- 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 smooth but can hesitate
- Infotainment is good, not standard
- Feels every bit of its 5,000 pounds
The 2016 GMC Acadia is too big and heavy to deliver car-like performance, but it's pleasant to drive and has enough space to replace the minivan in your driveway.
The 2016 GMC Acadia, compared to its Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse stablemates, features a more pronounced grille, giving it a bolder, more truck-like look. The exterior also features LED daytime running lights up front and a small spoiler at the rear. The distinctive look makes the Acadia our favorite of this GM trio, which also used to include the Saturn Outlook.
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.
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.
The 2016 Acadia is offered in SLE, SLT, and Denali versions—although SLE2 and SLT2 trims add a few more features to each. The only revision of note for 2016 is the addition of 4G LTE connectivity to the standard OnStar telematics system. If can turn the Acadia into a moving wi-fi hotspot.
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 the second row 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. 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 a cavernous 116 cubic feet of space.
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 touchscreen control is standard; it's surrounded in some models by capacitive controls for the audio and climate systems, and navigation is available as well.
Also optional is IntelliLink, which provides access to Pandora and Stitcher internet radio 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.
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 are standard, on top of a robust list of standard features such as a rearview camera, front-seat side airbags, and curtain airbags that reach to the third-row seat.
Weighing in at around 5,000 pounds, the GMC Acadia counts fuel economy among its weaknesses. The 2016 GMC Acadia carries EPA fuel economy ratings of 17 mpg city, 24 highway, 19 combined with front-wheel drive, and 16/23/19 mpg with all-wheel drive.
2016 GMC Acadia
With a bold, rectangular grille, the Acadia is the toughest looking of GM's big crossover SUVs.
Now in its eighth year of production, the GMC Acadia's handsome styling and crisp lines have helped this full-size crossover age with relative grace.
A 2013 facelift gave the Acadia a bit more chiseled front end and a wrap-around glass treatment lifted from its discontinued Saturn Outlook sibling. The pronounced grille gives the Acadia a tougher look than its softer Buick Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse stablemates. Likewise, 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 dressed up with soft-touch materials and soft leather upholstery with French stitching. Red ambient lighting and aluminum interior accents (also in Acadia SLT models) also distinguish the Denali from the rest of the lineup.
2016 GMC Acadia
The Acadia is pleasant to drive, but its size and weight mean it doesn't handle or accelerate all that well.
The 2016 GMC Acadia comes in one flavor, with a solid combination of a big V-6, an automatic transmission, and front- or all-wheel drive.
With a smooth ride and controlled handling, the Acadia manages 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 dual-flow damper shocks that provide a good balance of ride and handling.
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. Those 5,000 pounds are an ever-present part of the driving experience, making passing response less than ideal, and causing the Acadia to struggle to get up to speed with a full load of people and cargo.
GM's 6-speed automatic does a good job of coping. It shifts smoothly, but can occasionally dither when selecting gears. You won't be squirting between tractor-trailers, but the Acadia accelerates strongly with a light load.
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 5,200-pound tow rating.
2016 GMC Acadia
Comfort & Quality
Quality soft-touch materials create a welcoming environment for up to eight passengers.
A quiet, well-constructed interior and excellent seats are some of the Acadia's best qualities, though we'd be remiss not to mention all of that interior space, too. There's no question that this is one massive machine, but it makes the most out of what it's given, though the load floor is a little higher than it could be.
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 third row. If it weren't for the lack of sliding side doors, the Acadia would be as nearly as roomy and 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 OK 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 flips 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 a cavernous 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 improved interior materials throughout the Acadia lineup over time, including more soft-touch surfaces, 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.
2016 GMC Acadia
The 2016 GMC Acadia scores well in crash tests, and offers a host of high-tech safety features.
The 2016 GMC Acadia is one the safest vehicles you can buy at any price, and the upper-trim models are offered with several active safety technologies.
The Acadia has performed extremely well in both the federal and insurance-industry safety tests. The 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 their 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 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 list of standard features includes curtain bags that reach to the third-row seat, a rearview camera, and GM's OnStar telematics system, which comes with six months of "Directions and Connections" service.
The Acadia and its Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse siblings are unique in offering a front-center airbag; it deploys forward from the right side of the driver's seat, helping to prevent injuries in side-impact crashes, including injuries incurred when front seat occupants bang into each other. The available active safety features are blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts, forward-collision alert, and lane-departure warning systems. Most of these features are standard on the Denali and available on lower line models.
2016 GMC Acadia
Option it up, and the Acadia has the look and materials to approach Cadillac quality.
The 2016 GMC Acadia accomplishes its mission as a family hauler with a generous list of standard features. The model lineup includes the SL, SLE-1, SLE-2, SLT-1, SLT-2, and luxurious Denali models.
Base Acadias come standard with cloth seating; power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; air conditioning; and a touchscreen radio, a front USB port, two USB charge-only ports on the back of the center console, a rearview camera, and a few months of satellite radio service. GMC IntelliLink is available or standard depending on the model; it's a smartphone-connectivity package that integrates Pandora and Stitcher internet radio capability, plus Bluetooth-driven voice controls. A navigation system also interfaces with IntelliLink. New for 2016 is 4G LTE connectivity, which can provide a wi-fi hotspot through the standard OnStar telematics system. If is available on all models.
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; it includes surround sound, 10 speakers, and two sets of wireless headphones.
2016 GMC Acadia
Considering its size and passenger capacity, the Acadia delivers acceptable fuel economy.
Weighing in at around 5,000 pounds, the GMC Acadia counts fuel economy among its weaknesses. The 2016 GMC Acadia carries EPA fuel economy ratings of 15 mpg city, 22 highway, 18 combined with front-wheel drive, and 15/22/17 mpg with all-wheel drive.
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, especially for city driving. However, the 6-speed automatic transmission provides a wide span of ratios that allow it to keep the revs low when cruising on the highway.