On The Road: 2020 GMC Acadia AWD Denali

2020 GMC Acadia Denali
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2020 GMC Acadia Denali

By Peter Perrotta

Having grown up on the grimy streets of the Bronx, I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert outdoorsman. I don’t know how to hunt or fish.

But, on the other hand, having now lived the majority of my life in South Jersey, I do know my way around the pristine Pinelands, where I have hiked and biked.

So, with that in mind, I was able to use my learned skills during the one week I recently road tested the 2020 GMC Acadia AWD Denali.

I took it off road in the Pines on a hiking adventure, where its AWD “off road” gear passed the test admirably. This Denali chewed up the sandy, rough Pines trails admirably.

On a separate sojourn, with the second and third rows folded, I fit my specialized hybrid bike, easily and without struggling, into the rear cargo area – no need for a bike carrier. I took off for the Schuylkill River Trail in Philly.

It was quite easy to take the bike in and out of the back of this Acadia without much struggle.

This six seat SUV is one of those rugged, off road capable vehicles that also exhibits some of those “high life” qualities it takes its namesake from.

Acadia National Park in Maine is known for its splendid beauty. It’s mountain ranges feature some of the highest elevations along the Atlantic Highlands.

The Denali is the name of the highest mountain peak in the United States in Alaska.

“Alaska has long been a magnet for dreamers and misfits, people who think the unsullied enormity of the Last Frontier will patch all the holes in their lives,” wrote author Jon Krakauer in his riveting outdoor book, “Into the Wild.”

While this 2020 GMC Acadia AWD Denali won’t patch all of those holes in your life, its versatility will certainly fill a lot of the various needs the typical SUV buyer is looking for when they go shopping for a mid-sized, three row truck like this.

This SUV, like many in its class these days, is rugged enough to withstand the rigors of an active, multi-family use lifestyle. At the same time, it has some elegance and charm to it. The standard version of the Acadia Denali has enough high end technology and style inside to make it glamourous.

The Acadia is available in five models: SL, SLE, SLT, AT4 and the Denali.

The Denali I tested is the top of the line model that carries a base price of $48,300. With options and destination charges, the MSRP sticker price on my tester was $52,435.

The options include: a technology package ($1,795); a trailering package ($695); $495 for the Satin Steel Metallic paint and $1,195 for destination charge.

The trailering package includes: a rear camera mirror with washer; advanced adaptive cruise control; enhanced automatic emergency braking and HD surround vision.

There are three different engine options: a 2.0 liter, 4 cylinder turbo (230 horsepower); 2.5 liter, 4 cylinder (193 horsepower) and a 3.6 liter, V6 (310 horsepower).

My tester featured the 3.6 liter, V6 coupled with a new for this year 9 speed transmission. I found this engine and transmission combination to be very pleasant. This vehicle shifts smoothly and has more than enough power to make aggressive lane changes and quick highway passes.

Of the 2020 GMC Acadia Denali, Consumer Reports, writes: “The Acadia is a very pleasant three row SUV, particularly in the Denali trim. The ride is steady and composed, and handling is responsive”

I would wholeheartedly agree with CR on those points.

This year’s version of the GMC Acadia Denali was some significant changes.

First and foremost is the new exterior design look. It features a new rugged looking front grille and rear profile, which I find give it a more refined and less boxy look. It also has, this year, GMC’s newer “C-shaped” front headlights, which also give it a more elegant touch as well.

On the inside, one of the more noticeable changes, is the automatic gear shifter, which is now push button and located in front of the center console and below the center screen infotainment screen.

I must admit, this threw me for a loop when I first hopped in, but once I got used to it, it was no big deal.

Overall, the bold, geometric design of the interior of this Acadia is at first, not that appealing. But, like the face of the bulldog pup, it does grow on you.

The EPA fuel rating for this Acadia is 21 miles per gallon overall – 18 mpg in city driving and 25 on the highway. The average annual fuel cost comes in at $1,950 ,as it is rated at as using 4.8 gallons per 100 miles.

This vehicle has not been rated for the government’s 5-star safety crash test yet. At a base price of $48,300 this Denali comes chock full of some impressive standard equipment including: 20-inch, ultra bright, aluminum wheels; GMC infotainment system; navigation; 8-inch touch screen; remote start; heated leather seats and steering wheel; ventilated front driver and passenger seats; tri-zone climate control; power liftgate; front and rear park assist and a lot more.

As CR reports: “This family-friendly SUV is very quiet, the front seats are comfortable and the infotainment system is easy to use. The outboard second row seats can slide and tilt forward, even with a child seat in place.”

I would have to agree with the usually fair and unbiased CR.

Overall, my impression of the 2020 GMC Acadia Denali is quite positive. I feel that any consumer who is seriously considering an upscale, three row SUV of this size would be lax to not give it serious consideration.

Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. Comments are welcome. To contact him, email peter@capitalmotorcars.com