Vital Stats

Engine:
3.6L V6
Power:
288 HP / 270 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Automatic
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,857 LBS
Seating:
2+2+3
Cargo:
24.1 / 116.1 CU-FT
MPG:
16 City / 23 HWY
Base Price:
$47,945
Refreshed, Not Refreshing



I'm probably ill-suited to accurately and fairly take the full measure of a vehicle like the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali. This is a machine conjured around the express notion of corralling and then herding a brood of rafter-swinging hatchlings to and fro in relative comfort, and with no such passel of wee Bowmans to call my own, it's difficult to give this rig a fair shake. While I can certainly weigh cargo capacity, legroom and fuel economy stats with the best of them, I'd be lying to your face if I said the word "crossover" didn't urge some uncontrollable Pavlovian recoil from the murky recesses of my frame. To put it simply, I just can't stand the damn things.

As a rule, the segment is built on a bed of compromise. Manufacturers love nothing more than to spin up a tired yarn about the virtues of this particular neck of the market. We're told the crossbreeds deliver all the ride quality, driving dynamics and fuel economy of a car married with the seating position, capability and interior volume of the SUV set. That all sounds as swell as a sunset, but as the 2013 Acadia Denali so artfully illustrates, the advertising on the box is rarely congruous with the prize inside. Even with an imaginary squad of younglings at my heels, the refreshed luxury crossover doesn't quite manage to scratch the promised itches.
2013 GMC Acadia Denali side view2013 GMC Acadia Denali front view2013 GMC Acadia Denali rear view

A more upright nose helps give the Acadia a masculine appearance for the first time.

GMC gave the 2013 Acadia Denali a full refresh for 2013, and while the rear three-fourths of the vehicle may look awfully familiar to Saturn Outlook owners, the front fascia delivers a substantial improvement over the outgoing plastics. A more upright nose helps give the Acadia a masculine appearance for the first time, and the change is more than welcome. We doubt most buyers will be able to draw parallels between this new Acadia and the long-dead Saturn unless the two are situated door-to-door in a parking lot, and the squared off fender arches, blacked-out D-pillars and forward-leaning C-pillars look right at home on the luxury GMC. While we'd normally consider giving General Motors grief for recycling old stampings, the maneuver is plenty smart.

The Denali trim earned this tester a set of 20-inch aluminum wheels and a chrome roof rack, but designers have done a fairly smart job of keeping the shiny in check. The old model's over-the-top grille and lower valance treatments have been swapped with hardware that actually manages to show some restraint, and the result is a much more attractive vehicle outside.

2013 GMC Acadia Denali headlight2013 GMC Acadia Denali grille2013 GMC Acadia Denali wheel2013 GMC Acadia Denali taillight

There's still plenty of hard plastic to be found inside the cabin, complete with bad graining and sharp casting lines.

But, like the big crossover's Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse siblings, the Acadia has always fallen short of the mark indoors. GMC hobbled the previous generation Acadia with cheap-feeling materials, and we're sad to say the new model isn't out to change that scenario. Ladle on the Denali badge with its associated price tag, and the 2013 Acadia Denali's cabin is an underachiever on the best of days. While the dash now struts a new soft-touch covering, there's still plenty of hard plastic to be found inside, complete with bad graining and sharp casting lines. It's the kind of display I wouldn't be keen to forgive on a budget B-segment ride, and it's even less acceptable on a $51,805 crossover.

Engineers have done plenty of work to update the center stack, though I can't say I'm thrilled to see a new array of capacitive-touch controls replace the old buttons. The new kit looks far better than the old setup, but, as is so often the case with the tech, usability has taken a hit. Small lettering does little to help the situation, resulting in plenty of missed controls, and the fact that the screen is situated low in the center console means viewing navigation instructions can be a dangerous, distracting proposition.

2013 GMC Acadia Denali interior2013 GMC Acadia Denali front seats2013 GMC Acadia Denali rear seats2013 GMC Acadia Denali rear cargo area

That back bench isn't some marketing ploy. You can easily stick two full-grown adults back there.

For all those complaints, it's difficult to find an argument against the vast amount of space in Acadia Denali. As with before, the crossover continues to deliver excellent leg- and headroom, even in the way-back third row. That back bench isn't some marketing ploy. You can easily stick two full-grown adults back there for jaunts of under an hour without complaints, and three kids should be able to comfortably occupy the space for even longer if need be. That is, if you can talk someone into climbing up into the rear and through the jungle gym of captain's chairs to get to the back seat. Ingress and egress remains a struggle.

Even with all three rows up and working, there's still a solid 24.1 cubic feet of cargo area. Anyone who needs more space can start flipping down seats for a maximum of 116.1 cubes, or roughly enough area to launch a small but successful miniature pony ranch.

