- Denali edition may as well be a Caddy
- Exceptionally roomy
- Seats up to eight
- Safety scores are segment-best
- Handling is more crossover than SUV
- Is GMC a luxury badge?
- Automatic is better, but still hesitates
- Infotainment is good, not standard
- Feels every bit of its 5,000 pounds
While performance may not be its forte, the 2015 GMC Acadia is a strong contender as a replacement for the minivan in your driveway.
GMC made its name on pickup trucks, but over the past decade it's become equally well-known for its sport-utility and crossover vehicles. The Acadia isn't related at all to its workhorse trucks and full-size SUVs--instead, it's an eight-passenger crossover that tackles the passenger-hauling duties for the brand.
A single powertrain drives all Acadias, with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The 288-horsepower V-6 is strong enough for most family duties, but it's taxed by the crossover's hefty 5,000-pound curb weight and a transmission that can be reluctant to downshift. A well-balanced ride with premium shocks is the Acadia's real strength, and handling is modestly capable for its size.
With excellent crash-test scores, the Acadia is one of the safest vehicles on the road. Blind-spot monitors became standard two years ago, on top of an already-robust list of standard features such as anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; a rearview camera; front-seat side airbags; and curtain airbags that reach to the third-row seat.
The Acadia seats up to eight passengers, offers all-wheel drive, and pairs a big V-6 with an automatic transmission. If it grew a pair of sliding side doors, it'd be a minivan--it already has all the other core minivan attributes, from vast interior space, to fold-away third-row seating, to optional rear-seat entertainment systems.
Two years ago, the Acadia received a mild facelift that really didn't change its handsome look. The rear glass is a bit more angular, and the grille is a bit more assertive to go with LED daytime running lamps. A small rear spoiler caps it off. The Acadia's still our favorite of its family, which used to include the Saturn Outlook, and still counts the Buick Enclave and Chevy Traverse as members.
Inside, the Acadia has a straightforward cockpit, with soft-touch materials, French stitching, and red ambient lighting. The most expensive Denali version gets aluminum door, dash and center console trim.
The Acadia makes good use of the potential space under its rather boxy profile, with excellent seating comfort and a tight, quiet cabin--although the floor sits a little higher than in some other crossover vehicles. A third-row seat is included in all Acadia models, and whether you go for the captain's chairs or the bench in back you get adult-sized accommodations (they're also heated and cooled in the Denali), and they slide fore and aft for more space in the third row. And with the third row up, the Acadia has 24 cubic feet of room for cargo; fold down the second- and third-row seats, and it reveals 116 cubic feet of space.
The 2015 Acadia is offered in SLE, SLT, and Denali versions--although SLE2 and SLT2 trims add a few more features to each. New for 2015, the leather-wrapped heated steering wheel now comes standard on SLT-2 and Denali trims.
The Acadia Denali is a luxury model in every way except the badge, so the price might be an issue for some shoppers. The usual power features are standard across the lineup, with leather standard on upper trims. As for infotainment, a Color Touch Radio with touch-screen control is now standard; it's surrounded in some models by capacitive controls for audio and climate control, and navigation is available with the system.
Also optional is IntelliLink, which adds Pandora and Stitcher internet radio capability plus hands-free voice controls. It's a simpler system than some of the touch or dial setups out there, but has a few of the same kinks to work out, particularly in voice recognition and address databases.