2024 GMC Acadia First Drive Review: Big on character

2024 GMC Acadia First Drive Review: Big on character

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BLUFFTON, S.C. — The 2024 GMC Acadia is a revamped take on the brand’s popular three-row SUV. It’s quite a bit bigger than the outgoing model, with 8.4 more inches of wheelbase and 10.6 extra inches of overall length. That’s a huge boon to cargo space (up 80%), while also adding 27% to second-row legroom. Its new looks align more closely now with the GMC Sierra pickup, granting it a brawnier personality.

While it’s in many ways quite similar to the updated 2024 Chevrolet Traverse, (including in size, now) GMC did an admirable amount of design work to differentiate the Acadia from its close relative. The tall, truck-like grille gives the Acadia more presence than before, and the C-shaped LED headlights add character. Along the side, the chunky C-pillar is hidden from sight, while the D-pillar is expanded. This provides a better view for third-row passengers, and has the added benefit of obscuring the cargo area from onlookers. Around back, we see more LED lighting, as well as quad exhaust tips GMC said were inspired by the C8 Chevy Corvette, complete with their squarish shape. The overall look is more truckish, but it still has a sporty slant.


Under the skin, much is shared with its Chevy platform-mate. It sports the same new 2.5-liter turbo four producing 328 horsepower and 326 pound-feet of torque and shifts via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The engine employs the same “ePhaser” to adjust the camshaft on the fly to advance and delay the spark according to power and efficiency needs. And just like the Traverse, the front-wheel-drive Acadia gets 20 miles per gallon city, 27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined, or 19/24/21 mpg with all-wheel drive.

In addition to the base Elevation trim ($43,995 including destination, with AWD costing another $2,000), the Acadia boasts the more luxurious Denali trim ($55,695 for FWD and $57,695 for AWD), as well as the off-road-ready AT4 trim ($51,395 with AWD standard). We’ll have to wait to evaluate the feature content in the Elevation, but the Denali and AT4 were on hand for us to evaluate in South Carolina.

Our first stint in the Acadia was in the Denali. Getting inside, it’s immediately noticeable that the Acadia’s interior is a big step up over that of the Traverse. Up front, the centerpiece is the tech interface standard on all Acadia trims: a portrait-oriented 15-inch infotainment screen running Google Built-In, as well as an 11-inch driver display. The Denali also comes with a head-up display as standard. One feature that helped immensely (in both Acadias we drove) on unfamiliar roads was the ability to switch the instrument panel display to donate most of its real estate to mirror the Google Maps navigation, putting our directions directly in front of us while freeing up the infotainment screen for any other functions needed along the way. And, yes, this GM product still has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The rest of the Denali’s interior design is inviting, with leather seats boasting truly attractive stitching. There are still some grainy, hard plastics to be found, but they don’t dominate the cabin. We really like the look of the open-pore ayous wood trim, complete with the Denali name etched at the far end of the dash. The fairing that covers the driver’s side of the dash is interestingly shaped, with good character for an element that would otherwise be easily overlooked both by designers and consumers. Its big center console is open underneath for convenient storage, thanks to GMC relocating the drive selector from the console to the steering column. We also appreciate the big, sturdy HVAC toggles integrated at the bottom of the infotainment screen.

Standard across the lineup is a seven-passenger layout with second-row captain’s chairs; there is no bench seat option. The second row is quite roomy, with seats that adjust backward and forward to offer more room or to punish whomever is sitting behind you. The third row is fairly large, though. With the driver’s seat in my ideal driver position and a comfortable second-row position behind that, I squeezed my 6-foot self into the third row and found my knees touching the seatback ahead of me. With a couple of minor adjustments from the forward seats — ones that wouldn’t be asking too much of the other occupants — I could fit in the third row fairly comfortably. A kid would be right at home for long trips. Adults would at least appreciate the decent headroom.

You could carry a good amount of luggage for all those passengers. Cargo volume behind the third row checks in at a segment-beating 23.0 cubic feet, with a large under-floor bin as a bonus. If it’s just a family of four taking the trip, flattening the third row opens that up to 57.3 cubic feet. Fold all the seats down for a maximum 97.5 cubes, and you’ve got a decent moving vehicle. There’s also 5,000 pounds worth of towing capacity if you somehow run out of space inside the Acadia.

Our particular Denali tester was equipped with the standard 20-inch wheels, not the optional 22-inchers and the “performance suspension” included in the Denali Reserve Package. That upgraded suspension uses passive, frequency-based dampers that behave differently according to input from the road. It’s probably more important to have when rolling on the bigger tires with their shorter sidewalls, but the 20-inchers with the standard suspension proved just fine for our drive. We didn’t encounter some of the tire-flattening, cratered pavement we see up in Michigan, but the imperfections we did encounter passed under tire without complaint.