GMC has seen fit to leave well enough alone when it comes to the 2013 Acadia's drivetrain, and buyers familiar with the previous iteration will find a familiar 3.6-liter V6 under the hood. The 288-horsepower six-cylinder provides adequate acceleration with its 270 pound-feet of torque, but the engine has to be worked to get this 4,857-pound pig up and moving. The added burden of this tester's all-wheel drive system does suck some of the wind out of the V6's sails, but it will move along if you're willing to swing the tachometer to the deep end and keep it there.

2013 GMC Acadia Denali engine

I managed an unimpressive 16 mpg combined over the course of a week laden with nothing more than my lonely self.

Then there's the vehicle's fuel economy. Even by leaving cruise control to work its magic on the highway and puttering around town, I managed an unimpressive 16 miles per gallon combined over the course of a week laden with nothing more than my lonely self. While that's within spitting distance of the Environmental Protection Agency estimate of 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, it puts the Acadia in foul company. For comparison's sake, the Chevrolet Suburban sees 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway from a 5.3-liter V8 engine, and that machine offers a towing capacity that handily paddles this crossover's backside.

It's around this juncture that Acadia fans typically begin bellyaching about how much better the crossbreed rides and drives compared to the poster child for big, body-on-frame SUVs. I'll be the first to admit that the Acadia and its twin sisters, the Traverse and Enclave, deliver a comfortable cruise over long distances, soaking up broken pavement and expansion joints in the very image of contentment. But stray beyond straight-line driving and the Acadia doesn't offer anything special to the poor soul stuck behind the wheel.

2013 GMC Acadia Denali rear 3/4 view

The Acadia Denali operates like a less functional version of the world's least-inspired minivan.

I don't expect to have some cone-clipping tarmac carnivore at my command when I'm at the tiller of something with three rows, but the Acadia Denali operates like a less functional version of the world's least-inspired minivan. The steering is detached and the brakes feel barely up to bringing the big crossover down from speed. In every way, the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali is the driving clone of its predecessor.

Crossovers are meant to offer buyers a no-compromise package wherein drivers are offered all of the benefits of both the SUV and minivan sets, but as with the previous generation, the 2013 Acadia is a machine mired in shortcomings. While comfortable, it offers all of the fuel economy and agility of your favorite body-on-frame leviathan along with the awkward and clumsy passenger ingress and egress of those old dinosaurs. And I think that's my biggest hitch here. The Acadia and its sister ships are clearly built and marketed to buyers who just can't bring themselves to accept that what they really need is an honest minivan.

