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Full Review of the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali

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Full Review of the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali

We had the chance to do a Quick Drive in the 2013 GMC Acadia back in October of last year, right before the State Fair. At the time, we were driving a pre-production Acadia but were quite impressed with the overall look and feel of the new design. As we found out then, the Acadia has been quite a successful nameplate for GMC. It has consistently done well in sales, and in August 2012, on the heels of a complete refresh, the Acadia retails sales rose 11 percent over last year. That makes August the best selling month for the Acadia since 2008. This is something you don’t normally see for a vehicle that hasn’t gone through a refresh.

Moving forward, now we’ve had the vehicle for a full week and not just a few hours quick drive. Now we’re able to give you a full review of this family SUV as we used it as an everyday family vehicle. The Acadia is a 3-Row Crossover SUV that is built on GM’s Lambda platform, which means it’s akin to the Buick Enclave and the Chevrolet Traverse. It’s a front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive vehicle that allows it to maintain it’s flat floor and offer class-leading maximum cargo area. Also, unlike most of its competitors who’s 3rd-row seats only two, the Acadia’s 3rd-row seats 3, which allows it to have an eight-passenger configuration.

This is great for large families like mine, as my wife and I have 4 children, as you have room aplenty for bodies and still room for miscellaneous things. Hauling the family to youth baseball games or out to family parties can be a bit of a chore, even in crossover-SUVs with 3rd-row seating. It’s not just getting everyone inside the vehicle, but also having room for bags, chairs, an ice-chest, and a stroller. Having a vehicle like this Acadia makes perfect sense in my weekend life, but what about during the week where I find myself quite often in the car alone going back and forth to the office?

There are really two alternatives to something like the Acadia where you get the size you need for a family the size of mine. One is a mini-van. Say what you want about the mini-van, but it’s truly a great option. You’ll get all the size you need, plus it’s lower to the ground so it’s easier for the kids to get in and out of and it will net you better fuel economy than a bigger and heavier SUV. On the other end of the spectrum, if you just can’t imagine yourself in a mini-van, you could pick up something like a Yukon or Suburban. These big SUVs built on top of truck platforms are great for the space and if you need to tow anything, they’ll haul just about anything you can hitch up.

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The Acadia is more of a happy-medium to both these options. It’s built off a more car-like platform, and with a front-wheel-drive setup, you’ll net decent mpg’s. At the same time, you get a great looking body and a taller platform so light off-roading is made easier.

So now that I’ve made the case for buying one, let’s look at our test vehicle. One of the major reasons to buy the Acadia over its cousins in the GM family is its incredible looks. For 2013, the Acadia received an enormous facelift bringing its design closer to the rest of its lineup. The GMC Terrain has also been a big success for GMC and we’ve always maintained that it’s a great looking vehicle with a boxier look and flared fenders. The Acadia now meets up with the looks of the Terrain. It has a more flattened and more prominent three-bar grille design. The premium look has been strengthened with the new defused LED running lamps and stylized projector-beam headlamps and foglamps. Around the back, the taillamps received the LED treatment as well with a new look and design. While you’re looking at the back, you might also notice the wrap-around rear glass. The fenders are more box and flared and the whole vehicle has been given a more rugged yet elegant overall look.

Inside the Acadia is where it was really starving for a makeover. Now the interior of the Acadia is in line with what you’d expect from a more upscale brand. It now offers a more refined interior that utilizes upgraded soft-touch materials all around. You get much more leather that is nicer and stitched with French stitching that adds a tailored look. You also get ambient lighting that flows across the dash and illuminates the cabin at night.

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Resting in the dash is a Color Touch infotainment system with touch-screen control including navigation and available with GMC’s IntellLink system. This provides you with all the goodies like hands free calling, voice command, HD radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and services like Pandora.

Inside the Acadia, you also get GM’s heads-up display – which, if you’ve ever driven with one, is just plain awesome. You also get GM’s exclusive “front-center” airbag. This is an airbag built into the driver’s seat that will keep a barrier between the driver and passenger in the case of an impact. This is a great new feature that adds to the safety equipment already packed into the Acadia.

Inside our Denali trimmed tester, you’ll see more real aluminum throughout the cabin. You’ll also get Denali engraved seats and steering wheel. If you’re looking for complete comfort and the total package, you only need to click the Denali option.

Under the hood of the new Acadia, you get GM’s 3.6-liter direct injection V6. This is good for 288-horsepower and 270-lb ft of torque. This engine is capable of making more power, and it does when packed into other GM products, but the GMC representatives said that they tuned the engine more for towing, so the torque was where they really focused. The 3.6-V6 is hooked up to the Hydra-Matic 6T75 six-speed automatic transmission. This should allow the 2013 Acadia to achieve 17-mpg city and 24-mpg highway in front-wheel-drive models. In the all-wheel-drive model, like our tester, you’ll sacrifice 1-mpg on both city and highway. During our week of driving, we averaged a respectable 21-mpg.

After a full week of driving, hauling, chauffeuring, and having a little bit of fun, I’ve really come to respect the Acadia even more. It’s not even that bad when you’re talking about price to get into a base vehicle. You can pick up a base Acadia fresh off the lot for $34,050. I’m afraid though that I wouldn’t have been quite as impressed with the base interior, and with 4 little ones mucking about, you’ll probably want some leather seats. Our Denali trimmed model starts $45,945 and when equipped with all-wheel-drive you’re talking just under $50k, which is a much bigger hit to the pocket. Of course, at that price, you’re basically getting all the bells and whistles. My suggestion would be to probably lease one or try and find a good deal on a used Denali because that’s the one you really want.

Adam Moore

Adam was one of the founding members of txGarage back in 2007 when he worked for a Suzuki dealership in Dallas, TX. He is now our Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. He's always been into cars and trucks and has extensive knowledge on both. Check Adam out on twitter @adamaoc.

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