The Truth About Cars » Acadia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Apr 2014 14:00:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Acadia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2014 Buick Enclave (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-buick-enclave-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-buick-enclave-with-video/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 14:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=642841 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’ve dished out plenty of Buick love lately. The Verano beats Acura and Lexus at the entry-luxury game and the tiny Encore is an oddly attractive (albeit underpowered) crossover that is outselling the Mini Countryman and Range Rover Evoque by a wide margin. What can we attribute this sales success to? I posit that the original Buick Enclave is the impetus. Landing in 2007 as a 2008 model, it was the poster child of the “new Buick.” On the surface, the Enclave was the replacement for the Buick Rainier, the only GMT360 SUV I haven’t owned. (Just kidding, I’ve only owned 2 of the 11 varieties.) But that’s a simplistic view. In reality the Enclave was intended to elevate the brand enough to compete with three row luxury crossovers from Germany and Japan. This brings us to today’s question: six years and a mild face-lift later, does the Buick still have the goods?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Like Rainier, the Enclave is closely related to a GMC and Chevy version. Unlike the Rainier, the Enclave has only two doppelgängers instead of the 6-11 stablemates the Rainier contended with (depending on how you count your GMT360 and related SUVs.) The Chevy Traverse tackles the bottom of the market, the GMC Acadia handles the middle, and Buick occupies the top rung. That means the $38,740 to $52,925 Buick is targeted at the same shoppers as the Acura MDX, Infinti JX35/QX60, Lincoln MKT, the aging Volvo XC90 and if you believe GM, the Audi Q7.

Exterior

Although there is a strong family resemblance, GM managed to style the closely priced Acadia and Enclave differently enough that the Buick looks more expensive when parked next to the GMC. The Traverse, on the other hand, shares very similar styling cues and the family resemblance is more pronounced. This could be a problem for potential shoppers as the only other entry in this segment that shares heavily with a mass-market variant is the Infiniti. (The Nissan Pathfinder’s twin.)

Despite the parts sharing, the Buick cuts an elegant form that my eye hasn’t tired of. The mid-cycle refresh brings new front and rear end styling to bring the Enclave up to date with the rest of the Buick lineup. Although I like the look of the Enclave, I don’t find it as appealing as the new MDX or Q7. In terms of style, I’d call it a tie between the Buick, Infniti and Volvo. Even though Buick’s questionable “ventiports” are continuing to grow and migrate to the top of the hood, the engineers made sure you can’t see them from inside the car.

The other thing the engineers managed to hide is the sheer size of the Enclave. Buick’s curvaceous design language managed to fool a friend of mine who said he was looking at an Enclave because he thought his Escalade was too big and too hard to park. Let’s look at the numbers. The Enclave is exactly 6/10ths of an inch shorter than the big Caddy and rides on a wheelbase nearly three inches longer. The Buick is 5 inches shorter than the Cadillac making it easier to get in a short garage, but it’s just as wide at 79 inches. Don’t assume it’s easier to park wither since it cuts a turning circle one and a half feet bigger. This is the kind of Buick I remember: ginormous.

2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesInterior

I consider myself something of a dashboard connoisseur. I like my dashboards elegant, tasteful, squishy and preferably made from cow. I was therefore surprised to find the Enclave has best injection molded dashboard available. GM starts out with a single piece molded dashboard designed to look like leather with different textures pieced together. The molded product is then stitched with a sewing machine to insert thread along the injection molded faux-seams.

The result is impressive. Unfortunately the rest of the Enclave’s interior didn’t receive this level of attention. This means the old Enclave’s thin steering wheel is still shared with the defunct Buick Lucerne and the only real wood you’ll find is on that optional half-wood tiller. Odder still is the fact that no attempt is made to have the real wood look like the face wood in the car with the fake wood having a grey hue and the steering wheel veneer being nutty brown. I know I’m going to get complaints from this statement, but here I go. In a market where everyone but Acura is doing real wood, the aces of forest-substitute stick out like a sore thumb. (Note: the Canadian MDX can have real tree as an option.)

