Getting into the driver’s seat of the 2012 GMC Acadia Denali for the first time to drive it home through a Manhattan rush hour was, on the onset, nerve wracking, but the solidness of the ride soon assuaged any fears. It’s not so much the streets of Manhattan that are terrible – although there are some bone-jarring potholes on the West Side Highway that the Acadia glided over – but more so the notorious yellow cabs that break, turn, and insist on getting in your lane despite the fact you are already in it that inspire anxiety. The manouverability of what I first perceived to be a land-boat crossover vehicle was impressive – smooth and easygoing, responsive, no stiffness in the rack-and-pinion steering, no lurching around due to size. Changing lanes in tight traffic wasn’t the challenge I thought it would be with an almost-17 foot long vehicle. With a 40.4 foot turning circle, I had no problems with U-turns on wider roads, or managing a three-point turn on smaller two-lane roads.
Taking it out to the country for a day at upstate polo grounds and horse stables improved my impressions of the Acadia. A new feature of the 2012 Acadia, standard on all trim levels, is hill-hold assist braking technology. What this means is that the brakes are applied for 1.5 seconds after the driver’s foot leaves the brake on a downhill incline of 5% or more. Speed and momentum on the downhill were noticeably reduced driving on the highway; on the other end of the spectrum, the 3.6 liter V-6 variable valve timing (VVT), 288 horsepower engine producing 270 lb.-ft. of torque didn’t lack for power driving uphill or accelerating to pass other vehicles.
GM’s StabiliTrack system comes standard in the Acadia, and is responsible for enhancing the driver’s control of the vehicle in adverse conditions – one such condition being snow. As luck would have it, Mother Nature threw in a rare October snowstorm – perfect for testing the StabiliTrack. Driving on the snow, swerving to avoid fallen trees, and maintaining control of the vehicle when driving into and out of snow ruts was reassuringly easy – a safe, confident drive in extreme weather. Maintaining Traction while staying at an average speed of 30 mph had me actually passing vehicles crawling in the inclement weather. Sitting high in a crossover already increases the view of the road and surroundings, and the SLT and Denali trim levels of the Acadia include an outside mirror with blind-zone spotting, adding to visibility in such a challenging blizzard situation. On-Star also comes standard, as well as roof-mounted curtain side airbags for added rollover safety and pelvic-thorax seat-mounted side air bags as safety features.