequate lower lumbar support without invasive bolsters.

    Redundant controls on the steering wheel are logically arranged, allowing the driver to change audio settings, use the Bluetooth interface and activate the cruise control with a minimum of distraction. The standard heads-up display shows speed, audio selections and ambient temperature at the bottom of the windshield. I really like the feature and don’t find it distracting.

    Both the gauges and central navigation screen are easy to read in bright sunlight. The touch screen is intuitive to use, allowing the driver and front passenger to quickly program the audio and navigation systems. Real-time traffic updates can be a lifesaver for owners who commute during rush hour. The alerts have saved me hours with accident alerts and alternative routing.

    Sunscreens on the dual-panel sunroof control the amount of daylight inside the cabin. Overhead reading lamps over all three rows of seating illuminate the interior at night.

    Tri-zone climate control keeps all passengers comfortable. Ceiling vents circulate air through the back of the cabin.

    Three twelve-volt power points give all passengers access for recharging cell phones on the go. A 120-volt outlet behind the center console allows second-row passengers to plug in games or a computer.

    All passengers have ample access to cup and bottle holders. Both are large enough to hold 20-ounce water bottles.

    Access to the second and third-row seats is better than for competitive products. Designers configured the back doors to avoid interference from the rear wheel wells. Parents who don’t need the second-row bench should seriously consider the captain’s chairs. They move fore and aft to adjust for legroom.

    The path between the chairs makes it much easier to climb in back. I was impressed by the amount of head and legroom in the third row: ample for an average size adult.

    The power liftgate makes it easier to load up the back with the weekly groceries. A redundant set of infotainment controls in back allows parents to reprogram while they’re loading up cargo.

    Third-row seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern using straps on the seatbacks. The Acadia easily meets our bicycle-friendly standards. Roof rails enable owners to add a rack up top.

    Standard safety

    The Acadia comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction and stability control. OnStar automatically notifies the police and EMTs if the airbags deploy.

    GMC builds the Acadia in its Lansing, Michigan assembly plant.

    Likes: A seven-passenger crossover vehicle with ample cargo space and a high level of standard safety features. The V-6 engine produces ample power: comparable to some V-8s.

    Dislike: Thick B pillars limit over-the-shoulder visibility, especially to the left.

    Quick facts:

    Make: GMC
    Model: Acadia AWD Denali
    Year: 2011
    Base price: $45,220
    As tested: $50,125
    Horsepower: 288 Hp @ 6300 rpm
    Torque: 270 lbs.-ft. @ 3400 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: Yes
    Off-road: Yes
    Fuel economy: 16/23 mpg city/highway

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