2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Enclave counters these interior mis-steps with large and comfortable front seats and the only 8-seat configuration in this class. That 8th seat is important because it allows the Enclave to compete not only with the competition we have mentioned so far, but also with large body-on-frame SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, Lexus LX 570, Infiniti QX56/QX80. In this context the Buick has a significant price advantage over the larger competition starting $25,000 lower than the Cadillac. Because those large competitors are aging and often draw heavily from their mass-market donor trucks, the Buick represents a decent value without looking like a cheap alternative.

As with all three-row SUVs, seats get less comfortable as you move towards the back. The middle captain’s chairs in the 7-seat Enclave are the most comfortable among the 3-row crossover segment while the optional three-seat middle bench drops  to class average. Due to the Buick’s age, you won’t find power flip/fold seats like the Acura or kid-friendly second row seats that can move forward with a child seat strapped in place. The Enclave regains its class leading comfort status in the third row with the most head room and cushiest thrones.

2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Buick Intellilink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment
Being a refresh and not a redesign, 2014 doesn’t being an infotainment revolution to the Enclave. As it turns out this is a good thing. GM created a new integrated navigation and entertainment system that could be fitted to all their older vehicles to make them competitive with the systems coming out of Ford, Chrysler and BMW. This “stop-gap system” (my words, not GM’s) is one of my favorites on the market regardless of class. Although it is sold under the same Intellilink brand name as the Cadillac CUE derived system in the new LaCrosse, this system is totally different and in my eyes, superior.

Shared with the Encore, Verano and a few other GM products, the software is responsive, intuitive, and makes use of a bank of physical buttons that make navigating the system easy. As with other systems that I lean towards, Buick’s allows you to use either a control knob, the touchscreen or an extensive voice command library to interact with the system. Although a 7-inch screen is smaller than many of the competitors, I’d rather interact with Buick’s interface on a daily basis than Audi’s MMI. For a complete dive into the touchscreen interface, check out the video at the top of the review.

2013 GM 3.6L V-6 VVT DI (LLT) for Buick Enclave

Drivetrain

GM’s ubiquitous 3.6L direct-injection V6 is the only engine on offer in the Enclave cranking out the same 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque as in the other Lambda crossovers. (The Traverse also uses a 281 horsepower variant on base models.) Those power numbers put the Encore in the middle of the pack with the 240 HP Volvo being the least powerful and the Lincoln MKT being the most powerful at 303 ponies from its 3.7L V6. Having the HP crown wasn’t enough for Ford, so they also make their 365 HP twin-turbo V6  available.

Sending power to the front wheels is a 6-speed transaxle that has been reprogrammed for more civilized shifts and less lag when downshifting. Like last year, you can add AWD for $2,000 more. I should point out now that although the Audi Q7 is still a front heavy crossover, it is the only rear-wheel biased crossover in this segment and as such uses ZF’s silky-smooth 8-speed automatic.

2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The Verano may be an Opel in American clothing, but the Enclave is traditional Buick out on the road. The enormous and high-profile tires (255/65R18), soft suspension and quiet cabin soak up the road around you allowing you to comfortably rack up the highway miles. When the road starts winding, the same tires and springs that allow for a compliant ride conspire with the nearly 5,000lb curb weight to take a toll on handling. That heavy curb weight also has an effect on performance, with the Enclave talking 7.3 seconds to hit 60, nearly a full second behind the Acura. Why? It’s all about the weight with the Acura being 700lbs lighter and even the cast-iron Volvo is 400lbs slimmer. Although I can’t say that 7.3 seconds to get to 60mph is excruciating, even the Infiniti JX35 with a tall first gear and the least torque in the group manages the task before the Buick. Only the ancient Volvo XC90 and the diesel Q7 slot in after the Enclave.

If you’re the kind of shopper that wants to hit the back country roads after dropping the kids off at preschool, the MDX is the clear winner in the segment. Surprisingly, the Enclave didn’t end up at the bottom of the segment when it comes to road manners. That’s where you’ll find the soft, CVT equipped Infiniti and the Volvo. Middle of the road manners and segment average pricing means the Enclave manages a “decidedly Toyota” middle of the pack finish. Unless you select that eight-seat option.