Make no mistake, $50,000 will fetch you a van with an infinitely nicer interior, better fuel economy and more comfortable seating. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't option up a Nissan Quest, Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna to anywhere near the Acadia Denali's MSRP. Buy the minivan, save the cash and use it to pay for therapy to bolster your self-confidence if you must.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 240 Comments
      artandcolour2010
      • 1 Year Ago
      End of first paragraph: "To put it simply, I just can't stand the damn things." and why even read any more? It might be nice to try to have an unbiased view to start with.
      Farmboy
      • 1 Year Ago
      While the MPGs aren't impressive, there is a place for this vehicle. It's there as a compromise of a minivan and a BOF full-sized SUV. It has the space, comfort, seating, and some of the nice features of a minivan, but it has ground clearance, nicer towing, and the 4WD not all minivans necessarily come with. Yet, it isn't as unwieldy as a Yukon, which some soccer moms actually admit they don't need. Would a minivan be more practical in many situations? Yeah, of course. That doesn't mean consumers are going to agree with that. This is where the market is going. That's why all the manufacturers with big profits have these 3 row crossovers. They act as the minivan that you don't want, and the SUV you don't need. For a journalist, it's highly unprofessional and discrediting towards yourself to immediately open with such biased comments towards your views of the vehicle's class and allowing that to be a factor in your review of the specific vehicle. Do I expect your reviews to reflect all Autoblog staff members' views and opinions on the vehicles? No. Were you suitable for this review? Yes, if you reviewed with an open mind and acceptance of a full-sized crossover. I'm not going to throw your review completely away, as you made observations that did seem unbiased, but a majority of the article seems to reflect your opinion on a class of vehicle. I said it before when you guys gave a review of a HD pick up truck, which I can't recall specifically which one, and how it was nearly in total disregard for the vehicle's purpose and more on how cool it was on the inside. Which is nice and all, but it was grading a truck like a car. It is like some reviews aren't done as much to the target audience as others. And this was a clear example.
        Xedicon
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Farmboy
        While the bias and hatred of CUVs was amusing to read, I must agree. The review writes off the vehicle before even saying a single thing about it. I'm not expecting this to be some great vehicle or anything but at least an attempt at keeping an objective mindset during the review would've been more proper.
      dohc73
      • 1 Year Ago
      "The Acadia Denali operates like a less functional version of the world's least-inspired minivan." Yeah, but it looks cool coming towards you at night with the light-pipes eyebrows.
        VDuB
        • 1 Year Ago
        @dohc73
        Kind of like Audi?
          dohc73
          • 1 Year Ago
          @VDuB
          I said light-pipes, not over the top retarded amounts of LED lighting; the modern-day equivalent of using chrome accents. Come back to me when you use BMW or MB as a defense, not that wanna-be luxury brand, VW.
      ravenosa
      • 1 Year Ago
      "...operates like a less functional version of the world's least-inspired minivan." Isn't that the description for most SUVs and CUVs on the road?
      mbukukanyau
      • 1 Year Ago
      Go to New port beach and rancho santa fe. see what moms over there drive. The accadia denali and denali in general rules. Denali is a brand for the ubber rich who do not want to drive a Chevrolet and do not want the glamour of Mercedes and BMW
      S Carroll
      • 1 Year Ago
      Here's is something to add to this conversation. The Tahoe or Yukon have their purposes (towing) but there seating flexibility are a decade behind. You cannot fold the third row into the floor, it requires removing the seats altogether which is not easy considering their weight. This in and of itself removes it from many peoples shopping lists. In addition their is barely any storage space behind the third row when it is in use. The Acadia may not be perfect but it does hit a mark with the buying public who do not want a minivan.
      Richard
      • 1 Year Ago
      Lambdas should get the 3.6 twin turbo as an option at the very least, and definitely standard if Cadillac ever makes a Lambda. If you build performance you will get respect eventually, even amongst those that have no clue about performance automobiles (see BMW). If GM built a Lambda with the3.6 twin turbo, whether it was an Acadia Denali, a Traverse SS, or a Cadillac model, I would consider buying it.
        collabplan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Richard
        But they don't and won't because their average buyer has not the slightest grasp of either performance or quality. GM makes money selling mediocre cars to unsophisticated buyers. The Acadia is a perfect example.
      Crownie
      • 1 Year Ago
      And I actually went to the Honda, Nissan, and Toyota website to build the vans and fact-check. I have too much time on my hands.
        Eric M
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Crownie
        Did you find out that a comparably equipped **$46K** Nissan Quest LE that Zach thinks superior to the $51K Acadia Denali, yet doesn't have All Wheel Drive? Or that the Quest's 4,568 pound front-drive curb weight isn't far off the "4,857 pound pig" all-wheel-drive Acadia (and within 100 pounds of the FWD Acadia)? Or that the weight similarity is amplified by the Quest being down 30 horsepower and 30 lb-ft of torque to the Acadia? Or that the 25 mpg highway rating of the Quest is only ONE mpg less than a similar front-drive Acadia? We can see why the Acadia (alone) sells seven times better than the Quest. But I forgot...the Quest has a low step in height and a lower liftover height and that great CVT
      jf.bouchard
      • 1 Year Ago
      Even with a seemingly all-glass D pillar (no fancy design here), the rear visibility STILL suffers from huge D pillars. What's up with that?
      Jeff R
      • 1 Year Ago
      Prior to having children, I wouldn't have even given a vehicle like this second thought, so the reviewer probably wasn't the most sensible choice even though he is honest and experienced with his reviews. His points about the Acadia being designed for those that don't want a minivan is totally spot on. Styling is a very important buying factor for many car shoppers. Minivans no matter how utilitarian and practical they may be, just can't hold up to the style you can get in the Acadia Denali. It is a very functional and comfortable vehicle for anyone with a family of 1 up to 4 kids and has loads of style that stands out amongst the sea of minivans. I am happy GM came to the market with the lambdas and gave those of us not fond of the style of a minivan a choice for something different. It is a vehicle designed and marketed to a specific target market and I think they nailed it. We love ours, couldn't be happier. The new interior while not a major redesign is loads better than the previous model. Lets all just be glad that we have alot of choices when it comes time for a family vehicle.
