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  • 2013 GMC Acadia AWD Denali

    Posted on July 10th, 2013 ninarussin

    Seven-passenger crossover with refreshed exterior styling

    By Nina Russin

    GMC Acadia Denali

    In its post-2008 recovery, General Motors is wearing a new game face. In no case is this more evident than the newest GMC Acadia Denali: a seven passenger crossover featuring refreshed styling for the 2013 model year.

    In a crowded segment that includes the Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango and Honda Pilot, GMC’s three-row crossover is a formidable contender. Power comes from a direct injection 3.6-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Ninety percent of the engine’s peak 270 foot-pounds of torque is available from 2500 rpm, giving the Acadia exceptional power off the line and the capability to tow up to 5200 pounds.

    Available all-wheel drive automatically sends engine power to the wheels with the best traction on slippery roads, enhancing four-season capability. A hill hold feature applies the brakes momentarily when the driver accelerates from a stop on a steep hill to prevent the vehicle from sliding backwards.

    The 2013 refresh includes a redesigned grille with LED daytime running lamps, wrap-around rear glass and rear spoiler. New 18, 19 and 20-inch wheel designs dress up the car’s profile.

    Base price for the all-wheel drive model tested is $47,945, excluding the $895 destination charge. The test car includes two options, navigation with a rear seat entertainment system and special exterior paint, bringing the final MSRP to $52,075.

    Test drive in Phoenix

    GMC Acadia Denali

    Over the past week I drove the Acadia Denali around the Phoenix, Arizona metro area as well as on a longer drive through the Gila River Indian reservation south of town. What impressed me the most about the vehicle was how easy it was to drive in traffic, handling more like a passenger car than a truck.

    While the V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission might not offer the best gas mileage of any vehicle in the segment, they are an extremely well matched duet. The engine’s abundance of low-end torque reduces the need for harsh transmission downshifts, so the driver experiences smooth, linear acceleration. I never experienced the annoying chuggle that can be the bane of automatic transmissions using friction as opposed to fluid couplings.

    Isolated mounting points on both front and rear suspensions reduce noise and vibration intrusion into the cabin. The MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension offers an appealingly compliant ride without being mushy. A stabilizer bar on the front axle reduces the tendency to roll in the corners. I was impressed by the car’s stability when I took decreasing radius cloverleaf ramps at relatively high speeds. Twenty-inch rims on the test car provide a fat footprint for high-speed performance. The tires have enough sidewall to prevent passengers from feeling as if they’re riding on rocks.

    The standard rearview camera and blind spot monitoring systems eliminate visibility problems created by the car’s high rear glass and thick D pillars. I had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes on the highway. Cross traffic alert makes it easier to monitor other moving vehicles in crowded parking lots.

    Spacious interior

    GMC Acadia Denali Interior

    Inside, the Acadia Denali seats 7-8 passengers, depending on the seating configuration. The seven-passenger test car has captain’s chairs in the first two rows. Second-row seats slide all the way forward to ease access and egress to the third row. The space between the captain’s chairs comes in handy when a third-row passenger needs to exit the car, enabling both second-row passengers to stay put.

    Remote keyless entry and start are both standard. The driver can use the key fob outside the vehicle to fire the ignition. In areas such as Phoenix where a car’s interior can reach 140 degrees in the summer, it’s a handy feature.

    So are the ventilated front seats, and an air conditioning system that had no problem keeping up on a day when the official temperature reached 119 degrees. An airline delay had me driving home from the parking facility during the hottest part of the afternoon. Although the Acadia’s ambient temperature meter reached about 123 around some heat islands on the freeway, the vents were blowing ice cubes, quickly cooling down the interior to 71 degrees.

    Front center airbag

    In more temperate weather, owners can enjoy the standard power sunroof and second-row skylight.

    Designers did a good job of making all infotainment controls easy to reach from either front seating position. A standard heads-up display enables the driver to monitor his speed without taking his eyes off the road. I found the driver’s seat easy to adjust, with plenty of lower lumbar support.

    All passengers have access to cup and bottle holders as well as 12-volt power points. A standard USB port on the test car enables passengers to plug in an iPod or MP3 player. Standard IntelliLink voice-activated technology enables passengers to access Pandora and Stitcher radio on their smart phones and play both through the car’s head unit. The technology also includes Bluetooth hands-free telephone and streaming audio features.

    A three-prong outlet comes with the optional rear seat entertainment system, enabling second-row passengers to plug in games.

    A standard power liftgate makes it easier to load up the back with cargo. Third-row seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to meet our bicycle friendly standards. Standard roof rails make it easy to add extra racks or carriers up top.

    Standard safety

    A new center airbag keeps front-row passengers front sliding over the center console in a side impact collision. Other standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring.

    Standard OnStar connectivity comes with a six-month complimentary directions and connections subscription that includes automatic crash response.

    GMC builds the Acadia Denali at its Lansing, Michigan assembly plant.

    Like: An extremely well engineered seven-passenger crossover vehicle with high levels of standard safety, comfort and convenience features.

    Dislike: The Acadia Denali’s relatively high MSRP makes it unaffordable for some potential buyers.

    Quick facts:

    Make: GMC
    Model: Acadia AWD Denali
    Year: 2013
    Base price: $47,945
    As tested: $52,075
    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: No
    Fuel economy: 16/23 mpg city/highway


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