Now I must come back to that full-size SUV digression. If you’re looking for a three row vehicle that seats eight, you don’t have many options. If you want something that seats 8 and had some luxury pretense you have even less choice. It also means you’re going to end up with either a GM Lambda platform crossover, or a luxury body-on-frame product that dates back to the 1990s when “tarted up Tahoes” were all the rage. When pitted against this competition, the Enclave’s handling, steering feel and fuel economy go from class middling to class leading. While the Enclave isn’t as fast as the Escalade or the QX56/QX80, it beats the Lexus to freeway speeds. The Buick is also easier to park, easier on the eyes and easier on the wallet.

After six years on the market, the Buick that started the brand’s resurrection is starting to show its age. The Enclave is crossover in the truest sense of the world straddling the middle ground between the minivan like entries like the Infiniti and the large and thirsty truck-based options like the Cadillac Escalade. My final word is that if you’re looking for a 7-seat three row utility vehicle, there are plenty of better options out there, but if you’re looking for an 8-seat utility vehicle then the Enclave should be on the top of your list. In the end, that 8th seat is probably the best thing the Enclave has going for it.

Buick provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

0-30: 3.06 Seconds

0-60: 7.3 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.9 Seconds @ 86 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 17.5 MPG over 559 miles

Interior sound level at 50 MPH: 68 db

2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-001 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-002 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-003 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-004 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-005 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-006 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-008 2014 Buick Enclave Interior 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-001 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-002 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-003 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-004 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-005 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-006 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-007 2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-010 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-011 2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Buick Intellilink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-013 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-014 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-015 ]]>
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Piston Slap: A New (Wave Plate) Sensation? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/piston-slap-a-new-wave-plate-sensation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/piston-slap-a-new-wave-plate-sensation/#comments Mon, 03 Jun 2013 11:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490494

Keith writes:

Mr. Mehta,

My apologies if this has been covered, but I’m looking for advice on my soon-to-be out of warranty 2008 GMC Acadia. I’m at 64K and 4.8 years, so bumper to bumper is gone but power train is still good for a few months.

Two fellow Acadia owners I know have reported tranny problems at roughly 60k and the forums seem to indicate numerous others with similar issues. Most often its an issue with the wave plate, particularly with the 07-09 models. Within the last few weeks I’m also starting to get an intermittent stabilitrak warning light promoting me to get the brakes serviced.

My question for you is should I 1) hope the tranny drops in the next two months 2) shell out $3k for a 4/48 extended service contract or 3) trade it in on something similar.

I love the car(truck) and was hoping to get 8-10 years out of it, so maybe #2. Or I could take the $3k and couple that with what I think is still pretty good resale value and get a new ride.

I’m generally pretty cynical about extended service contracts/warranties, but I have no experience on those for automotive.

Any thoughts, advice or general musings would be greatly appreciated. TTAC is wonderful resource. Keep up the good work!

Sajeev answers:

Now’s a good time to remind my dear readers that I am not a mechanic by trade, I’ve just been in “your shoes” in the past. Perhaps an oversimplification, but let’s do this thang and dig into your tranny.

This is the first I’ve heard of this problem, ditto the “wave plate.”  I suspect most of you are in my shoes, so a little research: this thread points to the wave plate vs. conventional clutch plate of the 3rd gear drum (i.e. direct drive, 1:1 ratio) of an older GM 4-speed.  Which I then recalled while hunting for a good rebuilt-upgrade for my Ford AOD. I learned about an upgrade to 3rd gear, choosing an aftermarket Blue Plate Special (yes, really) clutch pack for mine. With that in mind, reading one of the comments in the LS1 Tech link said it all:

“The waved steel keeps the splines from taking a hard hit by pre-loading it. In other words, the waved steel takes up the slack before the clutches are completely applied.”

