HYBRID-LIKE SUV PROVIDES AN ESPECIALLY QUIET RIDE
Vehicle sets stage for smooth travels, but drab interior doesn’t justify hefty price tag
The engine started with a quiet hum. But as our 2018 GMC Acadia Denali tester pulled away, the V-6 engine reverted to electric mode, the forward propulsion as quiet as every other EV I’ve driven. I didn’t even know GMC built an Acadia hybrid, and I felt dumb for not knowing.
Or did it? The brakes didn’t feel hybrid-touchy. Engine response was quick and acceleration sharp. The cacophony of clicks, ticks and whirrs that so commonly accompany a hybrid were absent. Fuel economy, however, showed a “best” of 7.5 L/100 km, so this had to be a hybrid, right?
Well, no. But that is how quiet the Acadia Denali truly is whenever gentle throttle is applied. Sure, there’s a muted snarl from the engine and exhaust when the pedal gets smashed, but the overall sensation of driving the new Acadia is one of remarkable quiet. On the highway, some hum from the Michelin tires on 20-inch wheels could be detected, but that’s the only time any unwanted sounds filtered into an otherwise seriously cocooned cabin.
The engine, a 3.6-litre V-6 with 310 horsepower and 271 poundfeet of torque, wasn’t quite hybrid-like in its fuel economy, but was quite respectable at 9.6 L/100 km in highway driving and about 13 in the city. That was helped by an active fuel-management system and cylinder deactivation that, unlike earlier versions, is never detectable. That’s not bad, given the size of this SUV, and the 83-L tank displayed a range of more than 900 km when full. Fuel economy could have been even better if GM had opted for an eight-speed automatic transmission over the standard six-speed unit. It hovered around 2,000 rpm at 120 km/ h, but the six-speed works effortlessly and it can tow 4,000 lbs. on the factory hitch.
Passing power could use a pinch more punch, though never did the Acadia feel underpowered. Some torque steer can be felt through the wheel in 2WD mode at full throttle, but it’s mitigated by quick and surprisingly precise electronic steering. Around bends and corners, the steering feels mostly accurate with some feedback, and it soaks up bumps and cracks with aplomb.
The suspension, too, was very good at absorbing the endless aberrations in asphalt of Ottawa and Eastern Ontario. Our test unit came with optional “continuously variable ride control” that adjusts damping forces every two milliseconds. It seems to work, as the ride was pleasing regardless of road condition. The Acadia even held corners better than expected of a 4,154-lb. vehicle, which is 700 lbs. less than the previous-generation Acadia.
Part of that weight loss came from cutting dimensions: The new Acadia is about 15 centimetres shorter than the old, and it no longer looks like a large rhino. The new shape still doesn’t give the Acadia the most commanding presence; the look is like a large station wagon, though it’s way more pleasing to the eye than any Acadia before, especially when in Denali trim. However, the optional “moulded assist steps” and roof rack crossbars are definite eyesores, and the steps only seem to hinder access. My 85-year-old mother-in-law didn’t even bother to use the tiny steps when she exited from the third row.
That she could fit in the third row shows those seats aren’t just for little kids, although access to them isn’t as good as a Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander or Subaru Ascent. Middle-row seats can be optioned as captain’s chairs for a 2+2+2 configuration.
Cargo room is good. With all seats folded, 2,237 L is ample, as is the 1,181 L behind the second row. Rear seat legroom is more than adequate, and a heightadjustable power tailgate is handy.
The seats are comfortable and the leather of good quality, but the driver seat squeaked a little. Front seats are heated and cooled, while the rear seats are heated, and rear passengers get their own climate controls. Up front, the A-pillars are particularly big, hindering visibility a bit in the corners. Controls are either by touch on the eightinch infotainment screen that responds quickly most of the time, or by clearly visible and easily accessible buttons and knobs.
Apple CarPlay and built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi is nice. A drive mode selector, in the form of a dial just forward of the centre armrest, switches the drivetrain from 2WD to AWD, or to suit various conditions of road, such as snow or sand. But the display is almost impossible to see because the lettering is small and poorly illuminated.
Digital instrumentation more than makes up for it, though. The primary display is attractive, clear and informative. Wood trim is apparently real — but it doesn’t look or feel like it — and the interior overall is not nearly as appealing as the ride and hybrid-like quiet, especially for a vehicle that stickers at $63,210 before fees.
The 2018 GMC Acadia Denali drives as smooth as can be, but isn’t perfect.
The 2018 GMC Acadia Denali interior leaves much to be desired.
The 2018 GMC Acadia Denali dashboard display is clear and informative.