By on September 13, 2018

2019 GMC Acadia Denali front quarter

2019 GMC Acadia AWD Denali

3.6-liter double overhead cam V6 (310 hp at 6,600 rpm, 271 lb/ft at 5,000 rpm)

Six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive

17 city / 25 highway / 20 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

13.5 city / 9.5 highway / 11.7 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

22.5 (observed mileage, MPG)

Base Price: $48.495 USD /$54,695 CAD

As Tested: $52,170 USD/ $59,025 CAD

Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $1,895 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Acadia. Denali. Two National Parks that connote wilderness adventure. Acadia — the easternmost National Park — covers much of an island off the coast of Maine. Denali, named after the eponymous mountain that was occasionally named for the best President to come from Ohio in the twentieth century — is a park larger than the state of New Hampshire. The names make you think of wide open spaces, which should be a desirable trait in a family-sized crossover.

Not even a month ago, Associate Editor Steph Willems professed his love for the 2018 edition of the Acadia Denali. And while Steph and I are of similar mind on certain features on this three-row crossover, he and I have diverging uses for such a vehicle. For many, I’m sure, the 2019 GMC Acadia Denali is ideal. Due to some space issues, however, it isn’t the perfect family hauler for me. It comes up a bit short.

2019 GMC Acadia Denali profile

I make my observations based on how many families use a three-row vehicle. In my experience, those three rows are there so one can carry mixed cargo — mixed between flesh and stuff. When the third row is laid flat, this Acadia has plenty of room in the wayback for whatever a family of four might need — four only, however, as the Denali flavor of Acadia restricts the second row to (impressively comfortable) captain’s chairs. It’s great in that respect. The ride is comfortable and quiet, with plenty of room for everyone to stretch out.

2019 GMC Acadia Denali front seats

If that family of four expands, whether temporarily or permanently, non-human cargo will be sacrificed if the Acadia Denali is your steed of choice. Need to take an extra kid or two to a soccer game? The kids can come, but their bags will be tough to stow. That third row is reasonably comfortable, but there isn’t even enough room behind that row for a single 20-inch carry-on bag. I could only stuff a pair of backpacks in that cargo area when we took Grandma along in the Acadia for a long weekend trip. Mercifully, the youngest shared the back row with a split-fold seat, and had the primary luggage riding alongside her.

2019 GMC Acadia Denali second row

While I struggle with the cargo hold, I have nothing but praise for the driving experience. 310 horsepower out of the big V6 is plenty to hustle the two-ton ute to alarming speeds. Mercifully, the demure Blue Steel paint rendered me invisible to the Ohio Highway Patrol swarming the roads around Labor Day weekend. Not even the bright chrome signature Denali grille turned the troopers’ heads. The big 20-inch alloy wheels did amplify every massive Michigan pothole into the cabin, however.*

2019 GMC Acadia Denali third row

*That wasn’t meant as a dig toward my Wolverine readers. I’m just noting that on my trip, I spotted roughly 20 silver Ohio patrol cars for each blue Michigan cruiser – and the proportions for Michigan to Ohio potholes were roughly the same.

The six-speed transmission shifts without drama, and, while more gears might be nice for fuel economy, such gearboxes tend to annoyingly hunt for the optimal ratio when encountering gentle changes in highway grade. The six-speed in the Acadia Denali seems to lock into sixth, letting the torque of the 3.6-liter manage any needed changes when the adaptive cruise control decided I needed to slow.

2019 GMC Acadia Denali infotainment

Beyond the pothole noises, the ride is quiet and drama-free. Steering has the typical Interstate dead feel one would expect of a large vehicle not meant for the twisties, but at lower speeds the wheels do communicate well enough to let the driver know what’s going on.

2019 GMC Acadia Denali front 2019 GMC Acadia Denali rear

The interior is a mixed bag. The plastic and leather surfaces are generally quite good — the seats are a highlight, with heating elements in all four front places, and effective cooling for the driver and front passenger, as well. But the wood trim on the doors, dash, and shifter surround is not convincing. Further, when one retracts the shades for either the front or rear glass roof, hold on tight. Releasing the handle slams the shade hard into the rear stop with a loud, worrying thwack. Try it a few times while parked if your kids are tall enough (like mine are) to reach and release the shades and, like me, you’re prone to being startled by unexpected loud noises eight inches from your ear while driving in busy interstate traffic.

2019 GMC Acadia Denali interior

Having never spent a great deal of time in any Denali-branded vehicle, I was surprised by the choice of the rubber floor mats throughout the Acadia Denali. But I like it. GMC’s heritage as a proper truck maker requires a nod to proper utility. While, yes, it is a luxury vehicle, it’s also a vehicle meant to be used by a family. After past family road trips to beaches, I’ve struggled to get the sand out of my van’s carpets for months after. The rubber mats here are a great, easy-clean addition.