So if the waved steel clutches aren’t the right “wave dimensions”, there could be a problem shifting into that gear. The problem might look like this. Note how the speedometer never slows down as the rpms fluctuate: indicating that the transmission is slipping that frickin’ hard on the upshift:

Click here to view the embedded video.

FINALLY: a transmission almost as horrible as the one in the Smart Car, without the need for Smart Car ownership! (childish giggling)

Unfortunately we don’t know if this video is indicative of your problem. Or if this thread on the Saturn forums also applies. Or if you have a problem yet…is nothing ever easy in this world???

My advice?  If/when the wave plates start ruining your ride, see if your homework (including the stuff I posted) can get you a little credit with GM service: pleasant, level-headed customers can easily get their out-of-warranty work covered under the blanket term of “goodwill.” Because nobody wants to lose a good customer, if possible.  If not, get a reman transmission that specifically addresses this problem. I suspect both GM and big name rebuilders (like Jasper) will have you covered. Even if it’s gonna happen after the warranty expires.

Perhaps you should just give up and get a Crown Vic Best of luck, as always.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Review: 2011 GMC Acadia Denali http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/review-2011-gmc-acadia-denali/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/review-2011-gmc-acadia-denali/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 18:34:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=388401

With its minivans and conventional midsize SUVs discontinued, GM relies heavily on its large “Lambda” crossovers—the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave—to serve the family market. With over 230,000 sold in 2010, they’re easily the best sellers* in the segment. In comparison, Ford shifted only 34,000 Flexes. But, now in their fifth model year, the Lambdas are getting old. With cash short leading up to the bankruptcy, what might be done on the cheap to maintain buyer interest? The winning answer: a new Denali variant of the GMC Acadia.

GM got the Lambdas’ exterior styling right from the start. Riding on a bespoke platform, the Lambdas’ tight, athletic proportions are far better than those of the minivan-based vehicles they replaced. With the Saturn Outlook pruned, each of the remaining three models looks good while staking out its own aesthetic territory: sporty and car-like for Chevrolet, sleek and luxurious for Buick, and traditional SUV for GMC. To kick the Acadia’s brawny theme up a couple notches for the Denali, GMC fitted a chrome honeycomb grille, monochrome body kit, and massive 20-inch, two-tone chrome-clad alloy wheels. The bold appearance of the Yukon Denali has been successfully transferred to a Lambda. But the Acadia SLT, with its slimming black lower body cladding and cleaner five-spoke alloys, is arguably more attractive if less likely to draw attention.

Substantial changes to the interior would have been more expensive, so less has been done. The door sill trim plates light up “Denali,” the leather on the seats is perforated (an option on the SLT) and seems more luxurious, matching vinyl trim partly covers the door panels, and dark wood-tone trim replaces faux metal on the console, center stack, and doors. The trim on the steering wheel is allegedly real mahogany, but with no evident grain it looks like “piano black” plastic and doesn’t match the faux timber. These changes upgrade the interior ambiance, but not enough. The wood-tone trim is too obviously fake, the door-mounted armrests retain a downscale look and feel, and there’s too much hard plastic. Judging from more recently designed products like the Chevrolet Cruze, GM would craft a much nicer interior if it were starting from scratch today.

One stupid design choice: a ridge at the base of the A-pillars requires a highly precise instrument panel alignment that the plant doesn’t often achieve. Other quality lapses (in case you’re under the illusion that the press receives thoroughly inspected, even tweaked vehicles): wrinkles in the drivers seat leather and a side panel in the cargo area that refused to fasten. These noted, I should also note that owners of 2011 Lambdas have reported no repairs yet through TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey. The 2010s are about average, while older model years straddle the line between average and “worse than average.” Common problems on the older cars (which might have been fully resolved prior to the current model year) include airbag wiring, headlamp sockets prone to melting, seat tracks, and, hardest to fix, water leaks.

Quite a few features that might have further distinguished the Denali are absent:

* no adaptive cruise
* no steering-linked headlights
* no auto-dimming headlights
* no rain-sensing wipers
* no blind spot warning system (would certainly help)
* no forward obstacle detection (ditto)
* no keyless ignition (standard on most Nissans)
* no power tilt-and-telescoping wheel
* no heated steering wheel
* no heated rear seat (available on a Hyundai Elantra!)
* no fancy ambient lighting.

