Since the 1990’s, GMC has used the Denali nameplate to signify its highest trim level. In fact, before Cadillac’s luxury SUV, the Escalade, made the scene, GM’s most luxurious SUV was a Denali – the GMC Yukon Denali. These days, the Denali trim level can be had on nearly every GMC vehicle, and while some may think the Denali name has been watered down, I recently had an opportunity to spend some time with the Denali version of the GMC Acadia – and still found it impressive.
The GMC Acadia of today has been around since 2017, when it had its first redesign since it debuted in 2008. That first-generation Acadia shared the same platform as the Buick Enclave and the Chevrolet Traverse – but in the redesign, the Acadia was reduced in size thus making it smaller than the other two.
The Acadia still features three-row seating although a Third Row Seat Delete option is available on some trim levels. There are three engines available – a base 2.5 liter four-cylinder (193 horsepower, 188 lb-ft of torque), a new 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder (230 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque), and a 3.6-liter V6 (310 hp, 271 lb-ft). Front wheel is standard while all-wheel drive remains and option. Finally, all use a new-for-2020 nine-speed automatic transmission.
Other changes for 2020 include a face lift, with a new, more aggressive front grille. Inside, there is an 8.0-inch infotainment system and below it, a new push button electronic gear selector.
Also new for 2020 is an AT4 trim level. Riding on all-terrain tires and including some extra off-road aids, this is the Acadia for those that like to tackle off-road adventures.
The Acadia Denali that is the subject of this review wore Satin Steel Metallic paint with a two-tone interior. Equipped with the 3.6-liter V6 and all-wheel drive, it carried an MSRP of $52,425.
Visually, the Denali version of the Acadia doesn’t stand out much from the other trim levels (SL, SLE, SLT and AT4), aside from special wheels and flashes of bling here and there.
Inside, though it’s a different story. The interior design is nicely arranged and pleasing to the eye. The leather-wrapped steering wheel with aluminum trim and the premium leather looks ever-so inviting. And it functions well, too. Gauges are easy to read, and they can be reconfigured to your liking. First time Acadia drivers may wonder where the gear selector is, as it blends into the climate control buttons, but it’s a neat idea and definitely frees up space in the center console. The one downside it that some of the interior materials feel cheap and build quality could be a little better.
Features included with the Denali trim level include a Bose audio system, heated and vented front seats and heated second-row seats, and a rear camera mirror.
One area that the Acadia has consistently scored high in, and this 2020 model continues that trend, is safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Agency gave it five stars while it scored very high with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Getting behind the wheel of the Acadia, things seem to come together nicely. This is an SUV that isn’t too big, or too small. It’s sized right, comfortable, and not too techy. The V6 engine offers a good supply of power and driving modes can be selected (Sport, Comfort, Economy). The new transmission seems like it wants to show off all of its nine gears, as it tends to shift often, but overall, the entire drivetrain emits a good vibe. EPA rates the All-wheel drive V6 Acadia at 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
For those that think today’s SUVs are getting too fancy or are over top, the GMC Acadia is like a breath of fresh air. Sure, it’s nice, but it’s not overly done. It’s roomy and comfortable, but not too big. It’s simple and straightforward. Almost like a throwback to how most things once were. And going with the Denali, well it’s like going á-la-mode.
– Christopher A. Randazzo
By the Numbers:
2020 GMC Acadia AWD Denali
Base Price: $48,300.00
Price as Tested: $52,435.00
Layout: front-engine / all-wheel drive
Engine: 3.6-liter V6
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Horsepower: 310 hp
Torque: 271 lb/ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 18 city / 25 highway mpg
[Visit me at www.carsbycar.blogspot.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org]