GM’s Mid-Size SUVs Get a Re-Do

2014 GMC Acadia.

2014 GMC Acadia.

Even a vehicle that’s well done right out of the box needs an update after a few years on the market. Styling should be tweaked to keep the appearance fresh, and features that have come along need to find their way in.

A perfect example is the trio of full-size crossover SUVs from General Motors, which were introduced for 2007 to slot in below the big truck-based models. For 2014, the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave have gotten some improvements to stay competitive. (One of the original four is gone, however. The Saturn Outlook didn’t make it out of the GM reorganization, since the Saturn brand was killed.)

The big news when these three-row family haulers debuted was that they would be a roomier and more efficient alternative to the body-on-frame models like the Chevy Trailblazer and GMC Envoy. A front wheel drive architecture and V6 engine meant respectable fuel economy, along with seating for up to eight passengers.

Sales have been strong from the get-go, and the refreshing for ’14 will keep the vehicles competitive until a full redesign occurs in a few years. GM isn’t giving up on the large Tahoe, Suburban and Yukon, as all-new versions of those will debut early next year, But many buyers want something a bit smaller and less fuel thirsty, and the Acadia, Enclave and Traverse fit the bit for them.

I got a turn in a 2014 Acadia Denali, which is the top of the line in the GMC version of them. You can get nearly all GMC’s vehicles in Denali trim, which includes nicer interiors, more standard features and more shiny parts on the outside. On the full-size Yukon, for example, the Denali grade puts it pretty close in luxury to the Cadillac Escalade.

And in the Acadia, the Denali somewhat leapfrogs the Buick Enclave, though they’re geared toward different buyers. The Buick stays a little more restrained, while the GMC has a bit of that “look at me!” vibe going for it. I can tell you one thing: the Acadia Denali lacks for nothing in the upscale SUV marketplace.

Perforated leather seats are part of the package, and the heated and cooled front buckets are very comfortable. Second row buckets are standard, and three more can sit in the third row. If you need space for eight, choose the bench second row in your Acadia for three-across seating.

Technology has advanced since the Acadia was first launched in 2006 (as a 2007 model), and the new Denali I drove had many electronic safety features built in. Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning are among the things that will entice buyers who are cross-shopping it with the competition.

Though I did have one gripe with the lane departure warning system. On a street I regularly travel, the lanes are fairly narrow due to there being three on each side where there originally were two, which makes them pretty narrow. Time and time again, the system would beep when I was merely threading my way through the dogleg curve, even though I was staying in my lane. Fortunately, the system can be switched off.

As a day-in and day-out family vehicle, the Acadia works very well. The direct-injected 3.6 liter V6 engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. And while the power and torque figures (288 hp and 270 lbs-ft) aren’t segment leading, drivability is excellent. Fuel economy is respectable considering the size and weight, with EPA figures for the front wheel drive model at 17 city and 24 highway. You lose one mpg if you choose the all wheel drive version.

The 2014 GMC Acadia starts at just over $35,000 for a pretty good level of standard equipment. But, start climbing the trim ladder and you’re getting into pricier territory with each step. The top-grade Denali fully optioned and equipped with all wheel drive will set you back over $50,000.

Considering the basic vehicle is now more than seven years old, the updates for 2014 keep the Acadia amazingly fresh and stylish.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ Twitter: @ABC7DaveKunz, Facebook: ABC7DaveKunz

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