The absence of so many features can be traced to the age of the Acadia (these features were much less common five years ago), its sub-premium original mission, and GM’s recent history. A mid-cycle enhancement, which normally would have occurred by now, would have added many of these features. But during its brush with bankruptcy GM had to cut everything that wasn’t absolutely essential. The Denali had to make do with features already available on the Lambdas.

Noting that minivans were in decline despite their superior functionality, GM gave the Lambda’s a high SUV-like stance. Getting in requires more of a climb than in other crossovers. Once in the driver’s seat the view forward is commanding without being as expansive as in a minivan. You feel more like you’re sitting in a car, albeit a tall one. In both the second and third rows visibility is much more constricted than in the “stadium style” seating of a Ford crossover.

The Acadia includes more passenger room than any other crossover (though a Ford Flex offers seven inches more legroom in the second row). A largest-in-class exterior (200.7 inches long, 78.2 inches wide, 69.9 inches high) enables over 61 inches of shoulder room; most competitors have a substantial two-to-four inches less. The Acadia’s third row is a tight fit if the second row is all the way back, but the latter can be moved forward a few inches for all but the tallest adults. The largest minivans provide much more third-row legroom, but most people seem willing to sacrifice this advantage to gain more adventurous styling.

Back in 2006 I found seating to be a Lambda weakness. In the years since it has only gotten worse. The front seats are fairly comfortable, but they continue to provide no lateral support and their power lumbar adjustment is now two-way rather than the original four-way. More substantial thrones would help justify the Denali label.

Despite the Acadia’s vast interior, its second-row seats remain among the least adult-friendly in any crossover. They’re thinly padded, insufficiently contoured, and too low. The second-row seats in Chrysler minivans suffer from similar shortcomings, but to enable them to stow beneath the floor. What’s GM’s excuse? Most likely: to enable the seats to collapse like folding chairs as they slide forward, opening up a wide path to the third row. This can’t be done with a child seat installed, so those with young children tend to opt for the “captain’s chairs,” which have a wide (if squishy, because of how the floor is constructed) walkway between them, rather than the three-person split bench.

The third-row is wide enough for three people (compared to two for all competitors save the Pilot), but it’s even lower to the floor. In one of the auto industry’s greatest unsolved mysteries, this seat originally provided the best lateral support of the bunch. A complicated mechanism inside the seatback extended bolsters as the seat was unfolded. Given the cost of this mechanism and the senselessness of providing lateral support in the third row when none was provided in the other two, GM later deleted it.

Cargo volume behind the third row, more plentiful on paper, isn’t as usable as in a Honda Pilot or Ford Flex because there’s no deep well. The Acadia does have a storage compartment beneath its relatively high cargo floor, but (unlike that in the new Nissan Quest minivan) this compartment is too shallow to hold much. Fold the seats, though, and the Acadia can hold much more than any other crossover: 68.9 cubic feet behind the second row (vs. 47.7 in the Pilot and 45.0 in the Flex), and 116.9 cubic feet behind the first row (vs. 87.0 in the Pilot and 86.7 in the Flex). The largest minivans offer 140+ cubic feet atop a much lower load floor, but except with the Chryslers you’ll have to remove the second-row seats to achieve it. One Flex advantage: unlike the Acadia’s, its front passenger seat also folds to accommodate unusually long items.

GM doesn’t provide specific curb weights for the Denali, but it must weigh over 4,800 pounds with front-wheel-drive and over 5,000 with all-wheel-drive. The new Dodge Durango, though nearly as large and engineered to handle the additional stresses of off-roading (in Jeep form) and heavy towing, weighs about the same. GM clearly used a front-wheel-drive, car-like platform to increase interior volume (maximum cargo volume is only 84.5 cubic feet in the Dodge SUV) rather than to reduce mass.

