Review: 2014 GMC Acadia Denali car test drives gmc
Review: 2014 GMC Acadia Denali car test drives gmc
2014 GMC Acadia Denali. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

The necessities of family life often dictate the kinds of cars we buy, but when it comes to minivans, most of you appear to be saying something along the lines of, “Over my cold, dead body.” Are you sure? They’re really not all that bad. Okay fine then, here’s this.

Welcome to a review of yet another crossover in the slow march to make sure that every vehicle on the road is neither car nor truck, but something in-between. New Pathfinder? That’s a crossover. What do we get instead of a Mazda6 wagon? That’s a crossover. Porsche’s latest money-making scheme? You better believe that’s a crossover.

So why are these hefty jalopies so dang popular? Well, for one thing, they don’t look anything like a minivan. Next to the burnished chrome and mildly flared wheel arches of this Denali-spec Acadia, most minivans look like the automotive equivalent of sweatpants.

Refreshed last year, the Acadia got a new, bluffer prow and a giant grille that’d have you thinking GMC stood for “Gillette Motor Corporation.” What with the handsome new LED-lit front end and squared-off profile, it looks like a truck, a proper SUV that’s hammered out of the same rugged iron as a go-anywhere pickup. Park it next to a mud-spattered Sierra heavy-duty outside your local feed store, and mosey on inside – you do know how to mosey, right?

Ain’t no truck though; underneath the lantern-jawed exterior and 20-inch alloy spurs are a pair of Chevy Traverse unibody mom-jeans. The Acadia is made to haul people, not bales of hay or cords of firewood, but as soon as you pop open the door, you can see that it’s up to the job.

Compared to other crossovers like the Pathfinder and Highlander, the Acadia is fairly large. There’s plenty of useful, adult-friendly room to be found in all chairs, though both middle- and rear-row seats are a little low in the seat cushion. If you’ve got longer legs, be quick to call the shotgun seat.

Seating for eight is available, and even with both rows deployed, there’s still a usable amount of cargo room: 681 L of it, although the official measurement includes floor-to-ceiling packing. Fold the whole shebang flat, and the resultant space is big enough to take a 4×8 sheet of plywood lying flat. Hmm. Maybe this thing is actually more pickup truck than anticipated.

Review: 2014 GMC Acadia Denali car test drives gmc Review: 2014 GMC Acadia Denali car test drives gmc Review: 2014 GMC Acadia Denali car test drives gmc Review: 2014 GMC Acadia Denali car test drives gmc
2014 GMC Acadia Denali. Click image to enlarge

Settle in the driver’s seat, and this refreshed interior is both much improved, and perhaps not quite there yet. The real stitching is a nice touch, and the material quality seems to be fairly high in most places. There are plenty of cubby holes, including a cavernous space beneath the armrest big enough to house a hibernating grizzly. The front seats are large and comfortable, and are both heated and cooled.

Review: 2014 GMC Acadia Denali car test drives gmc
Review: 2014 GMC Acadia Denali car test drives gmc
2014 GMC Acadia Denali. Click image to enlarge

However, there’s plenty of chromed plastic in here, and some of the faux-wood trim must come from trees felled in the fabled far-off land of Walmartia. The gear indicator on the shifter seems to have been created using a bedazzler, and the combination of red-tinted gauges and Speak N’ Spell greenish digital readouts is more jarring than festive. Also, someone is clearly missing the steering wheel off their 2004 Chevy Malibu.

If that all sounds a bit harsh, this truck costs $62,115, and that is a heck of a lot of money for a seven-seat vehicle with a V6 in it. It’s much better inside than the old one, but there are certainly improvements to be made, especially at this price point. Speaking of which, the onboard touchscreen navigation is straightforward to use, but the screen is a little too small, and occasionally slow to respond.

I’d also say the screen is mounted a tad low for easy use of the navigation. GM’s small haptic buttons drive people nuts in Cadillac’s CUE system, and they’ll drive ya’ nuts here. There is neither keyless entry, nor a push-button starter, but there is some useful technology at hand. A full-on three-prong plug near the rear seats and a pair of USB power outlets keep the tablets charged and the back seats quiet. Pop open the power rear tailgate, and you’ll find a set of redundant stereo controls mounted on the right panel, perfect for cranking some tunes while car-camping.




About Brendan McAleer

Brendan McAleer is a Vancouver-based automotive writer, a member of AJAC and a ginger.