      John
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm just wondering why the site doesn't choose someone who probably IS well suited to review this vehicle. Perhaps someone who doesn't use sentences like, "This is a machine conjured around the express notion of corralling and then herding a brood of rafter-swinging hatchlings to and fro in relative comfort, and with no such passel of wee Bowmans to call my own, it's difficult to give this rig a fair shake". How elegant.
        Zach Bowman
        • 1 Year Ago
        @John
        Believe it or not, manufacturers aren't exactly at our beck and call when it comes to what vehicles go to which writers. Our staff is spread out across the country, and there are only a few of us with a small brood. Believe it or not, I can wrap my head around needing a vehicle with space, but the Acadia and its ilk will always fall short of the minivan equivalent. It's simply trying to do too many things at once, and the inherent compromises hold the machine back. Compile that with the fact that the whole vehicle feels dated compared to its in-segment rivals, and Acadia isn't a place I would put my money, even if I had a passel of kids.
          TrueDat
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Zach Bowman
          I don't think anybody here would disagree with your opinion in that it isn't the best option if you have $50,000 and 4 kids. But your overall attitude towards the segment and the review process shed a negative light on the whole article. Look.. every journalist has their biases... it's human nature. But, it's your job as a journalist to mask those biases in the review process. Right out of the gate, before you even mentioned anything about the Acadia, "To put it simply, I just can't stand the damn things." As a reader, why would I continue to read? Why would I trust that you're going to present an objective review of this vehicle? You're not a column writer, even that's what you want to do...
          Luke
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Zach Bowman
          I live in Utah and I'd be happy to write for AB. I can find LOTS of kids around here to haul in a test vehicle if needed! ;)
          Eric M
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Zach Bowman
          If you need to tow or need all wheel drive, large crossovers are better than minivans The rest is subjective. The minivan segment has all but died in the US.
          John
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Zach Bowman
          The vehicle is "trying" to do too many things at once? I'm pretty sure the vehicle succeeds are doing many things at once, which would account for it's considerable success with the American public. In fact, that's what a mini van does as well. If you're looking for a vehicle that is singular of purpose, buy a Jeep Wrangler (even though you' would probably have only pejorative remarks for that as well).
        artandcolour2010
        • 1 Year Ago
        @John
        I couldn't agree with you more. I basically just look at the photos here at this point. The writing wouldn't pass an 8th grade summer class midterm.
      Alfonso T. Alvarez
      • 1 Year Ago
      You're right - you shouldn't be reviewing a large crossover. Doesn't Autoblog have anyone working there who does have kids who should be reviewing this? You know, checking out kid friendly features - how hard is it to get the car seat in/out? Does the rear storage area have an easy liftover height? Can I keep the kids entertained with power plugs for their electronics? What about temperature control? I like it cool when I am in a car, my wife likes it pretty warm and the kids have different ideas too. What about internal storage - when you go on a road trip with a family you need a fair amount of easy to reach storage. I could go on, but hopefully you get the picture. BTW, my wife averages @ 21-22 mpg in her Acadia (2012). I have sat in the new one while having the oil changed at the dealer - I don't know where you were feeling around, but everywhere I am every liable to touch had the famous 'soft plastics' that all of you pseudo automotive journalists seem to need. Personally, I have never 'fondled' my dashboard, door panels or center console sides and don't know of anyone who does. My other pet peeve that is overwrought is power. Not specific to this review, but it seems like everyone who writes about vehicles has some mystical need for way more power than the average person. Our Acadia doesn't have 'adequate' power to me - it feels pretty darn quick! And it tows our boat just fine with the 3.6.
        CBJMNWLD
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Alfonso T. Alvarez
        I hate that all "experts" review all cars through the lens of it being a sportscar. Review daily drivers like daily drivers, review crossovers like crossovers. Its stupid to expect a vehicle to act like something it was never intended to be. An Acadia is going to corner heavy because it was designed as a heavy vehicle.
        Zach Bowman
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Alfonso T. Alvarez
        Alfonso - I'm glad you find that the Acadia suits your needs, though I'd stop short of praising the machine for anything involving ingress or egress. Compare the rear cargo lift over height to a Quest or how high you have to lift a car seat or kid to get them into the rear passenger area. It just isn't as functional on that level. Yes, it's great that the Acadia can tow 5,000 pounds, but dollars to donuts says most families will spend more time hauling their children in and out of the machine than they will pulling a boat out of the water. To me, the Acadia and machines like it stink of manufacturers trying to convince buyers that they need to be prepared for every situation at every possible moment. The result is a big, inefficient, ponderous crossover with a hefty price tag. I'll pass. Z
          Eric M
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Zach Bowman
          The reason the Quest has a low liftover height? No rear drivetrain.....it's not available in all wheel drive. Also, lower ground clearance and smaller tires. And a very low tow hitch (Class II only) and cannot accommodate a Class III hitch.The biggie!? The spare tire is underneath the Quest in the center of the vehicle. Nearly impossible to retrieve. Derp, but it has a low liftover height :rolleyes:
          David MacGillis
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Zach Bowman
          But then you\'d be driving a Nissan effing Quest...
        jfa1177
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Alfonso T. Alvarez
        More to your point my father-in-law has an Enclave which he uses for his sales job and has put a TON of miles on his. He averages about 21mpg with a heavy foot. WTF was this AB contributor doing? Stop light drag racing? Where I do agree with him is most American lemmings out there need to stop trying to keep up with Jone\'s and realise minivans blow these tarted up wagons in every aspect. I know I own an 07 Odyssey. Its quick, handles well for something so large, has more than enough room for my kids and all the crap that goes along with them.
    • Load More Comments