Probably because the Durango’s five-speed automatic has relatively tall initial gearing, its 290-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 feels weak at low speeds. The solution: Dodge also offers a 360-horsepower 5.7-liter “HEMI” V8 that more readily motivates the Durango’s 2.5 tons. GM planned to offer an all-new “Ultra” V8 in the Lambdas, but this engine was aborted a few years ago as funds grew tight. A turbocharged V6 along the lines of the Ford Flex’s optional “EcoBoost” would be an interesting alternative, but GM won’t have such an engine ready until the 2013 model year.

Not a big problem; with GM’s six-speed automatic, a stronger engine is less necessary unless you need to tow something substantial. I’ve argued that the non-turbocharged V6 works well enough in the Flex, and the same is the case with the 288-horsepower direct-injected 3.6-liter V6 in the Acadia. During my week with the Denali I never wished for more power.

I did wish for less torque steer. I had assumed that GM would provide a vehicle with all-wheel-drive. I learned otherwise the first time I put the pedal more than halfway to the floor and the front end went all light and squirrelly. Unless your right foot is almost always feather-light, all-wheel-drive is highly recommended.

GM’s six-speed automatic has gotten smarter in the last half-decade. It now picks the correct gear more smoothly and with more self-confidence. For curves and downhill grades a lower gear can be manually selected via a toggle on the shifter. The transmission isn’t always quick to react to these inputs, but the “range selector” serves well enough for how it’s likely to be employed. The head-up display (HUD) helps by projecting a tach and the selected gear onto the windshield.

The Acadia Denali’s trip computer usually reported a little over 16 MPG in typical suburban driving. This is consistent with the EPA ratings of 17 city and 24 highway (16/23 with all-wheel-drive). Not bad considering the Acadia’s size and consequent weight.

Aside from louder clomping across minor bumps (especially at low speeds), the Denali’s ride isn’t affected much by its chrome-clad dubs. Slightly firmer suspension tuning to compensate for the upsized wheels’ additional unsprung mass has, if anything, improved on the Acadia’s already good body control. (In the front seat at least; children in the third row reported a bumpy, noisy ride.)

For anyone used to a smaller vehicle, the Acadia’s size requires considerable acclimation. The big crossover is out of its element in parking lots, where the corners are hard to locate and there’s little room for error, and in very tight turns. But in more generous curves it feels poised and planted, with minimal lean and understeer for this sort of vehicle. The stability control, if and when it does kick in, is unobtrusive.

Given this capable, thoroughly predictable chassis, it’s a shame that the Denali’s steering is inferior to that of an Acadia SLE I drove for the sake of comparison. The shorter, stiffer sidewalls of the Denali’s tires should make its steering feel more direct. Instead the Denali’s tiller often feels more disconnected and vague, even sloppy on center. My guess: while the suspension was tweaked to work with the 20-inch wheels and tires, the steering was not. One other difference: while the SLE has constant effort steering, the SLT and Acadia have a variable-assist unit. I failed to observe how the latter was preferable at any speed. Firmer, tighter steering—like that in the revised Chrysler minivans—would make the Denali much more confidence-inspiring and enjoyable to drive.

In keeping with its luxury theme, the Denali is fitted with the Buick Enclave’s laminated front side glass and additional sound deadening. As a result, the Denali is quieter inside than other Acadias, with a more upscale quality to the remaining noise. But even the regular Acadia is quiet inside (and, if memory serves, quieter than when it was introduced).

The tested vehicle lists for $48,125 with nav ($1,690), rear entertainment ($1,445), and “white diamond tricoat” paint ($795). Add $2,000 for all-wheel-drive. The rest the Acadia’s available features (including a two-panel sunroof, HID headlights, and the HUD) are standard on the Denali.

GM didn’t do much to transform the Acadia into a Denali. But, to its credit, it’s not charging much for the changes: just $1,205 more than a similarly-equipped Acadia SLT. Adjust for the largely cosmetic items not offered on the SLT using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, and the difference is only about $250. If you prefer the Denali’s appearance, and want all of the features it includes, this isn’t much extra to pay for it. With the GMC Yukon, the Denali upgrade commands a nearly $4,000 premium.

