2011 GMC Acadia

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These reviews are written by independent automotive journalists providing an objective and reliable assessment to help you make a smart buying decision. 2011 GMC Acadia.

Reviewed By: New Car Test Drive
© 2011 NewCarTestDrive.com


The 2011 GMC Acadia lineup has been expanded to include a new Denali model. The Acadia Denali features a more luxurious interior and signature Denali design cues. The 2011 Acadia Denali uses the same 3.6-liter V6 as the other models and is available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

The GMC Acadia can seat seven or eight and haul a mountain of cargo. Inside and out, the Acadia is similar in size to the GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe. It's more refined, offers sharper handling, and gets better fuel mileage than a full-size SUV, however. A crossover, it's constructed more like a car than a truck, so it's lighter and has a more rigid chassis than a truck does.

Acadia delivers what most people want from a full-size SUV. The driver sits high off the ground and has a commanding view of the road. The Acadia can carry a lot of cargo. We found it seats six adults comfortably. Rear-seat DVD entertainment is available.

The only places where the Acadia falls short of truck-based SUVs are in heavy-duty towing or slogging through muck or over rugged terrain. Properly equipped, the GMC Acadia can tow 5,200 pounds, while a Yukon is rated to pull 7,500 pounds or more. The Yukon is based on the Sierra full-size pickup, so it can regularly handle terrain unsuitable for the Acadia. But you may not need that capability. The Acadia offers all-wheel drive for stormy or snowy weather, and it's fine for unpaved roads. That's plenty for most people.

On the road, the Acadia handles better and is smoother than a Yukon and other truck-based SUVs. It offers excellent driving manners, whether on country roads, rough city streets or pock-marked freeways. It smoothes bumpy pavement and takes corners in a reassuring manner for a large vehicle.

The 288-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 is responsive and efficient and supplies good acceleration. Its 6-speed automatic transmission is smooth and efficient, further aiding fuel economy.

Acadia comes loaded with safety equipment, including side-curtain airbags that provide head protection, side-impact airbags for torso protection and StabiliTrak electronic stability control and other active safety features that help the driver avoid accidents.

The GMC Acadia shares platforms with the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse. It was launched as a 2007 model; the 3.6-liter V6 was revised for 2009. For 2011, the biggest change is the addition of a Denali luxury model. All 2011 Acadia models get the latest version of OnStar, and offer Bluetooth, heated cloth seats, and power lumbar adjustment.

Model Lineup

GMC Acadia SL ($31,840); SL AWD ($33,840); SLE ($34,465); SLE AWD ($36,465); SLT ($38,185); SLT AWD ($40,185)

Walk Around

The GMC Acadia shares its size and overall features with the Buick Enclave and Chevy Traverse. Measuring 201 inches, an Acadia is a lot longer than a Ford Explorer. But it doesn't look it.

It's a big vehicle that doesn't look bulky, and carries a kind of active grace. The rounded front end features a bright grille surrounding a prominent GMC emblem. Distinctively curved headlight clusters give the Acadia a slightly startled expression. Projector beams are standard, while high-intensity discharge headlights are optional. Small round fog lights nestle below. The front bumper is massive, but the size is lost by its black color and bright strip at the top.

From the side, the rounded fender flares are prominent, and a horizontal character line sets out to connect them but disappears into the doors instead. Tasteful bright trim and polished aluminum roof rails add visual interest. The shape of the Acadia is aerodynamically efficient for an SUV, with a drag coefficient of 0.344. Power-adjustable outside mirrors are standard on all models. Body-color outside mirrors with integrated turn signals are standard on SLT, with a power-folding function available as an option.

From the rear, the Acadia looks like a generic crossover SUV, accented by interesting two-tone taillight clusters and quad exhaust tips.

The standard 18-inch wheels and tires are a good choice for the Acadia, offering the best ride quality, but it's also available with 19-inch and 20-inch wheels. The Acadia has the visual mass to support the big-diameter wheels, but the bright 20-inchers are too dazzling for our tastes.

The Denali has its own look, much better we think, with all of the chrome trim turned to body colors. Denali comes standard with 20-inch wheels.

Interior

Acadia has three rows of seats and can seat seven or eight, though it's squeezed past six. To get eight, GM assumes three people are sitting in the third row, but there is scant hip room or legroom. Three children is okay, but three adults won't fit.

The Acadia SLT cabin has a handsome and upscale look, with leather upholstery standard. The designers of the Acadia stayed away from cheap-looking plastic and bargain-basement cloth. Yet they did not lose track of basic functionality. The heating and cooling controls are easy to find and use. The instruments are legible, not lost in some fussy attempt at a complex design. Big cupholders and a deep bin between the front seats are welcome, but the pockets on the inside door panels are too narrow for any meaningful storage.

The front seats are wide and comfortable. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes, making it easy for drivers tall and short to get comfortable. As with any SUV, the driver sits high, with a good view down the road.

But visibility to the rear isn't great, requiring care when backing up. We recommend opting for ultrasonic rear park assist, which can detect objects out of the driver's line of sight. We further recommend getting the rearview camera, which projects its image on the navigation screen or the rearview mirror. The smaller image on the rearview mirror is right in your line of sight when looking at the rearview mirror to back up. However, in a messy Chicago winter, the camera lens became speckled with dirt and salt, making the small image on the rearview mirror hard to see. A larger image on a navigation screen would have been easier to see and more helpful. An effective rearview camera is a valuable piece of safety equipment because it can help the driver spot a child behind the vehicle before backing up. The rearview camera makes parallel parking easier and quicker, also.

Eight-passenger seating comes in the base model, with a 60/40 split bench in the second row that can accommodate three people (for 2-3-3 seating). The up-level Acadia models have second-row captain's chairs, which cut passenger capacity to seven (in a 2-2-3 arrangement) but are more comfortable. Either model can be ordered with the other seating arrangement. This is an important choice that deserves careful consideration: Models with second-row captain's chairs are less functional for hauling cargo. So, as a people hauler, the seven-passenger is nicer, as a cargo hauler, the eight-passenger is much better.

Second-row legroom is 36.9 inches, with the sliding seat in the middle of its four-inch range. With the seat all the way back, giving nearly 39 inches of legroom, a six-foot-tall person can be comfortable in the driver's seat while another six-footer can be seated directly behind without being cramped.

Getting to the third row involves using what GM calls its Smart Slide feature. A handle moves the second row up and out of the way. As in most vehicles, the Acadia's third row is best suited for small children. When GMC says the Acadia is a seven- or eight-passenger vehicle: GM assumes three people are sitting in the third row, which has about nine inches less hip room than the second row. Putting three children back there will be possible, but three adults won't fit. Two adults will fit, though, with good head room and adequate leg room. Just don't plan to keep them back there on long trips because the low seat bottoms lack thigh support.

Cargo capacity is generous, with 24.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row. That's more than the trunk space of a mid-size sedan and measurably more than what's offered by the Honda Pilot or Ford Explorer. A small plastic-lined bin below the floor of the Acadia's cargo compartment is perfect for carrying messy stuff.

For more cargo space, nearly 69 cubic feet, the third row folds down easily, and a strap is used to pull it back up, requiring some effort. It's nice that lowering the second or third rows does not require removing the head restraints. When both the second and third rows are folded, the cargo area is almost flat, and there is a cavernous 115.9 cubic feet of cargo volume. In all cargo dimensions, the Acadia exceeds many competitors, including the Pilot and the Explorer.

Driving Impressions

The GMC Acadia is big and heavy, but it feels smaller on the road. The steering doesn't require much effort, not even in a parking lot, but it still offers good feel, giving the driver a feeling of confidence about where the vehicle is heading and how it will respond. The Acadia turns into corners responsively and feels stable on the freeway.

It only feels its weight when it's driven hard. It's nearly 5000 pounds with all-wheel drive, about 750 pounds lighter than a Yukon or Tahoe, but 500 pounds heavier than a Honda Pilot.

The Acadia uses independent suspension in the front and rear, like most modern cars, and this provides a well-rounded blend of ride and handling. Bumps, tar strips and potholes are felt but only distantly, without the jarring that is part of life in a truck-based SUV. If you're used to driving a traditional SUV, the Acadia will be much more smooth and refined. The Acadia feels strong and rigid and it doesn't quiver on bumps. Unwanted body motions are nicely controlled, so there isn't a sloppy feeling. The brake feel is firm, and that makes it easy to modulate the brakes in heavy traffic, shaving off a lot of speed or just a little bit.

StabiliTrak, GM's electronic stability control system, comes standard and can help the driver maintain control on slippery surfaces. The system uses sensors to tell if the front or rear of the vehicle is sliding and corrects for the skid. If the system detects a possible rollover, it reacts to help prevent that as well.

The all-wheel drive system is permanently engaged and does not require the driver to do anything but drive. A computer sends the power to where it can do the most good. GM calls it Intelligent AWD, which essentially means that it manages front-to-rear torque distribution to enhance stability and control.

The GM 3.6-liter V6 has proven itself to be powerful, efficient and flexible, and it's enough engine in the Acadia. Acceleration is more than adequate, with help from a 6-speed automatic transmission, which is smooth and responds quickly. With variable valve timing, the V6 makes 288 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 270 pound-feet of torque at 3400 rpm. That's considerably more than most other V6 engines and comparable to some V8s.

Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 16/23 mpg City/Highway with all-wheel drive, 17/24 mpg with front-wheel drive.

Towing capacity is 5,200 pounds.

The GMC Acadia offers the people and cargo hauling capability of a full-size SUV with more comfort and better fuel mileage. It can squeeze in eight people, or carry six in comfort. The ride is smooth and it handles well. With its pleasant manners, considerable space and good fuel economy, the Acadia is a good crossover choice: better than a truck-based SUV for anyone who doesn't need to tow a heavy trailer.
164 GMC Acadia vehicles in stock at carmax.com

164 GMC Acadia vehicles in stock