[Get new and used GMC Acadia Denali pricing here!]

I’ve road-tripped to Acadia National Park twice. Once, 14 years ago next week for my honeymoon, driving our Miata. The second, four years ago around our 10th anniversary, in our minivan with the kids. I wouldn’t hesitate to make tracks northeast to one of the smallest National Parks one more time in the Acadia Denali with the pair of tweens in tow. But adding extra passengers would cramp us all like we were back in the roadster. The Acadia Denali needs a bit more Denali size to go with the Denali style.

2019 GMC Acadia Denali rear quarter

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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29 Comments on “2019 GMC Acadia AWD Denali Review – Explore With Four...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    So 3.5 V6 plus 6 speed plus selectable AWD (FWD default with a knob for other settings) got roughly the same fuel economy that my 2010 Highlander with 3.5 V6, 5 speed auto, and ALWAYS on 50/50 AWD would have gotten? And it has approximately the same amount of room behind the 3rd row (read: dang near useless.)

    Good to know.

    This is my biggest gripe with the Acadia, released as all new in 2017 but has a 6 speed auto that can’t do better than that. Being able to hit 25 mpg in that real world trip you took would actually make me take a serious look at one but only for the space behind the 2nd row. Make mine an “All Terrain” version so you get seating for 5 and no 3rd row.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      It’s a 3.6-liter, but, yeah, I agree.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      We just made that OH to MA trip in a Acadia Limited(last of the big, old style ones). At the speed limit 26 mpg was the best I could muster in the FWD SLT with two people, two dogs, and two weeks worth of luggage. Each 40 or 65 pound dog had their own bed and slept in the lap of luxury.

      When pumped up past the speed limit to 90 mph or so it was still as quiet as the speed limit driving except for the 3.6l with 15,000 miles. It was quiet on the flat and down hills but would thrum/droan on up hills letting the passenger know when you were on the gas. My Ecotec 2.0T do not do this. The full throttle sound was very nice though.

      Maybe a Traverse RS 2.0T next time.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I will say, the 2.0T in the Atlas is actually better than the V6, returning superior fuel economy and performance. But that’s the exception, rather than the rule. Generally, a turbocharged four-cylinder in a large crossover is going to be pretty taxed without some kind of electric assistance.

        • 0 avatar
          thegamper

          Yes. The Atlas 2.0t should always be preferred over the VW V6 if you don’t “require” AWD. I suspect though that most mommy mobiles and mommies think it a requirement to transport junior to soccer practice.

          Anyway, I am puzzled by the proportions and drivetrain of this vehicle as well. I’ve been reading up on the new Traverse and it’s 8 speed/v6 combo appears to produce impressive results. Mid 20’s observed fuel economy from multiple publications in addition to rather impressive thrust with 0-60 in low 6’s. For both of these reasons the wisdom of sticking in the GM 6 speed in this eludes me.

    • 0 avatar
      ahintofpepperjack

      The Acadia uses essentially the same drivetrain it has always had since debut back in 2007. This means it’s a pretty solid drivetrain at this point. If you want 25+ MPG there’s plenty of turbo 4 options available for you.

      I do think the Grand Cherokee is the best option in this segment (Durango if you need 3 rows). Cheaper, an interior that is just as nice, better 4×4 system, excellent ZF 8 speed, the pentastar 3.6 is a better engine than the GM 3.6, and the hemi is available if you want it.

      And before you say “lol FCA reliability sucks” The Grand Cherokee and LX cars are solid well built vehicles and the best in their class. It’s the Fiat-based vehicles the suffer reliability issues.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        22.5 (observed mileage, MPG)

        My larger point is I bet I could get roughly the same MPG out of a pre-LS1 powered B-body GM wagon, which also had an occasional use 3rd row, as evidenced by the total lack of cargo room when the 3rd row was in use.

        Honestly I’d rather have the wagon.

        Current day GM can do better simply by switching the transmission being used.

        • 0 avatar
          CaddyDaddy

          Principal Dan. You are correct, I always look at the current MPG numbers and scratch my head when compared to my B Body. All this “tech” for Small displacement, forced injection, transaxels with 2x the gears, complicated variable valve systems, cylinder deactivation etc.. and mileage really not that special.

          I understand about the diminished aerodynamics of higher ground clearance and the added drag of the AWD system, but really? MPG is unimpressive for all the added complexity?

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I actually drive a Grand Cherokee, a 2015 Overland. It’s just RWD, so no air suspension. I’m averaging a shade over 22, which I think is decent. The 2016+ has a revised engine and stop-start, so I bet it would do a little better.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Well, that’s the thing. The downsized Acadia is firmly in the midsize category. It’s the same length as its two-row platform mates, the Cadillac XT5 and the upcoming Chevrolet Blazer. The only difference is that it has a less-rakish rear profile, allowing them to throw in a third row. That makes the Acadia comfortable for five, but cramped for seven.

    Other non-luxury crossovers in that category include the new Hyundai Santa Fe (the shorter one), the Mazda CX-9, and the Kia Sorento. And really, despite its dimensions, the Ford Explorer’s in that segment, too, due to poor space utilization.

    Meanwhile, it seems like GM’s latest wares are without major flaws and generally do everything right, but they’re mostly profoundly unremarkable. And maybe that’s a good place to be. I don’t know if the buyer of an Acadia, even a Denali, wants drama.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      If that’s the interior of a $50,000 version, I’d hate to see the base model. That fake wood is just embarrassing.

      Hope does GM justify a 6 speed in such an expensive vehicle? The typical internet shopper will just laugh at that when he comparison shops.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “The big 20-inch alloy wheels did amplify every massive Michigan pothole into the cabin, however”

    I’m always puzzled how Detroit brands seem to be less than familiar with the realistic landscape of Michigan. Potholes are a serious Northeast problem, so the response is make them more noticeable in product? There is no technological response for this condition to reduce this (i.e. some kind of damper)?

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Good looking vehicle I must say….

  • avatar
    carguy

    I find it hard to reconcile the price tag with what this is: A GM mainstream mid-size SUV with an emergency third row.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      It’s worth noting that if you want to “step down” to a Chevy, a Traverse High Country—which is considerably larger—would be in the same price territory.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        @Kyree: I am not disagreeing that there are more budget friendly options in the GM catalog but I get the feeling that GM responding to the SUV feeding frenzy by offering a lot of quasi-premium product with some luxury touches but at full luxury prices. The problem is that these mid-market GM sub-brands often suffer not only from the same fit & finish issues that their Chevy counterparts do but they also contain the same lowest bidder Chinese electronics.

        “Mutton dressed as lamb” is the only way I can describe Denali and Avenir sub-brands.

  • avatar
    Tsavo

    Seems like this would be a good vehicle…in 2009. 6-speed transmission and bargain box bland interior for $52k? GM needs to lay off the bong water.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I’ve wondered…. what are the sales numbers like since switching from the old, big Acadia to this new one?

    Relative has the older Acadia and loves it. Has had some niggling issues here and there. I’d like to hope GM has those worked out now, but still waiting to see how CR rates this new one.

    Same family member had a new Acadia as a loaner and loved the drive, but was concerned that the shrunken size might have them shopping elsewhere when it is replacement time.

    I have a feeling Acadia had a lot of sales with the old gen because there was still good luggage and people space with all 3 rows in use. That was basically the selling point over anything else non-GM. I’m surprised they tossed that out the window or are forcing GMC customers to go to the Chevy store.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    “Non-human cargo will be sacrificed” … Wow, that sounds ominous. Print that up in block letters and hang it in the cargo area. :)

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Wait! Will SUV Month run concurrently with Truck Month or will they alternate at the local GM dealership?

  • avatar
    ernest

    Given the price tag, I’d be seriously considering a Yukon. This has been my ongoing observation of mid-sized SUV’s in general. They aren’t cheap enough to be budget friendly, fuel economy is so-so, and they’re still compromised in their design for the family friendly mission in life.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      At the Denali’s ~$50K price I’d be into one of the V8 FCA twins, or a base Tahoe/Yukon or a base GX460.

      However, you can get a V6 Acadia for mid to high $30s and I think it makes more sense there.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I wonder if the design is really compromised but rather GM filling a gap in it’s lineup. The Traverse and Enclave are significantly larger than most three row crossovers but GM had nothing to really compete in the “jump seat” three row crossover segment that seems more typical than a true minivan alternative like the Traverse/Enclave.

  • avatar
    CannonShot

    We’ve put almost 100,000 miles on our 2014 Acadia. With 4 kids and a friend occasionally tagging along, the third row has been used a lot. It’s been a great family hauler. Tons of cargo room. It was about $31,000.00 new — a great value. We’ve had no problems whatsoever with it. Fuel economy is about the only drawback I can think of. When it’s time to replace it, we’ll probably get a Traverse because we need the space. My wife refuses to drive a mini-van and we can’t afford a Yukon/Tahoe.


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