The GMC Acadia: A big softy

The all-American family hauler gets a refresh for 2013 and promises to be big on most things, including style and space

Published: Thu 5 Dec 2013, 5:50 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 3:01 AM

GMC Arcadia

The GMC Acadia, the first unibody vehicle from the marque, was launched in 2007, and the popular Denali version of it came out in 2010 as a 2011 model. The Acadia was a bit of a looker, quite a lot practical and somewhat reasonably priced — a formula that led to its commercial success globally.

For 2013, they have retained the good bits and painted over the ugly, figuratively speaking, of course, to entice a greater audience. We got our hands busy for a while driving around in the top-spec Denali version of the 2013 GMC Acadia, and have assessed whether its dimensions and dynamics would appeal to the Brady bunch of the Middle East.


The GMC Acadia, in terms of pure dimension, is a near-monstrosity with far reaching corners — it measures a lengthy 5101 mm bumper to bumper, and 2003 mm ear to ear. At 1789 mm height, it’s sure to elevate the driving position to that of royal throne, something that most people in the GCC enjoy.

The Acadia’s exteriors have seen a definitive splurge of the boxy and wedge-shape elements, which make it a befitting ride for a new Transformer movie, possibly. The facelift on the 2013 model adds a new three-dimensional polished grille design that sits more upright and renders a bold and almost truck-like appeal — a throwback at its trucking past, perhaps. And in true Yankee-tradition, there has been an ample application of chrome to boost its upmarket feel. The new Denali-specific HID or High-Intensity Discharge headlamp cluster is encompassed by LED daytime running lamps — both of which are welcome additions to this machine.

There are noticeable changes at the rear, as well as in the incorporation of the new LED tail lamp design, which has no yellow/amber turn signal indicators — again typical to American cars. You also have wraparound rear glass windows and a new rear spoiler. The Denali variant also gets dual flow-through chrome exhaust outlets, integrated into the rear fascia.

The lesser SLE and SLT variants get 19-inch alloy wheels, whilst the top-form Denali treads on 20-inch machined aluminum or the optional chrome wheels. Regardless of the variant or the wheel size, you get 255-section rubber at all four corners.

The exterior colour palette indicated white, black, red, blue and a bunch of greys and silvers, mostly named after stone and metals like Quicksilver Metallic, Carbon Black Metallic etc. As usual, we expect to see the blacks, reds and white populating the streets, but we did wonder how the Acadia would pose in a less-sober colour — orange maybe?

In a nutshell, we like the glamourous aspect of the Acadia; it has that certain purposeful beauty without being gaudy, and it trumps many of its German and Japanese compatriots for vanity... shhh!

You can choose to get the car running with the remote start function, or simply climb aboard and turn on the ignition the old-fashioned way by using remote keyless entry, which, by the way, is standard on all models. Watch your step, older folk: the cabin is raised and a bit of a climb. The associated driving position is a big positive though.

Inside the Acadia, you have the typical traits of an all-American SUV — it is spacious, it is quiet and cozy — a banquet of comfort some would say.

The seats are upholstered in French-stitched perforated leather that has is soft and supple in texture. It felt more genuine than the usual hyper-synthesised pseudo-leathers that other auto manufacturers use today. We drove the one with the Denali-specific Cocoa Dune colour, a chocolatey brown if you will — who doesn’t like chocolate! Other shades of upholstery available are Light Titanium and Dark Cashmere.

The 4-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel is set on a steering column that has power tilting and telescopic function. The power-assisted rack-and-pinion setup comes standard; you can also add the variable-effort steering, which eases up in the city and gets stubborn when the speeds builds up, improving highway stability.

The Acadia comes with red ambient light flowing across the dashboard. Further enhancing the ambience on the Denali is accent lighting in footwells, lighted sill plates with the Denali logo, mahogany wood accents, and satin trims all around.

The occupants upfront have seats with 8-way power adjustability, which caters to a wide variety of frames, even the big ones. The driver also enjoys the benefits of the integrated head-up display, which projects speed, rpm and other information onto the windshield.

GMC provides great amounts of flexibility in terms of passenger capacity. The 7-seater gets two captain’s chairs with armrests, while the 8-seater gets a second row bench. The SmartSlide seating system, besides sounding like a gimmicky mechanism, actually allows for easy access to the third row.

The view of the skies are more liberal than in most SUVs, with the dual SkyScape sunroof system, but only the front sunroof has a sliding function; the rear remains fixed.


Employed in the Acadia is GM’s popular engine configuration — a 3.6-litre V6 — one that has been employed in many Caddys and Chevys. It is quite versatile and as the campaign goes, it is a V6 with V8 power... almost. Funnily, Ford has been advocating the same with their EcoBoost powertrains.

