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2017 GMC Acadia Denali Review: Cajun Holiday

700 miles in GMC's fanciest 3-row CUV

700 miles in GMC's fanciest 3-row CUV

After climbing out of our GMC Acadia finalist at last year’s SUV of the Year festivities, I prognosticated that I would find this to be a very livable car. To see how that prediction worked out, I secured the loan of an Acadia Denali for the long Independence Day weekend. The family plans included three separate trips up to the lakefront cabin restoration project interspersed with a voyage to grandma’s house and multiple shopping stops, including a rural “man sale” (snagged a sweet power miter!) and a huge 70 percent off clearance sale where we provisioned the cabin kitchen. Indeed, the Acadia proved highly livable and carlike, revealing many hits and a few misses during my busy week.


Hit: Styling

For some reason, this vehicle’s lines really engage my eyes—so much so that I felt compelled to hand wash it and run my soapy mitts over its every line and curve. The Black Cherry Metallic paint and Denali bling doesn’t hurt one bit, either. Fun fact: That paint color costs extra—as does every available Denali color. (Prices range from this one’s $395 USD to Crimson Red Tintcoat’s $495 USD to White Frost Tricoat’s $995 USD.) I guess we’d better start baking $395 USD into the base price because I’m pretty sure GMC won’t assemble a “base Denali” in gray primer. …


Hit: Passenger space

From the cockpit or second row it’s hard to notice the serious downsizing this vehicle underwent for 2017. There’s plenty of stretch-out room in both rows and fantastic visibility out—especially with the $1,400 USD Dual Skyscape sunroof option. The third row is considerably tighter than before, but access is easy via the tip-and-slide-forward middle-row seat mechanism.


Miss: Cargo width

The Acadia feels midsize nimble, but it kind of still looks full-size, so I was disappointed to find the cargo hold measures a full 6 inches too narrow to accommodate 4-by-8-foot sheet goods. You can’t even wedge a sheet or two in diagonally because the max corner-to-corner dimension of the rear hatch opening is 47 inches.


Hit: Cargo space

The missing width is pretty well made up for in depth and height, and we filled the 41.7 cubic feet of space behind the middle-row seats multiple times throughout the weekend, temporarily folding one of the captain’s chairs to expand into half of the space that totals 79.0 cubes when they’re both folded.


Miss(ing): Luggage rack cross bars

Why do most CUV/SUVs get roof rack side rails but no cross bars these days? They came as a package on wagons of the past. Sure, the cross bars exact a big fuel economy penalty, but don’t the rails hurt a bit, too? When the need arose to carry a couple 4-by-8 sheets of half-inch OSB, I employed the poor man’s cross bars by lashing a pallet to the side rails. At least they proved long enough to accommodate three ratchet straps to secure the load for my 1.5-mile (2.4-km) low-speed drive.


Miss: No steps!

Securing the pallet was complicated by the lack of easy places to stand while attempting to recall my ancient Boy Scout knot-tying skills. Molded warnings admonish folks to stay off the rocker panels, and around back there’s no place to get a toehold on the sloped and painted bumper fascia. Of course, an $860 USD Exterior Convenience package solves both the above problems with molded assist steps and roof rack cross rails.


Hit: 4G LTE Hot spot

One of the features that most endeared “my” long-term GMC Sierra Denali to me was its connectivity, and all the GM brands lead the market in offering this feature.


Hit: Fuel economy (in 2WD mode)

The trip computer showed me averaging close to the EPA’s 25-mpg (9.4 L/100km) highway rating when touring the back roads at 55–65 mph (88-105 km/h) in 2WD mode (a few mpg less on the freeway at 70–80 mph (113-129 km/h)). Not bad for such a big vehicle.


Miss: No AWD reminder

Some of those fuel savings come from disconnecting the prop shaft and some other AWD hardware to reduce friction and other losses. In our early reviews we fretted that owners accustomed to automatic AWD systems would spin their tires and get stuck before being reminded via the central display to engage AWD (via the rotary switch). The summer analog to that problem is engaging AWD to negotiate the muddy cabin two-track and then forgetting to disengage it when pulling back out onto the tarmac. A prolonged stint in this mode reduced my overall observed fuel economy to 20.7 mpg (11.4 L/100km) over 725 miles (1,167 km). (EPA combined is 20 mpg (11.8 L/100km).)


Hit: Touchscreen user interface

This touchscreen-and-icons user interface is one of the more intuitive ones in the business, and it comes just the way we like them: with proper knobs for volume and tuning. Can I get a amen up in here?!


Miss: Jerky adaptive cruise control

Somehow, slow-moving traffic ahead always seems to surprise this GMC system, resulting in more abrupt braking than is preferred and prompting passengers to ask, “Was that you or the cruise control?” No bueno. I also prefer systems that show an icon when a slower-moving vehicle has been detected, giving me time to initiate a lane change before the brake stab that squanders precious momentum.


Hit: “Look in rear seat” reminder

This is a good idea that doesn’t cost much to include and might save one or two sleeping babies or dogs from perishing in a hot car. Know what else would be a cheap reminder? Something on the dash to tell the driver which drive mode is engaged in order to prevent accidentally getting stuck in the winter or needlessly spinning all that hardware in summer.

Read more about the 2017 GMC Acadia here: