When you have something good, why change it, right? That appears to be the formula GMC is following with the Acadia, a three-row crossover that first appeared for the 2007 model year and has remained remarkably unchanged since.
A six-year run is unusual in such a competitive segment, but a few hours in the Acadia–or its Lambda-platform stablemates, the Buick Enclave and the Chevrolet Traverse–make it obvious why General Motors has left well enough alone: It’s pretty damn good. Perhaps most impressive was the ride quality on our 2012 GMC Acadia Denali, which rivaled the Ford Explorer for highway quietness–a personal benchmark of mine for reasonably attainable SUVs. The general Acadia body shape also still looks fresh and attractive, though the Denali model comes off as a throwback to 2007, thanks to dated bling splattered all over the exterior.
Where the Acadia really shows its age is inside. The hard black plastics on the dash, console and doors are outshined by what’s in our long-term 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-Door. An actual key goes into an actual key slot–I’m not sure when separate keys and key fobs became passé, but on luxury SUVs it’s been a few years now. For better or worse, the center-stack controls for HVAC and various other functions appear ancient when compared with modern interfaces from Ford, Lincoln, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Even the sound of the turn signal evokes memories of a Chevrolet Caprice Classic thanks to its metallic “tink-tink.”
All forgivable on a workaday three-row crossover, right? Yes, and I’ve overlooked identical flaws on the Traverse thanks to its superb utility and competitive pricing. But GMC wants $51,000 for the Acadia Denali, a positively obscene sum to put on the window sticker even if rebates and dealer haggling likely shave thousands off the actual transaction price.
An MSRP of more than $50,000 for this thing goes beyond the level of overpriced and straight into arrogance, a dangerous place for recently humbled GM, still fighting bailout stigma. It’s unfortunate, considering that GMC still has a nice product hiding behind all of those zeros.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I agree that the Acadia is starting to show its age, but I also think that it still drives well for its age.
Styling is where I think it is looking old. Personally, I am just not finding the GMC version of these Lambda SUVs attractive anymore. The Buick Enclave still looks OK to me, and so does the Chevrolet Traverse. Thankfully, for GMC’s sake, there was a new one shown at the Chicago auto show that has significant changes
The GMC interior could use a materials upgrade on the dash, and it’s been like that since day one. There’s plenty of room inside, and the front buckets are quite comfy. I only drove this particular example to home and back and ran a couple errands, but I’ve driven an Acadia to Traverse City, Mich., and back, and it’s a nice cockpit in which to spend some time.
The Acadia drives nicely for the most part. The engine/trans interface is smooth, the ride is not harsh over Detroit potholes, and it’s overall a nice, relaxing cruiser. Quiet, too. Like a lot of these three-row crossovers, it seems to drive like a minivan without the stigma. Again, for its age, it drives well.
Yeah, the price is high, but on GMC’s Web site one can get $2,000 cash back or zero percent APR–and that doesn’t even get into the individual dealer offers. I’m sure they’re doing smoking deals on these.
NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: My personal favorite of the Lambda family is the Buick Enclave because its style stands out in the segment and among its siblings. Still, the 2012 GMC Acadia Denali is big, strong and I think rather cool-looking, especially in this polar bear shade of white. I agree with the comments regarding the interior, which reminded me a lot of my brother’s 2006 Chevy Impala. Still, simple and functional is not a bad mantra, and it works for this big GMC.
The V6 is strong, propelling this yacht ably, and the transmission is decent, though there is a slight hesitation at times. I like the elevated driving position, which makes you feel as if you’re driving a fortress. The suspension is comfortable, and there’s actually little roll in corners for such a big cruiser.
GM makes solid large crossovers. People still need them and want them, and of course the Denali trim is always a nice touch.
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: I did a lot of running around in this 2012 GMC Acadia Denali during my one-night stint, which gave me plenty of seat time in the plushest Acadia of them all. After many miles I came away with much of the same feelings about this old boat.
For its age, the Acadia still gets around well. Ride quality on the 21-inch wheels is comfortable, it responds to steering inputs fairly well and the cabin is buttoned up nicely from wind noise, but tire noise is noticeable and expected from the wide rubber.
The V6′s 288 hp was up to task to propel the nearly 5,000-pound specimen around, and the gearbox performed nice, quick shifts. There’s also good bite from the brakes that slowed things down with ease during a couple of panic stops during the rainy night.
The biggest letdown to me is the Acadia’s interior. While the Denali-specific touches helped dress things up some with the leather-wrapped steering wheel with mahogany wood inserts, woodgrain dash trim and leather-wrapped door panels, there still are acres of hard plastics throughout. The front buckets are flat and offer little side support, and the central touch screen looks dated with tiny, hard buttons.
What’s the good news? GMC is rolling out an updated Acadia for 2013. From the photos I’ve seen, the cabin sports a nice update, and hopefully the materials quality is raised a couple of notches.
If I was in the market for a three-row luxury crossover, I would head to the Acura dealer for an MDX. For a little more than this GMC’s as-tested price, you have an SUV with adjustable dampers, much better interior quality, extremely comfortable seats and one of the smoothest drivetrains in the business. You just need to get past Acura’s not-very-attractive front grille.
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