August 18, 2011

It's been one week... GMC Acadia Denali Review

love that skyline...

It's been one week since I last drove the lovely carbon black metallic GMC Acadia Denali. If you've followed along, GM graciously let us use the vehicle for a week during our road trip to a river cabin in Michigan. I had never thought of myself as a car person, it's just not my cup of tea but I found I was a bit enamored. And actually being thoughtful about what and how I drive.

So, here are my thoughts about it!

It had been a few years since we last went car shopping, so a lot of the bells and whistles were new to me. Our car (a 2007 Kia Rondo) is simple and adequate for our needs as a family of 6. Definitely not roomy enough to go on a big trip, or even to tote a large stroller if we're all together, but most of the year when the kids are in school, I am just driving around myself and two (or now one!) other kid(s). We make do.

Driving the Acadia Denali was a treat, and it was fun to indulge for the week. (First things first- the 2011 Acadia Denali starts at about $44,000). (So imagine if you will that I or you can afford it, or something similar with the same awesome features.)

Like a glove: One thing that stands out the most to me is how I never once felt like I was driving someone else's car. It never felt awkward or like it didn't fit (see? match made in heaven!) I was very comfortable in the driver's side, passenger seat, and even in the middle aisle when Noah wanted to ride up front on our way home from Michigan.

OnStar: I had never had experience with OnStar before and was excited that we actually needed to use it to figure out how to get to our cabin before we even left our driveway. It was like we made a phone call on speakerphone inside the car, just by pushing a button. And a real live person took care of us. Then what they looked up loaded directly onto our GPS screen. This definitely came in handy when we were in areas of no cell service (yes I kept double checking the directions on my iPhone Google map!) I also found the GPS navigator's voice helpful when she would warn of traffic, its reason, and location.

rearview camera

Rearview Camera System: Genius. I had heard about the rear view video thing that you could use when in reverse- located right where the stereo/GPS screen was. While it can't take the place of still looking in all mirrors and being careful of anything that could be in the way, it offered a wonderful peace of mind. And was also kind of cool to see so much of what was behind you. If an object was too close (think parking or child walking behind) then an alarm would sound. I think I loved it most when exiting my driveway in a neighborhood filled with kids as well as the grocery store parking lot. I definitely miss this feature and wish I had it in my car. (Please note that the photos I took were staged and no child was ever in any harm!)

Satellite radio: Hello. Where have I been? I loved the options of listening to AM/FM, my iPod, or the satellite radio- we settled on Coffee House Radio for most of the trip. And yes, I do miss it!

Entertainment System:
We never used the DVD player even once! But I think that's awesome. Our traveling time was only about 4 hours or so one way, so really, the kids could busy themselves with napping or chatting or playing on their iPods or yeah, looking out the windows! If the trip had been a more lengthy one, we'd have tried out the DVD player for sure. But I love that even though it was there, we didn't need it, so we didn't have it on just to have it on. I think that if we had an entertainment system in our car we'd be the same way: for long trips only. Or when the kids are driving us crazy. (Hey, there are times, in Chicago traffic... yes.)

(usually there are a lot more groceries and stuff.)

Roomy-ness: I loved how spacious it felt. I am not even sure if the overall size was that much more roomy than we are used to, but it appeared to be. A sign of good design. And I definitely long to have a vehicle with three rows and STILL have room in the back for groceries or other large items. That is the main reason we took the Acadia on the trip, because our vehicle was too small.

"3-D" Head-Up Display*: Probably one of my favorite features was the "head-up display" that projects your speed, radio station, and more onto the windshield so you never have to take your eyes off the road. I love this! I honestly have never paid so much attention to how fast I was going until it was right there before my eyes. And since then, I am so much more aware of my speed. I just wish I had it displayed like that for me! (It's not really 3D, it just felt like it!)

Good for all kinds of driving: We drove it around our city, a small-ish easy town, we drove it up to Michigan on the highway, we drove it on gravel, then dirt roads, then the woodsy woods, even in the rain, and then on the last day, I took that baby into the city. It really is a lover of all roads, and the real test on Lake Shore Drive, moon roof open to see the beautiful skyline of downtown Chicago... a memory was made.

Please have mercy: I hope I'm not butchering this review. I'm thinking I am probably leaving big important things out like the size of the engine and other important automotive-speaky terms. But, I'm just going to keep it real.

Good for the feelings: Not just about the car, but the company... GM is in the business of honoring heroes and are looking for nominations if you happen to know someone deserving of recognition. Check out Driving The Midwest, Driving the Heartland, Driving the Southeast, and Driving the Northeast to find out about their projects for good nearest you. The winners and their nominees win some great prizes from GM!

GM provided me with a 2011 Acadia Denali, including a full tank of gas for my use for a whole week. (Yes I filled it up using my own money in between that time!) Please check out Driving The Midwest for more information about Our Town, Our Heroes. And be sure to scroll to the bottom right of that page to find a similar project going on if you're not in the midwest! Follow @DrivingMidwest on Twitter.

*edited to add! One of my favorite features, didn't mean to exclude from the original post!


  1. A butcher, you are not! You did a fine job reviewing the Acadia Denali - because you shared the things that stood out the most for YOU. And that counts. I think your readers would agree.

    Thanks for letting us see it through your eyes. And, I think it's admirable that you don't want the rear seat entertainment system on all the time! Sounds like you truly put it through its paces, on all types of terrain. It kind of takes a week to really get to know a vehicle, dontcha think?
    Thanks for your insight, your unvarnished opinion, and letting us know that the kids were, indeed, staged! :-)

  2. Oh my gosh this is the car I have been drooling over! We have an '06 Dodge Durango with quite a few bells and whistles but I want the backup camera in our next vehicle more than anything. I'm sending a link of your review to my husband who thinks we MUST have a Suburban next to fit the kids, dogs and stuff.

  3. Great review! My car always has the coffee house station on!

  4. We have a 2010 Acadia and love it! We were not car people in Seattle - we had one car, my paid for 1995 Ford Escort wagon, which we still have and use if we need it. But when we moved to Idaho and had baby #2, we wanted something versatile and safe and we ended up with our Acadia. And I LOVE my backup camera. :)

  5. I have always said that someone should make the speed show up on the windshield, that is awesome

  6. In preparation for the twins, we bought a 2011 minivan (different manufacturer, so I won't say which) that has a lot of the same features and I LOVE it! LOVE the rear camera, love the sat. radio (it's free for us for 1 year and they've already got me convinced I'll have to subscribe), and tons more. The thing practically drives itself. It sounds like you had a similar experience. If we weren't really set on having automatic sliding side doors we would have definitely considered the Acadia. - Jen


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