Like its nearly identical siblings, the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse, the 2014 GMC Acadia offers a complete package emphasizing passenger comfort, drivability, functionality, fuel economy and spaciousness. So spacious is the Acadia, in fact, that it can seat up to eight passengers and still retain a reasonable amount of cargo room.
Although the three large GM crossovers are mechanically and structurally the same, each establishes its own distinctive personality with unique features and design cues. While the Buick Enclave is the most upscale and the Chevrolet Traverse focuses more on utility, the GMC Acadia bridges the two by offering an even mix of practicality and rich user content. Furthermore, the Acadia distinguishes itself with bolder, squared-off styling that speaks to its GMC truck heritage.
Despite its freshly updated and ruggedly designed exterior, the Acadia is not based on a truck. It's not designed for heavy trailering or off-road adventures. For such activities, a full-size SUV such as the Tahoe is better. That said, the Acadia still can tow a 5,000-lb boat and tread through virtually any road condition with all-wheel drive. That kind of competence is more than sufficient for the needs of most American families.
What's New for 2014?
After a major update for 2013, the Acadia offers only minor changes for the 2014 model year with two new standard safety features: lane-departure warning and forward-collision alert.
What We Like
Bold styling; seating for up to eight passengers; vast cargo space; carlike handling; very good fuel economy; compliant ride; comfortable interior
What We Don't
Not as capable as a true truck-based SUV; limited maneuverability
The GMC Acadia is available with front- or all-wheel drive. Power comes from a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, while a 6-speed automatic is the only transmission. Gas mileage is rated at 17 miles per gallon city/24 mpg hwy with front-wheel drive or 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.
Standard Features & Options
The GMC Acadia offers five trim levels: base-level SLE-1 and SLE-2, mid-level SLT-1 and SLT-2, and an upscale, luxury-oriented model, the Acadia Denali. Base-level SLE-1 models feature a standard 8-passenger seating configuration, while other Acadia models offer standard seating for seven and optional seating for eight.
Included on the SLE-1 ($35,300) are 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, OnStar, Bluetooth, keyless entry, tinted windows, cruise control, park assist, a rearview camera and a 6.5-in, center-mounted touchscreen featuring GMC's IntelliLink system. There's also a USB port for music and charge-only USB ports for rear passengers. And, new for 2014, there's a standard lane-departure warning system and forward-collision alert -- two features formerly standard on only the high-end Acadia Denali.
Move up to the SLE-2 ($37,200) and you get a power lift gate, a remote starter, power driver and passenger seats, voice control for the infotainment system and Bluetooth audio. As mentioned, the SLE-2 also trades in the SLE-1's second-row bench for second-row captain's chairs, which drops seating capacity to seven. The bench remains an option.
Choose the SLT-1 ($41,400) and you get leather upholstery, heated front seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, a Bose sound system, 19-in alloy wheels and heated mirrors.
Next up is the SLT-2 ($42,500), which boasts driver memory settings and power folding mirrors. It also adds a few new options, including a Technology Package with xenon headlights, a head-up display and audio controls for third-row passengers.
Topping the range is the Acadia Denali ($49,700), which includes the SLT-2's Technology Package as standard equipment. It also adds a few unique exterior touches, a panoramic sunroof, 20-in alloy wheels and a wood-trimmed steering wheel.
For options, the Acadia offers a panoramic sunroof (standard on the Denali, not available on the SLE-1), a navigation system and a rear-seat DVD player.
The Acadia's roster of safety equipment includes ABS, stability control, traction control and six standard airbags, including third-row head curtains. The new front center airbag, designed to provide a cushion between the driver and front passenger, is standard on all but the base Acadia SLE. Blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on the Acadia Denali and available on the rest of the lineup. GM's OnStar emergency Telematics service is standard across the Acadia range.
Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not tested the 2014 GMC Acadia, the largely similar 2012 model received a 5-star overall crash-test rating. That score included four stars in front and rollover tests, and a 5-star rating in the frontal crash assessment.
Behind the Wheel
The 2014 Acadia delivers, above all, a comfortable and well-controlled ride. It's smooth and quiet without feeling floaty, which results in daily commutes that are high on driving enjoyment and low on fatigue.
Like its Buick and Chevy counterparts, the Acadia benefits from carlike handling -- a function of its carlike unibody construction. It feels sharper and more secure than most other big SUVs, which inspires plenty of confidence in corners. Still, drivers must remain conscious of the Acadia's large size, which becomes apparent on narrow city streets or in crowded parking lots. Among other concerns, low-speed maneuverability is limited.
The Acadia's power gives it a smooth and confident manner. And it can accelerate strongly, both off the line and in passing situations at highway speeds. However, don't expect the same performance when the vehicle is loaded down with passengers and cargo, or when towing a heavy load.
Although it's not meant for off-roading, the Acadia is more than capable in harsh weather and on rough roads, especially with all-wheel drive. Available 19- and 20-in wheels are helpful in wet and snowy conditions.
Ford Flex -- The Flex offers more expansive rear seating, and a longer list of creature comforts and technology. The Acadia has superior ride and handling.
Mazda CX-9 -- The CX-9 has a sportier look than the Acadia. The Acadia offers more interior room for passengers and cargo, and its plush trim makes it a better bet for long-distance interstate cruising.
Chevrolet Traverse -- Based on the same GM architecture as the Acadia, the Traverse is similar in all respects. The Acadia's interior materials are nicer, but the Traverse has a roll-mitigation system not found on the Acadia.
Dodge Durango -- The Durango is more like a traditional SUV and, as such, offers more off-road and towing prowess. However, the Acadia is ahead in space, ride comfort and fuel efficiency.
Of the Acadia's five trims, a mid-level SLT-1 is our pick. It's equipped with the most balanced array of amenities for the money. The up-level SLT2 and Denali models are perhaps overloaded with creature comforts, while the base SLE is a bit too simple for our tastes. We suggest considering some standalone options such as navigation and the rear-seat DVD system to the Acadia SLT, especially for families who like to travel. And everyone, especially if you live in a cold climate, should consider the added traction of all-wheel drive.