If you're looking for a well-equipped family cruiser, we understand the appeal of an SUV from a luxury brand. After all, you get top-of-the-line features, all-weather capability and luxury-badge appeal. But for shoppers who aren't interested in the cachet of a luxury brand, the 2014 GMC Acadia Denali offers an excellent alternative to the current crop of luxury SUVs. We spent a week behind the wheel to find out how it delivers.
Everyone who rode in our Acadia Denali test car enjoyed the crossover's high-end features. For instance, not only is there a remote starter, but the feature automatically turns on the heat and the heated seats when it's cold outside. That means the cabin is warm and toasty when it's time to get in -- a major benefit for shoppers in cold climates.
We also loved the Acadia's navigation and infotainment system. We realize it isn't exclusive to the Denali model, but the system's ease of use still contributed to an overall feeling of luxury. Same goes for the automatic rear tailgate, though some drivers found the operation a little too slow.
Interior Not Quite There
While we appreciated the Denali's equipment, we didn't enjoy the interior materials as much. The problem is the Acadia's cabin can't match luxury SUVs such as the Lexus RX or BMW X5. It's hard to change that fact, even with Denali trim. Yes, Denali models include leather seats and nice wood accents, but there's still too much hard plastic on the doors, and the leather upholstery isn't as nice as we'd expect. It may seem like quibbling, but considering the Denali's base price of more than $46,000 with shipping, many shoppers will expect top-end materials.
Powertrain Acceptable, Fuel Economy Isn't
Our staffers had mixed opinions about the Acadia's 3.6-liter V6, which makes 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. While some feel it's clearly the right engine for the job, others disagree and say it feels taxed. Regardless, everyone was impressed with the standard 6-speed automatic for being both smooth and responsive.
We ran into a larger problem with the Acadia's gas mileage. Around town, our test vehicle struggled to get about 12 or 13 miles per gallon -- a low figure, especially for a V6-powered crossover. We think the main culprit is weight, as the Acadia Denali weighs in at a whopping 4,850 pounds with all-wheel drive. As a result, we strongly suggest skipping all-wheel drive unless you live in an area where it's absolutely required.
Overall, the 2014 GMC Acadia Denali delivers precisely what you'd expect: It offers a budget-priced alternative to luxury SUVs from other automakers. Of course, with the budget price comes cost-cutting, especially in the cabin. Is it worth it? That's for you to decide. But if you don't need the badge and you don't mind a few low-rent plastics here and there, the Acadia offers an excellent combination of standard equipment and family-hauling capability.