Dispatches from Denali: Getting to Know the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali

Sections: Chassis, Infotainment, Powertrain

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A 2013 GMC Acadia Denali sits on the tarmac at 8A3

The 2013 GMC Acadia Denali is ours to test for the week. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

In the final installment of the “My Week with Eq” series, I hinted that GM’s press fleet manager traded us up for something else. Ladies and gentlemen, that something else is the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali.

Having spent a couple days in the Acadia Denali at the time of this writing, I finally feel like I’ve got comfortable with the seven-passenger crossover. The step up in size from the Equinox was not too difficult to manage, but unlike the Equinox, I did not feel instantly at home in the Acadia despite its far nicer interior appointments. Mostly, it took me the better part of a day’s worth of routine commuting before I managed to position the eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat and power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel to my liking.

The GMC IntelliLink head unit in the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali

The 2013 GMC Acadia Denali’s IntelliLink touchscreen interface falls more readily to hand than the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox’s MyLink touchscreen we experienced last week thanks to its being mounted lower on a more upright dashboard. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

Despite that quibble, there are many more things about the Acadia Denali that instantly felt more “right” than my Equinox tester. For one, the center stack features GMC’s IntelliLink touchscreen infotainment interface, and it is positioned so that it is much easier to reach than the Equinox’s Chevrolet MyLink screen, which is positioned on a forward-canted dashboard and required me to lean up to press the buttons. By comparison, the Acadia Denali’s IntelliLink screen sits low and close to the shifter, where it falls much more readily to hand.

Another thing that felt instantly better after coming out of the Equinox and into the Acadia Denali: Throttle mapping. Routine driving around down no longer makes me feel either like a slug or like I’m abusing the gas pedal. For this I’d say thanks are due to the engine’s tuning. Though the Acadia has the same 3.6-liter V6 direct-injected gasoline engine as the Equinox LTZ we tested, it actually makes less power– the Equinox pumped out 301 horses to the Acadia Denali’s 288. However, the Acadia’s version makes its peak torque output of 270 ft-lbs at a fairly low 3,400 RPM, while the Equinox’s version makes a peak of 272 ft-lbs at a loftier 4,800 RPM. It was sometimes a challenge for me to dial-in the appropriate amount of throttle in the Equinox to keep up with city traffic pulling away from stoplights without racing the engine (and thus killing my fuel economy scores), but the Acadia Denali seems much more linear in its power delivery.

The instrument cluster in the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali with fuel economy display cued up

Though red gauge lighting is not my thing, the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali’s managed to be less offensive than some (here’s looking at you, Mazda) thanks to white accents on the numbers and symbols. Also, here you can see my fuel economy has not been as stellar as the Chevrolet Equinox LTZ V6 we tested last week, even though the Acadia has the same engine– and it actually makes less power than the one in the Equinox. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

I was hoping this combination of more-usable power delivery and lower-horsepower engine tuning would result in good fuel economy scores. After all, the Acadia Denali is rated at the same 23 MPG highway as the Equinox, according to EPA. That so far has not been the case, however. Driving the same routes in the same conservative manner as I drove the Equinox, which got a trip computer-reported 22-23 MPG, the Acadia Denali has fluctuated between 16 and 18 MPG so far in my testing. It is a larger, heavier vehicle than the Equinox, so perhaps that explains part of the difference. We’ll see how it performs on long highway cruises over the weekend, when we use it to ply Interstate 40 through Tennessee. Having watched my trip computer’s rolling MPG score creep up to its highest point (18.0 MPG) while on cruise control early in my testing, I’m betting this weekend will be when we finally achieve the EPA highway rating.

More Dispatches from Denali soon. Stay tuned!

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