As a vehicle, the Acadia Denali is a nice piece. The sound control measures make a noticeable difference in the interior noise level, though the change has the unfortunate consequence of making it obvious that the door windows were not part of the upgrade. The ride is smooth and quite comfortable for such a large vehicle on 20-inch wheels. In fact, some editors remarked that it was actually better than a substantially more expensive Cadillac Escalade also at the office rolling on 22s. Handling, on the other hand, had us sliding out of the thinly bolstered seats, but this isn't a sports car and was never meant to be one.
GM's 288-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 offered up nice, smooth, linear power that had the big SUV gliding easily down the road like a V-8 of years past. Unfortunately, it also drinks gas like V-8s of years past. Despite EPA ratings of 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway for our all wheel-drive tester, a mix of city and highway driving returned no better than 14 mpg after two weeks on the job. We're more inclined to pin the blame on its nearly 5000-pound curb weight than on its smooth-shifting six-speed automatic, which was always eager to get to top gear.
This is where things start to come apart. As good as the Acadia Denali is, everyone who drove it came away wondering if it was $50,000 good. Aside from the cringe-inducing fuel economy, editors were quick to point out a cabin that wasn't up to its price point. While the plastic quality isn't bad, the only soft-touch materials to be found were on the arm rests. Everything else was rock-hard plastic. Embedded in it was GM's old DVD-based navigation system, which is easily outclassed by the latest equipment on the market, including GM's own work.
Then there were the little things. How is it you can get a power-retracting sunroof shade on a $22,000 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, but not on a $50,000 GMC? Why can I get technology like blind spot warning systems on a $25,000 Ford Fusion, but not on a $50,000 GMC? Why does this "wood finish" trim on the center stack look like it came out of the $24,000 Suzuki Grand Vitara we tested two years ago? Why are the controls for the in-gauge displays on the center stack, the heads-up display controls on the dash below the instrument cluster, and the odometer reset in the cluster? Why can't we get one-touch windows all around? How is it that Ford and Dodge can both offer multiple engine options and a power-folding third-row in their less-expensive Explorer and Durango, but GMC can't? Or a steering wheel heater. Or voice-activated nav and stereo controls. Or adaptive cruise control.