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2012 GMC Acadia Denali

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Mar 26, 2012

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2011 GMC Acadia Denali

2012 GMC Acadia Denali

We found the GMC Acadia Denali can do many things under many conditions; we can tell it to walk this way, talk that way. John Grafman reports. By John Grafman Some things in life fit into nice easy boxes in your brain. Those are easy to identify, classify, and categorize. As an example, take the Chevrolet Corvette. Just a quick glance and you know what it is, what it does, and how it relates to the rest of the automotive world, and the world in general. Now, try to use the same system on the 2012 GMC Acadia Denali. Good luck! First off, one has to be able to figure out what GMC is in the grand scheme of all GM brands. Right off the bat it gets confusing. Isn’t this the slightly upmarket product that slot in above Chevy, but doesn’t have the same refinement or options as a Cadillac? And if these are “Professional Grade” products made for work, then wouldn’t that be a cut below a Chevy, or is this for the Chevy owner that’s looking for all the function, plus a bit more in creature comforts? It’s confusing.

2011 GMC Acadia Denali

Now, the base Acadia is the get-in model, and it can be optioned up into this crème de la crème Denali version. So, is this an upgraded workhorse, or is this a premium SUV at a cut-rate price? In the plus column, the outward appearance of the Denali version is spot on. This looks expensive, classy enough for a night out, fashionable – but not so much that this will look dated in two years, and still it looks tough enough for when the work gets dirty. The Denali touch includes chrome honeycomb grille and monochromatic exterior. Combining those elements is a nod to the efforts at the GM’s design studios. The optional paint treatments, like the White Diamond Tricoat, look delicious on the Acadia. This really bring out the forms and accentuates the body almost enough to justify the $795 option. Some of the more noteworthy Denali cues include a unique lower front and rear fascias, body-color lower cladding, rocker molding, rear fascia and fender flares. Also featured are exclusive bodyside moldings with chrome accents, along with Denali badges. Rounding out the exterior package are dual chrome exhaust tips, and requisite dubs -twenty-inch two-tone chrome-clad six-spoke wheels. This upgraded package comes complete with high-intensity discharge headlamps, which are a must on any near luxury vehicle.

2011 GMC Acadia Denali

On the inside, the styling is also pleasing, to a point. I do notice that many of the radiuses on interior parts, such as the ones on the door grab/armrest, seem too tight. While that might seem trivial to some, the result is a hard edge on almost all corners. Also, it seems like all touch-points were designed for use with winter or work gloves on. On one hand, that’s great for those that need it, but rather odd for everyone else. The look of the interior is very handsome. However, the result of the upmarket Acadia Denali sharing the majority of surfaces with the base model Acadia is that the material quality is a lot less desirable than the sticker price suggests. Hard plastic abounds, and while it might be easy to clean, it still speaks of an inexpensive, lesser model. This does have many of the features one expects in an upmarket product. The Denali package comes chock full of goodies like Head-up Display (HUD), Dual SkyScape sunroof system - with sliding front sunroof and fixed rear section, heated and cooled leather-trimmed driver and passenger seats, perforated leather seats with matching leather door panel trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel with mahogany wood inserts, complementary woodgrain finish on the instrument panel and center stack, Illuminated sill plates, plus premium acoustics – laminated glass and liquid applied sound deadeners. The bottom line: Denali is more than a badge slapped on the body for marketing purposes.

2011 GMC Acadia Denali

One of the unexpected surprises is the second row of captain’s chairs. Sure, this means the loss of one occupant, as there are only two of these in the second row. What this means is easy access to and from the third row, and an open feeling not found in many products. Furthermore, it feels like an executive experience in the second row, and it keeps siblings isolated for a happier commute. Sadly, the carpet mats have a tendency of tripping those maneuvering in the cabin. As the seats fold and tumble there is enough room to handle almost any conceivable need most owners will have. Just aft of the third row is a trick feature that seems so American that it brings tears to a patriot’s eyes. Okay, perhaps I mean a New England Patriot’s fan that loves to tailgate. Along the inside rear panel are controls to override the audio system. Yes, this means all of the tailgating without the headaches of walking around the vehicle to change the station or volume. Brilliant. Now how is anyone going to work off all the beer consumed before a game? Getting over the material issues one finds a damn nice product. GM has indeed shown it prowess in chassis and suspension engineering on the Acadia Denali. No, we didn’t explore the off-roads hills or deserts in Southern California, but we did explore the badlands of the 405 and suburban hell of parking lots, congested Orange County streets from the residential areas of Costa Mesa to the ritzy Newport Beach costal areas. As most soccer mom’s never venture far from the pavement it’s only fair to cover the same terrain. The Denali is truly pleasing in the drive quality. Whoever was responsible for the suspension also deserves a cookie, and maybe even a raise. This does behave in a very controlled manner with far less sway and heaving that SUVs are infamous for. Even for those used to a sedan, this is pretty pleasing. Even the braking and steering feel confidence inspiring.


Similar to many competitors, this GMC has a back-up camera, which makes parking lots and backing out of garages a bit easier to negotiate. Nevertheless, this is a really large 7-seaterpeople mover (okay, the rear is seating is best for the small set if you truly want to stack more than six inside). The exterior styling downplays the size. So, getting in and out of parking lot with parking space at right angles to the lanes can require practice and patience. This is bigger than it looks. Another unexpected bonus is the 3.6-liter, V6 paired up with a 6-speed automatic transmission. This is refined and feels more than adequate for running around like an urban warrior. Maybe this isn’t as powerful as a larger V8, but when gas prices are reaching the stratosphere, it’s time to get smart. This does have a moderate towing ability of 5,200 pounds. The fuel economy isn’t at hybrid levels, but with an EPA rating of 17 city and 24 highway, this could be much worse. Given the size of this we thought the fuel economy would suffer, but riding solo helps. Other features on the Acadia not exclusive to the Denali model include outside mirrors with integral spotter for blind zone is now standard, AM/FM/CD stereo with MP3 playback capability and Bose 10-speaker sound system, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Tri-zone automatic climate control, Three-prong household-type power outlet, Bluetooth phone connectivity, Remote vehicle start and keyless entry, OnStar, and much more. We might not exactly be able to pidgin hole the Acadia Denali, as much as we’d like to. However, at least we can say this is really versatile. As always, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. So, we may never know whether or not this is a bull’s eye, or just shy of the target. What we are sure of is, this isn’t a miss! For more information about GMC products, go to


SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2012 GMC Acadia Denali Price: Base $43,880, as tested $48,820 Engine type: 3.6L V-6 VVT DI, dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, aluminum block and cylinder head EPA fuel economy rating: 17 city/24 highway miles per gallon Horsepower: 288 @ 6300 rpm Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 3,400 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / Front wheel drive (AWD 0ptional) Transmission type: Hydra-Matic 6T75 6-speed FWD/AWD automatic transmission Suspension Front: coil-over strut; direct acting stabilizer bar; full perimeter isolated cradle Rear: linked H-arm independent suspension; coil springs with twin-tube shock absorbers mounted on isolated sub-frame Wheels and tires: Front: Standard: 20 x 7.5-inch; chrome clad, P255/55R20 H-rated blackwall Rear: Standard: 20 x 7.5-inch; chrome clad, P255/55R20 H-rated blackwall Brakes: Front: 12.8 x 1.1” ventilated diameter Rear: 13 x 0.8” ventilated diameter Bosch 8.0 Chassis Controls: ABS / ETC / ESC w/rollover mitigation Overall length: 201.1” Overall width: 78.9” Overall height: 72.8” Curb weight (lb.): 4,720 FWD, 4,925 AWD

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