The byproducts of maximum power and torque are rated at 288 bhp at 6,300 rpm and 388 Nm at 3,400 rpm. GMC claims that 90 per cent of the engine’s peak torque is available from approximately 2,500 rpm to about 6,000 rpm. Certainly, there is some magic happening in the combustion chamber, thanks to the direct injection technology.

The crankshaft is hooked up to a 6-speed Hydra-Matic 6T7 transmission — which translates to automatic for most of us. The operation has been smooth throughout our test drive.

Dubai’s roads are smooth beyond belief, but you do get the occasional kachha makeshift roads to deal with. Thankfully, being American, ride comfort has been prioritised and the Acadia’s suspension soaks up shocks and vibration like it’s second nature. On the downside, the soft-sprung suspension makes it rock-n-roll like a boat in a storm while negotiating quick turns. Also, it can get wheezy for the passenger, especially if you are the quick-to-the-throttle type driving through start-stop Sheikh Zayed Road traffic at 6 pm.

It weighs 2,364 kg when properly equipped, and that doesn’t help with the handling. It can feel like a big car especially in a small parking, but not so much as a Cadillac Escalade, which is like a bull in a china shop wherever it goes.

The all-wheel drive system helps with in days of wet weather and all-round traction, but it doesn’t make it a real off-roader and it’s recommended to stay within the limits of office, home and mall.

In slight abnormal fashion, the Acadia has bigger brake rotors upfront — 325mm versus the 331mm rotors at the rear. Braking performance is sufficient generally, but the car tends to dive under hard braking as hinted before. ABS is standard on all models and so are features like hydraulic brake boost and panic brake assist.

The stubby nature of the AWD Acadia means you don’t get to drive past most petrol stations but drive through them. It delivers 14.7l/100km in the city and almost 10.2 l/100km on the highway, says the spec-sheet. Unlike genuine off-road vehicles that have a jerry can strapped on the rear for extended range, you get a largish 83.3-litre tank instead. The front-wheel drive variant will serve you better if you are looking to save a buck or more.


GMC has equipped the Denali with a 10-speaker Bose 5.1 surround sound system, which sells its name well, with its output and clarity. Also available is a rear seat entertainment system, with a rear-seat DVD player with remote control and an overhead display. It also comes with a pair of wireless headphones. There is even a 3-prong household-type power outlet if you want to hook up any of those devices.

Tri-zone automatic climate control has strong cooling and keeps the cabin comfortable even in the hours past noon. Although, we would like to see how fuel economy would be affected with eight people on-board. A measure of comfort is further added by the use of the cooled front seats.

The hassles of driving a big car is forgiven once the cargo limits are known. With all the seats up, you get 682 litres of space; drop down the third row and that figure climbs to 1985 — which is bigger than what most practical hatchbacks and station wagons offer, and if you choose to drop the second row, you get a massive 3286 litres — pretty sure those figures are class-leading. The available power lift gate makes the task of opening and closing a breeze, especially when your hands are full with groceries or even an infant.

This isn’t the States, where towing capacity is a big deal, but if the occasion does arise, anything up to 2358 kg can be towed, trailer inclusive.

There has been a marked improvement in the number of listed safety features in recent times, which is a good thing, considering that most people in Dubai drive on speedy highways for most of their journeys. If you are lazy enough not to look over your shoulder, the Side Blind Zone alert will give you visual hint that there is a sizeable object on the adjacent lane. The Acadia also comes with rear-view camera and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which warns the driver of passing vehicles behind you.

The centre console houses a small touch screen panel, which is small by today’s standards and if you want navigation, you have to get the Denali variant. IntelliLink adds stereo Bluetooth audio streaming and wireless control of smartphones, voice-activated CD player with MP3 playback, auxiliary-input and USB ports. Altogether, the Acadia is pretty useful, we would say!


Although GMC has been seemingly incognito; the 2013 Acadia Denali has proven a well-rounded American crossover SUV. It is generous spatially, providing a high degree of ride comfort, with a multitude of features and multi-seating configuration that cannot be ignored. At this price point, you wouldn’t probably want to have a bare-bone German crossover. If GM budgets for improving cabin plastics, it would up the luxury quotient a bit, and we would probably have something worthy of the ‘Crossover SUV of the year’ title. But, it remains a nominee for now.


Sophisticated looks; general ride quality; packed-to-the-gills feature listing; seating capacity and configuration; price point


Quality of in-cabin plastics; off-road prowess — doesn’t like to get the rims dirty


7.5/10 stars


Body type: - 7-8 seater; premium large-size crossover SUV

Engine: - Front-engine; 3.6-litre V6; all-wheel drive

Transmission - 6-speed automatic

Peak output - 288bhp @ 6,300 rpm
- 366 Nm @ 3,400rpm

0 to 100km/h - 8.5 seconds (estimated)

Top speed - 180 km/h (estimated)

Price - Starting at Dh138,000

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