Review: 2019 GMC Acadia Denali

This is America, which means everything must get bigger and bigger. If ever the saying “size is everything” applies, it’s the SUV category for automobile manufacturers.

If it was 185-inches long last year, then by gum we’re gonna make it 189-inches this year. Harummphh!

But whoa, Nelly. The folks at GMC either didn’t get the memo or they win the Rebel of the Year Award. A couple of years ago they threw everyone a curve by going the opposite direction with their Acadia.

I salute them.

I know, people who buy third-row SUVs often want something straight out of the Cretaceous Period. While the ’19 Acadia does indeed have three rows (we’ll talk in a bit about their frequency of use), it has the advantage of letting you spread out while not taking up two parking spaces.

The Basics

The Acadia can be found in four basic trim levels, although there are sub-trim levels, too. (Because we don’t have enough choices in this country.)

But keep in mind that the SL model is by special-order only, so it’s not likely you’ll stumble across one on the dealer lot. That leaves the SLE, SLT, and Denali trims.

I drove the Denali for one week.

Lower levels come standard with a 4-cylinder engine that puts out a little over 190 horsepower. My Denali features a standard V6 that ups the game to 310 horses.

You get a multitude of configuration choices, too, including whether or not you want all-wheel-drive and/or a third row.

Exterior lines are nice, and the mid-size SUV has nice curb appeal.

The Inside

The Acadia is comfortable, and everything for the driver is laid out quite nicely.

Back seat passengers can lounge in captain’s chairs, which are quickly becoming all the rage again.

The third row is, well, decent, and it obviously took a hit when GMC shortened the vehicle. The way I look at it, though, the Acadia can work for families who need that extra space every once in a while. I wouldn’t want to use it regularly, but it could help in a pinch.

Otherwise I’d suggest keeping that puppy folded flat to increase your cargo space and not have your 2nd row passengers feeling like someone is breathing down their neck.

Speaking of cargo space, things are just fine with the third row down. But if that row is up, well, there’s not an abundance of room back there.

Controls are well placed, with everything within reach for the driver. I liked the front storage space, including a deep well between the seats and another good-sized cubby hole beneath the dash.

As a wild card I’ll add this: It has perhaps the best heated steering wheel I’ve felt in a long time. I think it’s the warmest I’ve driven with, and it toasts your mitts quickly.

The Drive

I give strong marks to the Acadia for its acceleration. Thanks to the generous V6, I never felt a lack of confidence either pulling out from an intersection or merging onto the highway.

The steering is equally good, and the braking above average. I liked the feel of the vehicle on both the highway and in city driving.

Overall handling is about what you’d expect from an SUV, even a mid-size one. It won’t fool you into thinking it’s a sports car, but I had zero issues maneuvering through traffic and into parking spaces.

Having shed several hundred pounds after its redesign a couple of years ago, you’d almost call it nimble.

I did not take the Acadia off-road, and I strongly suspect that few would. There are many more choices if you’re into that activity. But this SUV will take good care of you in inclement weather – which I’m sure is the reason most people would choose it in the first place.

The Tech

Here’s where I think the Acadia stands out from some of the competition.

Lately there’s been a race among some car makers to see who can design the most intricate (meaning: difficult) systems for navigation, audio, climate, and communication.

I can’t think of one driver I’ve met who enjoyed the endless run-around of complicated mouse-driven systems.

The Acadia employs lots of simple controls – which is not a slight. I’m applauding them.

Best of all is the climate control, which won’t require you take your eyes off the road for long.

The 8-inch screen is easy to use with its large icons, and the Acadia comes with not only a wifi hotspot capability, but also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto availability.

The Bottom Line

I appreciate GMC’s move in streamlining the Acadia. In a way it makes it stand out a bit more from the pack of mid-size SUV choices.

Granted, it’ll cause some grumbling from people who want all three rows and large rear storage space. But if you don’t often need that third row, you’ll be fine.

It drives and handles well, and although it’s not luxurious in its interior appointment, it’s comfortable.

This is a very competitive segment in the industry, but the Acadia holds its own. It’s a good choice for families to consider.

The Details

2019 GMC Acadia Denali
3.6-L V6, 310 horsepower
6-speed automatic transmission
All-wheel-drive (an option)
Fuel economy: 17/25/20 combined
MSRP: $47,500
As tested: $52,170

Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer

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