Automotive

2014 GMC Acadia FWD Denali

Updated: 2013-12-20T18:03:04Z

By TOM STRONGMAN

Denali National Park in Alaska is home to Mount McKinley, which, at more than 20,000 feet is the tallest mountain in North America. Denali is also the name that GMC gives to the highest trim level in its vehicle lineup, and the Acadia Denali is a loaded seven- or eight-passenger crossover that leaves its owner wanting for little.

Last year the Acadia received a buffed-up, big-truck face highlighted by LED lights. The interior was tweaked as well. For 2014, the emphasis is on safety. Additions include forward collision alert and lane departure warning, nice companions to the blind zone alert and cross traffic alert systems that were installed last year.

The Acadia, available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive, shares its unibody chassis platform with the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse. Prices start at $35,260 for a front-wheel-drive SLE-1 and top out at $48,675 for an all-wheel-drive Denali. I drove a front-wheel-drive Denali from GM’s press fleet, and its sticker price was $50,335.

The Acadia is bigger inside than it looks because it has a 118.9-inch wheelbase that is almost as long as a minivan. It is about 800 pounds lighter and a couple of inches shorter than the body-on-frame Yukon. The Denali’s upscale trim makes it more comfortable than many sedans. The new instrument panel has tight seams, a nice variety of textures and bright, red-trimmed gauges. French stitching on the instrument panel and seats adds what GMC calls a “tailored look,” and brushed aluminum is used as an accent. The climate control layout was revised last year and is easier to use.

Step-in height is moderate, and the upright driving position gives a commanding view of the road. The front seats felt a bit too wide and flat to me. I would prefer a bit more contouring.

The Acadia has three rows of seats that can hold seven or eight people, depending on whether the second-row seats are captain’s chairs or a bench. It’s important for a seven-passenger utility vehicle to have ample third-row legroom and easy access to the third seat. The Acadia’s second-row captain’s chairs fold and slide forward. Fold all the seats and there is 117 cubic feet of cargo space.

The tilt and telescoping steering wheel makes it easy for a driver of any size to get comfortable, and the fingertip controls allow the driver to operate many functions without removing hands from the wheel. The center console has a power outlet and a removable tray so both large and small items will fit inside.

The direct-injection, 3.6-liter V-6 has dual overhead cams and variable valve timing. It delivers 288 horsepower with good low-speed throttle response and drivability. The transmission is a six-speed automatic. Maximum towing is 5,200 pounds. Fuel economy is rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway for front-wheel drive.

Price

The base price of the front-wheel-drive test vehicle was $46,675. Options included the crystal red paint, navigation and rear-seat entertainment system. The sticker price was $50,335.

Warranty

Three years or 36,000 miles and five years, 100,000 miles for the powertrain. Scheduled maintenance is free for two years or 24,000 miles.

Tom Strongman’s email address is tom@tomstrongman.com

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