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The 2019 GMC Acadia Denali is quieter and more luxurious than any SUV in its class

Mack Hogan | CNBC GMC Acadia Denali

I'm no stranger to General Motors' trio of three-row crossovers. I was impressed by the Enclave in 2017. I called the Traverse the best mainstream SUV of 2018. And now, in 2019, GM once again nails it with the GMC Acadia.

While all three used to be corporate triplets, the newest-generation Acadia moves to a smaller platform that it shares with the two-row Cadillac XT5. That means it's smaller than before, but it's also quieter more and more premium than anything else in its class.

Here's what you need to know about the 2019 GMC Acadia Denali.

The Good

GMC Acadia Denali Mack Hogan | CNBC GMC Acadia Denali

The Acadia feels like a luxury SUV on the road. I'm not sure if that stems from the premium roots or GM's generally competent engineering these days, but the Acadia is a buttoned-down highway cruiser with composed and direct handling.

It's whisper-quiet, well-built and devoid of any chintziness that would betray its mainstream positioning. The 3.6-liter V-6 is a GM mainstay, not particularly impressive but smoothly delivering 310 horsepower without too much fuss.

GMC Acadia Denali Mack Hogan | CNBC GMC Acadia Denali

Plus, the top-spec Denali trim offers all of the equipment you'd expect from a luxury SUV. The panoramic moonroof, adaptive cruise control, a Bose stereo and parking sensors all around were some of of my favorite features.

GMC Acadia Denali Mack Hogan | CNBC GMC Acadia Denali

All in, my tester stickered for $52,170. Considering that, it'd be ambitious to label the Acadia Denali as "cheap." In the context of the segment, though, it's a great deal. I tested the similarly outfitted Enclave and, although it's bigger and quieter, it has a more expensive $59,435 price. The Infiniti QX60 costs more than $65,000, and I think the Acadia rides and drives better.

The Bad

GMC Acadia Denali Mack Hogan | CNBC GMC Acadia Denali

There are fewer seats than you may expect. With only two seats in the third row and captain's chairs in the middle, the Acadia is fit for only six passengers. The Enclave and Traverse offer three-passenger third rows, meaning they can fit seven with captain's chairs and eight with a three-seat middle row.

The Traverse also hauls 98.2 cubic feet of cargo with all seats flat, a dramatic improvement over the Acadia. If you need to haul a lot of people or stuff, you may be better off with one of the two other GM offerings. Also, while the Acadia drives like a luxury SUV and is equipped like one, it is decidedly pedestrian inside. Most of the Denali's interior is different shades of gray plastic.

GMC Acadia Denali Mack Hogan | CNBC GMC Acadia Denali

The knobs and buttons are rubberized, which helps grip and usability but doesn't scream "luxury." MyLink infotainment is still great, but it's just as great in any rental-spec Terrain as it is in this $52,170 Acadia Denali.

Finally, the bones may feel more upscale than the Traverse, but the powertrain doesn't. Both cars use the same 3.6-liter V-6, but the Acadia makes do with a six-speed automatic while the Traverse offers a nine-cog box. The result is that both are rated for 17 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway.

How you should configure it

GMC Acadia Denali Mack Hogan | CNBC GMC Acadia Denali

Acadias start at $29,995. You don't want the base model, but the high-end Denali isn't the best value, either. I recommend the SLT-2 model, which gets you a lot of premium options and ensures you'll have the bigger motor and all-wheel drive.

If you want anything but white, you'll spend at least $395 on paint. You can definitely skip the "performance ride and handling" suspension, but the Dual SkyScape two-panel moonroof is worth the $1,400 price. Most of the other options are small-ticket stuff, but I'd skip all of them.

As configured, you're getting a well-mannered and well-equipped SUV suitable for six adults for $46,690.

Final Thoughts

GMC Acadia Denali Mack Hogan | CNBC GMC Acadia Denali

The Acadia is a fantastic cruiser, a competent hauler and an impressive package. While it doesn't offer the space of the Traverse, it feels and looks more luxurious. Bigger families are better served by either a larger SUV or a minivan, but the Acadia is a great option for a two- or three-child household.

Rating:

Exterior: 4

Interior: 3

Driving Experience: 5

Value: 4

Overall: 4

Price as tested: $52,170

'We will do what maximizes shareholder value,' says GM CEO 'We will do what maximizes shareholder value,' says GM CEO


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