2014 GMC Acadia Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 14, 2014

A modest performer but a people-carrying overachiever, the GMC Acadia stakes out a claim right at the edge of Minivan Territory.

It's easy to think of GMC as a truck brand, but it also fields some of General Motors' best-selling SUVs and crossovers. The Acadia's among them. New in 2008 and lightly refreshed recently, the family wagon is only related to the big Sierra trucks in its family name.

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.

Last year, 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.

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.

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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.

With excellent crash-test scores, the Acadia is one of the safest vehicles on the road. Blind-spot monitors became standard last year, 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 2014 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. 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.

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2014 GMC Acadia

Styling

A sport coat of an SUV, the 2014 GMC Acadia is business-casual smart without looking too formal.

Not too formal, but crisper-looking than the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave it calls kin, the GMC Acadia wears a nicely fitted sport coat of sheetmetal, and a tidy, well-turned-out cockpit. It hasn't changed much since it was introduced in 2008, true, but the straightforward look is aging gracefully, and fits in well with the GMC ethos.

Last year GMC facelifted the Acadia with a bit more chisel to the front and a wrap-around glass treatment lifted from one of its discontinued siblings, the Saturn Outlook. It's still quite handsome and the changes are minor. The profile's as straightforward as it can be, less anonymous than the Traverse and more masculine than the curvaceous Enclave. It's fairly easy to spot an Acadia Denali, too, by dint of its chromed-mesh grille, distinct headlights, and 18- to 20-inch wheels. 

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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2014 GMC Acadia

Performance

The GMC Acadia feels heavy, because it is, but acceleration and handling are fine.

You can have a GMC pickup truck in a veritable Baskin-Robbins variety of flavors, but the Acadia crossover? You get what they give, which is a pretty good combination of a big V-6 and an automatic transmission, with or without all-wheel drive.

The standard 3.6-liter V-6 is strong enough for its displacement, at 288 horsepower, but it's up against a substantial curb weight even before you add all-wheel drive to the mix. Most carpool captains won't notice, but those 5,000 pounds are an ever-present part of the driving experience.

GM's six-speed automatic transmission does a good job of coping, now that it's been retuned for smoother shifts and dithers less in selecting a gear. You won't be squirting between tractor-trailers, but the Acadia accelerates strongly when it's passing and merging.

If you need it, 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 Acadia's 5200-pound tow rating.

With a smoother ride and better handling than those true GMC trucks, 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 last year further helping the ride-versus-handling tradeoff.

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2014 GMC Acadia

Comfort & Quality

The three-seat Acadia has very good room in most seats for adults, and it's a quiet and refined interior.

Great seat comfort and a quiet, well-constructed cabin are highlights of the GMC Acadia, which tucks in a massive amount of interior space in what's admittedly a pretty massive body. The Acadia's boxy profile makes the most of its role on the road, though the floor is somewhat higher that we've found in other crossover SUVs.

The Acadia can be configured to seat either seven or eight people, with its standard third-row seat. The difference lies in the middle seats, either a bench for three passengers or a pair of buckets with better access to the rearmost row. If it weren't for the lack of sliding side doors, it would be as roomy and nearly as flexible as a minivan.

The driver and front passenger get the best accommodations, with a high seating position, excellent visibility, and on the Denali, standard heating and ventilation and leather trim. The Denali's second-row seats are also heated and cooled, and on any version, the seats slide on a track to increase leg room or cargo room, depending on how you have the seats folded and filled.

The third-row seat is reserved for small adults at best. It's not so much the available space, but the access path to it. The seat itself lays low and close to the floor, so head room is okay for most grownups. Still, kids and adults will 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.

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. GMC has also improved interior materials throughout the Acadia lineup over time, 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 is even quieter with its exclusive interior acoustic package.

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2014 GMC Acadia

Safety

With a front-center airbag and excellent crash-test scores, the GMC Acadia is one of the safest vehicles you can buy.

The GMC Acadia is one of the safest family vehicles you can buy, and as a Denali, it gets even more active safety technology than it had just last year.

The Acadia has performed extremely well in both the federal and insurance-industry safety tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it an overall rating of five stars, with five stars for frontal impact and five stars for side impact. It's very nearly perfect in our estimation, with only a four-star rating for rollover resistance keeping it from a perfect score.

It's been given "good" scores in all tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), with top ratings in all categories, including the roof strength test. However, since there's been no small-overlap test--a crash that simulates running into a telephone pole or similarly sized offset--the Acadia isn't eligible for the IIHS' Top Safety Pick awards.

The Acadia's 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.

A rearview camera system is standard, too, and it's useful. Shorter drivers will come to rely on its output, since the tall Acadia can be a challenge to park and back up.

Last year, GMC fitted a new front-center airbag in the Acadia; it 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. Blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts were also added. This year, the Acadia Denali gets forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning systems as standard equipment; they're an option on SLT-1 and SLT-2 Acadias. 

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2014 GMC Acadia

Features

Connectivity and luxury are well-handled by the Acadia's standard-equipment list; fully optioned, it's close to Caddy standards.

A family wagon above all its off-road feinting, the GMC Acadia also offers up heavy doses of standard equipment--in lockstep with its "professional-grade" tagline. There's so much in the way of luxury and infotainment, it's practically the brand's minivan.

Same as last year, the Acadia comes in SLE, SLT, and Denali versions, with the lower trim levels taking a half-step into SLE2 and SLT2 territory. All Acadias come with standard cloth seating; power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; air conditioning; and a Color Touch Radio with touch-screen control, a USB port, a rearview camera, and a few months of satellite radio service. For 2014, GMC has added a pair of USB charge-only ports to the back of the center console, acknowledging the game-happy passengers sure to hop into its back seats.

Among the Acadia's options are a navigation that interfaces with the system. GMC IntelliLink is available or standard on all models: it's a smartphone-connectivity package that integrates Pandora and Stitcher internet radio capability, plus Bluetooth-driven voice controls.

Moving into the SLT, the Acadia gains leather upholstery and heated front seats. SLT2 and Denali models step up to perforated 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.

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2014 GMC Acadia

Fuel Economy

It's not bad for a three-row crossover, but on objective terms, the GMC Acadia isn't all that fuel-efficient.

Fuel economy is the bane of most big SUVs and crossovers, at least the ones without explicit gas-saving technologies factored into their drivetrains. Count the GMC Acadia among those: it was revamped in 2013, but more in styling and in feature content, though the transmission's shift logic was updated.

The Acadia's powertrain still turns in the same gas-mileage numbers it has delivered for the past few years. The highway numbers are acceptable, but the city numbers...they're not great.

The EPA rates the Acadia at 17/24 mpg or 19 mpg combined in front-drive versions, and at 16/23 mpg or 18 mpg combined 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. We'd also add the six-speed automatic in the Acadia does provide a wide span of ratios to keep revs low when cruising on the highway.

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April 13, 2015
For 2014 GMC Acadia

Nice family hauler!

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Our 2014 Acadia Denali is very nice for hauling the family and friends around town or across the country. Great highway ride, comfortable seats and nice features make a long trip pleasurable. Performance is... + More »
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Styling 7
Performance 7
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