2013 GMC Acadia Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 21, 2013

The 2013 GMC Acadia's chiseled, rugged look masks a family-friendly cabin and smooth street performance.

There are more than just well-muscled work trucks and burly sport-utes under the GMC umbrella, and the Acadia makes for one of the two crossovers also developed by the brand. It's the larger of the two: an eight-passenger companion to the five-seat Terrain, and a more masculine alternative to minivans on the market today.

Over its five years on the market, the GMC Acadia hasn't changed a lot. It's been given a light facelift that doesn't alter its handsome looks a lot--mostly, it chisels off its rear glass in a way that recalls the old Saturn Outlook. It's still the best-looking of its remaining family, which includes the closely related Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave.

The most obvious changes to the new Acadia occur on the outside. In the front, there’s a new three-bar grille, bold and upright. LED daytime running lamps, new taillight design, wraparound rear glass and a new rear spoiler add to the exterior changes. Upgraded soft-touch materials, French stitching, and red ambient lighting dress up the interior, while SLT and Denali models receive aluminum accents on the doors, dash and center console.

Unlike GMC's traditional trucks and SUVs, the 2013 GMC Acadia doesn't leave a lot of room for powertrain choice. With a standard 288-horsepower V-6 and either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the Acadia is strong enough for most family duty. Ride quality is well balanced, too, with new dual-flow damper shocks for 2013 further helping the ride-versus-handling tradeoff.

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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.

GMC has also improved interior materials throughout the 2013 Acadia lineup, including more soft-touch materials, French stitching, and red ambient lighting. SLT and Denali models also get aluminum accents, with additional satin-chrome accents, perforated leather, and mahogany inserts in the Denali. The Denali also gets even quieter with an exclusive interior acoustic package.

Side Blind Zone and Rear Cross Traffic Alert have been added to the Denali's list of features for 2013. And that's on top of an already-robust list of standard features such as anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; front-seat side airbags, and curtain bags that reach to the third-row seat. The Acadia's crash-test ratings have been excellent, too.

The 2013 Acadia is offered in SLE, SLT, and Denali versions--although SLE2 and SLT2 trims add a few more features to each.The Acadia Denali is a luxury model in every way except the badge, so the price might be an issue for some shoppers.

Infotainment has been stepped up for the entire model line this year. Newly standard is a Color Touch Radio with touch-screen control (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. Auxiliary and USB inputs are provided, and the system includes a SiriusXM satellite radio tuner plus HD Radio compatibility, a photo viewer, and a built-in rear-vision camera.

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2013 GMC Acadia

Styling

The 2013 GMC Acadia is the equivalent of a casual blazer: It's dressy, but it's also ready to get things done.

The GMC Acadia has been on the market for five years and has been relatively unchanged. Arguably, the Acadia had already aged the best, with its more straightforward appearance that echoed GMC's trucks; but for 2013, GM has given it a light facelift that gives this vehicle a somewhat more chiseled and upscale look.

The Acadia is quite handsome on the outside, with a streightforward profile and chiseled wheel wells, and it sums up as less anonymous than the closely related Chevrolet Traverse and more masculine than the softer, more curvaceous Buick Enclave. For 2013, the Acadia reaches out to the new three-bar grille, with a more upright design, and its projector-beam headlamps are flanked by LED running lamps. In back there's a new taillight design plus a new rear spoiler.

Acadia Denali models get a more ornate, chromed-mesh grille, as well as different headlight detailing, and three new wheel choices ranging from 18- to 20-inch help visually separate the Denali from the rest of the lineup.

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Inside, the Acadia has one of the simpler interior layouts among crossovers, but it's been dressed up this year with softer leather with French stitching and more soft-touch materials made available. Red ambient lighting and new aluminum interior accents (also in Acadia SLT models) also distinguish the Denali from the rest of the lineup.
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2013 GMC Acadia

Performance

The Acadia accelerates quickly enough, and it handles better than GMC's larger trucks, but it feels (and is) very heavy.

Unlike GMC's traditional trucks and SUVs, the 2013 GMC Acadia doesn't leave a lot of room for powertrain choice. With a standard 288-horsepower V-6 and either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the Acadia is strong enough for most family duty--with a smoother ride and better handling than those true trucks--but its heft is an ever-present part of the driving experience. 

The direct-injection V-6 is teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission, and altogether it accelerates strongly for passing and merging, although standing-start acceleration feels a little sluggish as it first must overcome its portly 5,000-pound curb weight. Factor in somewhat sluggish transmission behavior (even though it's smooth) and you won't be quickly squirting into traffic gaps.

The Acadia's all-wheel drive system can send up to 65 percent of its power to the rear wheels. That can be useful in uphill takeoffs, when a bit of torque steer comes into play. It's also a good all-weather companion, and a good idea when towing anything near the The AWD system's also a good idea when towing anything near the Acadia's 5200-pound tow rating.

Provided quick takeoffs or bursts of power aren't needed, the Acadia does manage to feel a little smaller than it is--as well as surprisingly responsive and confident. That's mostly due to its four-wheel independent suspension layout and light, well-weighted power steering. Ride quality is well balanced, too, with new dual-flow damper shocks for 2013 further helping the ride-versus-handling tradeoff.

