Who knew that Volvo’s line of boxy station wagons and Detroit’s big boat wagons would morph decades later into a popular sub-genre of boxy family haulers on stilts: the modern three-row SUV. Those Volvo wagons offered efficiently shaped bodies, while those massive domestic wagons were the ultimate family haulers before minivans hit the scene, offering up the space and inherent safety of a larger and heavier vehicle, in a package seemingly made to conquer long distance family road trips.
Handling or driving fun was nowhere near the top of attributes of either of these vehicles.
And so it is now with the 2015 GMC Acadia, where generous space, luxury features and family comfort trumps all, especially in this top-of-the-line Denali version. This is a pampering seven or eight-seat crossover that revels in offering much of the creature comforts of a Cadillac, but with a muted – but still present – bling factor.
That bling factor on the Denali includes plenty of bright chrome work, including the near vertical grille, body sides, door handles, rear bumper, roof rails and the snazzy 20-inch wheels, with sleek metallic trim below the headlights that help modernize its face. Thus fully accessorized, it’s one of the toughest vehicles to be stuck behind without sunglasses. But these flashy accents and an upright front end are piled onto a conservatively square-ish overall body shape, its straight-edged style subtly pumped up with swollen fenders, its large P255/55HR20 touring tires and wheels not quite filling them fully.
The largely straight edges of the body promise plenty of interior room, and the full-size Acadia does not disappoint. Overall passenger volume is slightly more than the Ford Explorer, significantly more than the Toyota Highlander, but somewhat smaller than the cubic-to-the-max, built-in-Canada Ford Flex. This is GM’s minivan replacement, along with its Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave corporate siblings, so it has to be practical. Its third row disappears into a nicely flat floor, the second row folds forward and out of the way for easy third-row access, and there’s still a class-leading 682 L worth of cargo space with all three rows up.
The Acadia Denali driver sits up high in a commanding throne position, with a nice high centre armrest that makes it easy to keep both hands on the wheel with elbows resting on cushioned supports. Our tester’s interior appeared to have had a run in with a white paint can, or perhaps a painter unaware of having brushed up against their own handiwork. The cabin otherwise seemed of high quality to the eyes and touch, with wood accents on the steering wheel and centre console, lovely arctic-imitating cooled seats up front, plus a heated steering wheel and outboard seats in the first two rows, leaving only the third row occupants with chilly bums come winter.
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Speaking of seats, wide bodies will have no problem finding a comfortable position in either the front or rear captain’s chairs. Those wide perches and standard leather means there’s some noticeable torso sliding with any mildly enthusiastic cornering, so the driver will quickly learn to brace themselves with their left leg on highway ramps. This tester came with two captain’s chairs in the second row, with three across seating available if you’d like to forego the centre console back there.