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The 2011 GMC Acadia runs in an appealing middle ground between family-friendly crossovers and the serious, 'professional grade' truck look that is GMC. The Acadia can be ordered with either front-wheel drive or road-oriented all-wheel drive, and it offers much of the utility and comfort of a minivan, without the sliding doors.
The 2011 Acadia has one of the most attractive exteriors in its class paired with a very nicely dressed, albeit conservative, interior. On the outside, the Acadia is perhaps the best-looking of the GM large crossovers, including the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave. The more chiseled look overall—along with the prominent wheel wells—includes plenty of cues that give nod to GMC's trucks, while the slightly chunkier sheetmetal fits its role of a casual blazer—dressy, but ready to get things done. Inside, the look is simple but also very nicely trimmed—a lower, more rounded take on the upright instrument panels in GMC trucks. The dark trims and satin-metallic finishes lend a nice touch, though up close the hard plastics are a but surprising in a vehicle of this price class.
The Acadia has a single powertrain, a 288-horsepower, direct-injection V-6, and standard six-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration is strong enough, but the transmission sometimes hunts around for the right gear, especially at suburban speeds, with some powertrain hesitation in the process. The GMC Acadia's optional AWD system (which can transmit as much as 65 percent of engine power to the rear wheels as necessary) is plenty for snow days, or muddy back roads on the way to the cabin, but it won't be suitable for full-on off-road adventuring. Trucklike towing capacity is there, though: up to 5,200 pounds, when properly equipped. Handling is surprisingly good for such a heavy vehicle; the Acadia has a four-wheel independent suspension and nice hydraulic-assist steering that is quite confidence-inspiring and agile overall.
Interior space and well-configured seating are what makes the 2011 GMC Acadia especially appealing. A third-row seat is standard, which yields room for seven or eight people altogether (depending on the configuration). And purely in terms of passenger layout, the Acadia is the closest GMC comes to offering a minivan. Front seating in the Acadia is firm yet plush, and the second row is adult sized and slides fore and aft to balance legroom with the third row. The third row's a real one, too—though harder to get to than in minivans—and behind it, there's even 20 cubic feet of additional storage space. Plus, folding down the second and third rows of seats yields a flat floor with over 115 cubic feet of space; about the only issue is the rather high cargo floor.
The Acadia's interior is tight and quiet, with excellent damping of road, wind, and engine noise. Build quality and switchgear is also top-notch, and controls are straightforward and will put the driver at ease compared to the complicated interfaces in some luxury crossovers. The only major disappointment in the 2011 GMC Acadia is the overly abundant swaths of hard, hollow-feeling plastic used throughout the instrument panel and center console.
While the GMC Acadia lineup is mostly carried over unchanged to 2011, an all-new, top-of-the-line GMC Acadia Denali trim joins the model line this year. In addition to significant cosmetic distinctions from the standard Acadia—including a new grille, front and rear bumpers, high-intensity discharge headlamps, and 20-inch wheels—Denali models will get tri-zone climate control; DVD navigation with real-time traffic; satellite radio; USB connectivity; Bluetooth connectivity; a power driver seat; remote start; leather upholstery; and heated and ventilated front seats.
Otherwise, the 2011 GMC Acadia comes in SL, SLE, SLT1, and SLT2 trim levels. Each comes with the aforementioned 3.6-liter V-6 engine, but interior appointments are quite different between trims. Acadia SL and SLE models come with a basic-looking but comfortable cloth upholstery, while SLT1 and SLT2 trims (and of course the Denali) get full leather. In the Denali, it's perforated leather, complemented by mahogany-wood inserts and leather steering-wheel and door trim.