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2013 GMC Acadia

Comfort & Quality

Ride quality and cabin materials have been improved for 2013, and the Acadia has three rows of useful seating.

The 2013 GMC 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.

The Acadia continues to offer very well-configured, flexible seating, with room for seven or eight passengers. A third-row seat is included in all Acadia models, and it offers some of the most useful space outside of minivan designs. And if you choose the buckets instead of the bench for the second row, access is especially easy to the third row.

Front seats are plush, with heating and ventilation on the Denali models. Altogether, they offer an excellent high seating position and good outward visibility. 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.

Kids (or parents) might find the third-row seat a little easier to access with the captain's chair layout in the second row--with what GMC calls aisle seating--but in any case it's a little harder than in a minivan due to the somewhat higher floor. A Smart Slide feature does flip up the rear seat cushion and flip the seat forward, though, for easier access back there. The third row looks low to the floor, but it's actually not bad for adults, if it's just a short stint out to dinner.

Cargo space is superb--provided you're not using the third-row seat. 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. GMC also boasts that you can carry 48-inch-wide drywall and plywood. The only catch is that the Acadia's load floor sits a bit higher than in some other crossovers, so pieces of furniture might not fit as well. And for shorter drivers, the power tailgate might be a necessity.

The Acadia's interior is tight and quiet, with excellent damping of road, wind, and engine noise, and for 2013 new dual-flow damper shocks and struts offer an even better ride-and-handling balance. The Acadia keeps its straightforward layout, although Denali models gain new capacitive controls audio and climate functions, with much of the lineup gaining so-called Color Touch infotainment systems.

GMC has also improved interior materials throughout the 2013 Acadia lineup, including more soft-touch materials, French stitching, and red ambient lighting. SLT and Denali models also get aluminum accents, with additional satin-chrome accents, perforated leather, and mahogany inserts in the Denali. The Denali also gets even quieter with an exclusive interior acoustic package.

Review continues below
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2013 GMC Acadia

Safety

The GMC Acadia is one of the safest picks in its class, and a new front center airbag and active-safety features step up its protection for 2013.

The 2013 GMC Acadia remains one of the safest large family vehicles on the market, and the top-of-the-line Denali this year adds several noteworthy active-safety features.

Side Blind Zone and Rear Cross Traffic Alert have been added to the Denali's list of features for 2013. And that's on top of an already-robust list of standard features such as anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; front-seat side airbags, and curtain bags that reach to the third-row seat. OnStar, GM's telematics system, is included with six months of Directions and Connections service.

Especially of note for 2013 is a new front center air bag that deploys forward from the right side of the driver's seat, helping to prevent injuries in side-impact crashes--especially when multiple occupants are in the vehicle.

The Acadia includes a stout body structure, with some high-strength steel and a stiff crossbeam, and it's done extremely well in both the NHTSA and the IIHS safety tests. It's been an IIHS Top Safety Pick, with top ratings in all categories--including the roof strength test--while the federal government , The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives it an overall rating of five stars, with four stars for frontal impact five stars for side impact.

A rearview camera system is now standard on all Acadia models, and that's a good thing, as visibility for shorter drivers especially would otherwise be challenging during parking and driveway backing-up.

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2013 GMC Acadia

Features

Updated infotainment features are offered throughout the lineup, and GMC Acadia Denali models feel like they could have a luxury badge.

The Acadia breaks away from GMC's tough, professional-grade image, and it more than anything appeals to busy families--including many that looks to the Acadia as a minivan alternative.

The 2013 Acadia is offered in SLE, SLT, and Denali versions--although SLE2 and SLT2 trims add a few more features to each. With the discontinuation of last year's base SL trim, interior materials are up for base models, including more soft-touch materials throughout and higher-grade upholsteries. SLE models include cloth seating, while SLT models add leather upholstery and heated front seats. SLT2 and Denali models step up to perrforated leather with heated and cooled front seats, and the top Denali model includes a Dual SkyScape sunroof. A tri-zone climate control system is included with SLT and Denali models, while a rear-seat entertainment system is available throughout the model line--including surround sound, ten speakers, and two sets of wireless headphones.

Newly standard on the 2013 is a Color Touch Radio with touch-screen 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. Auxiliary and USB inputs are provided, and the system includes a SiriusXM satellite radio tuner plus HD Radio compatibility, a photo viewer, and a built-in rear-vision camera.

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2013 GMC Acadia

Fuel Economy

Even considering its three-row seating capacity, the 2013 Acadia isn't particularly fuel-efficient.

The GMC Acadia gets many improvements for 2013, but fuel economy isn't one of them. As a large, heavy crossover vehicle that doesn't incorporate hybrid technology, the Acadia gets highway fuel economy that some may deem acceptable. But its city ratings may be harder to stomach.

The EPA rates the Acadia at 17/24 mpg in front-drive versions, and at 16/23 mpg in all-wheel-drive models. Based on past drives in the Acadia, as well as the nearly identical Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave, we tend to think those figures are a little optimistic.

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GM has changed transmission controls for 2013, and we've noted in the past that the six-speed automatic in the Acadia does manage to provide a wide span of ratios to keep revs low when cruising on the highway.
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Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 9
Features 9
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