A similarly-equipped Dodge Durango Citadel lists for $2,320 less than the Acadia Denali—enough to pay for a HEMI upgrade, and then some. What’s more, the recently redesigned Dodge has many of the “latest and greatest” gadgets not available with the GMC. Adjust for these and the Dodge’s advantage widens to about $4,300. With such aggressive pricing, the Durango seems like a steal if you don’t need the Acadia’s additional interior space.

But if you do need the Acadia’s interior space, there aren’t any alternatives aside from the other Lambdas. No other crossover comes close in this regard. The Acadia also continues to perform, handle, and ride well. Unfortunately, those aspects most in need of improvement—the seats and the interior materials—haven’t improved over the past five years.

In this context, the Denali is a disappointment. It adds no new non-cosmetic features, much less a stronger engine, its interior isn’t enough of an upgrade, and its steering is a step in the wrong direction. Apparently recognizing how little the Denali bits add to the Acadia, GM charges very little extra for them. Even so, unless you prefer the bolder, more massive look of the Denali I’d opt for the SLT until GM offers a vehicle more deserving of the premium sub-brand. How soon might this happen? With GM now in much better financial shape, the Lambdas are being redesigned for the 2013 model year.

* The Lambdas are the top sellers if you define the segment as three-row crossovers. If you include the Odyssey (along with the Pilot and MDX) Honda takes the top spot.

Author’s note: Some Detroit residents took exception to the photo of inner city Detroit I included in my auto show coverage. As compensation, I offer these photos of a mansion currently under construction a couple miles away from my house in the ‘burbs. Someone clearly still believes in the vitality of the area. They also clearly love cars: the house itself includes nine garages, and a pre-existing carriage house adds three more.
GM provided the Acadia Denali, along with one tank of gas and insurance for this review.

Dick Johnson of Lunghamer GMC provided an Acadia SLE. He can be reached at 248-461-1037.
Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive reliability and pricing data.
Taurus X 2nd row view Acadia front quarter Acadia SLE interior Acadia front seats Acadia wide view Acadia front Acadia wheel Acadia cargo B1 Taurus X driver view Acadia front quarter 4 Taurus X 3rd row view Acadia engine Acadia SLT side Taller than Taurus X Acadia rear Acadia front quarter 3 Carriage house--9 garages are not enough Acadia driver view Acadia 2nd row view HUD Acadia A-pillar trim Acadia side Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Acadia-front-quarter-thumb Acadia front quarter 2 Acadia underfloor storage Acadia IP Acadia cargo B2 Acadia third row Acadia door panel Acadia cargo B3 Acadia front seat Acadia rear quarter 2 Acadia 3rd row view Acadia Denali Acadia second row Acadia SLT exterior Acadia rear quarter
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New Buick-GMC Chief Reveals Acadia Denali http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/new-buick-gmc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/new-buick-gmc/#comments Thu, 17 Dec 2009 17:31:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=339483 Speaking of upscale...

GM announced today that Buick-GMC sales manager Brian Sweeney has been promoted to the top spot at Buick-GMC after his predecessor Michael Richards left the position after nine days on the job. According to the Detroit News, Sweeney began his GM career at GMC in 1990 and has served as vice president of sales at Saab Cars USA and sales manager of GM’s north-central region.

Sweeney’s appointment was announced just in time for him to unveil GMC’s latest attempt at upscale profit-squeezing: the Acadia Denali. Pricing has not been released, but according to DetN, the Denali version gets

20-inch wheels, dual-chrome exhaust, body-colored fascia, wood-trim steering wheel and honeycomb grill.

Any guesses as to how much they’ll charge for these sweet nothings? Top-spec, non-Denali Acadias currently start at about $43,000 before incentives, almost exactly the same as a top-spec Buick Enclave. Loading either model with all options carries either to just over $51,000. Presumably the Denali model also has even more chrome on the window surrounds than other versions, adding to its upscale image and inflated price. But when will Buick get a luxury sub-brand?

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