Mother Proof's view

A GMC Acadia is not a vehicle for the timid or shy, especially if you’re rocking the top-of-the-line 2012 GMC Acadia Denali. It’s big and blingy, and it does what it’s supposed to do incredibly well: It comfortably transports families.

Even for an extroverted momma like me, the Acadia Denali was a whole lotta car, but I can’t deny how easy it made daily life and how much I adored this behemoth. If you get behind the wheel of a 2012 Acadia Denali, just embrace the attitude on the road. Flaunt it with your family — well, at least that’s what I did.

If attitude and bling isn’t your thing, you still can reap the benefits of choosing a GMC Acadia as your family vehicle. To start, it’s a three-row SUV that can realistically transport seven passengers. Eight seats are optional. If you’re a family that shuns the minivan, the Acadia is a more than qualified stand-in, too.

Although the Acadia’s current look has been around for a while (the 2013 Acadia gets a redesign), it’s surprising how well it holds up today. Sure, some things are a little dated, but it drives well and its V-6 engine delivers plenty of power should you need it. I was relieved to find it didn’t have that “boaty-floaty” feeling on the road. It delivered a smooth, comfortable ride.

There are some learning curves to handling it on the road — most notably, using those blind spot mirrors — but it’s not as unmanageable as it seems due to its size. Even with the added blind spot mirrors, I still had some close calls when I didn’t notice a few cars in neighboring lanes. That shook my confidence considerably when driving on busy freeways and changing lanes.

A base GMC Acadia starts at $33,660 including an $825 destination charge, but my top-trim level front-wheel-drive Denali model in all of it’s over-the-top glory costs $49,615.

The GMC Acadia Denali’s boxy exterior is starting to show its age, especially when compared to the forward-thinking design of the Ford Flex or the sleekness of the Mazda CX-9, which are two of its competitors.

But the Denali’s chrome details still manage to turn more than a few heads. Its large grille, shiny wheels and big stature command respect on the road, which could have a direct impact on the respect you start commanding on the road as well. One thing’s for certain — it’s still a vehicle with both mom and dad appeal. The Acadia Denali comes off as masculine from some angles, but there are some elegant design touches and considerable bling that lends potential to a fight for the keys.

The exterior’s design has potential to cause a few problems for families, though. It’s on the tall side, so small children, as well as short or less-limber adults, may need a real step-up to get inside. The doors are heavy, too. Perhaps a little exertion can just add to the family’s fitness regime? Fortunately, there was a power liftgate that added convenience to loading up the cargo area.

With the third row folded, the cargo area is an enormous 68.9 cubic feet. It can handle just about anything you’d need to pack. I immediately thought how great this space could be for a camping trip or even a mom in charge of the snack shack at Little League games. As usual, using the third row significantly shrinks the cargo area behind it, but even with the third row up, my stroller fit in the back (on its side), or I had enough room for a shopping trip. Underneath the cargo floor is additional storage compartments that I loved. I could stow my reusable shopping bags, picnic blanket and first-aid kit without sacrificing valuable cargo space.

If you are in the market for an Acadia, your needs for transporting passengers and gear most likely outweigh fuel economy. With its 288-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine, the Acadia gets an EPA-estimated 17/24 mpg city/highway. I definitely felt the sting during my test week as I was primarily in the city. However, when my family took a day trip and logged just over 200 miles mostly on the highway, we managed to stay just above the Acadia’s combined city/highway estimate of 19 mpg. Fortunately, the Acadia just requires regular gasoline.

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times

I’m hard-pressed to think of many negatives when it comes to the Acadia Denali’s interior. The SUVs versatility and functionality won me over despite a few aesthetic issues.

To begin, the Acadia’s second-row captain’s chairs are some of the best. They’re easy to slide forward and back, which makes for excellent access to the third row. A further bonus of the captain’s chairs is third-row access between the seats. This is especially useful if you’ve got child-safety seats installed in the second row. The biggest surprise? Fold down a captain’s chair and that flat surface becomes a great changing table on the run! If you need room for eight, the captain’s chairs can be replaced with an optional three-seat bench.

I didn’t have a huge need for a third row, so most of the time I folded a portion of its 60/40-split seats to accommodate a passenger along with my stroller. Third-row passengers in an Acadia are afforded more legroom than in most three-row vehicles, but I’m not sure that full-sized adults would enjoy extended trips in the last row.

Everybody had a lot of legroom in the Acadia. There’s ample storage for all in addition to the cargo area. With eight cupholders and bottleholders, a deep glove box, a covered bin on top of the dash, a center console and seatback pockets for the second row, everyone can bring what they want along for the ride.

Thanks to generous room between the front and second rows, my front passenger could stretch his legs and recline the seatback a bit, even with a rear-facing child-safety seat behind him. Second-row passengers in my upgraded Denali also enjoyed their own heated seats, air vents and wireless headphones to watch a movie on the rear entertainment system.

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

The 2012 GMC Acadia has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It received the top score of Good in IIHS’ front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. It also earned an overall safety score of five stars out of five from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It received four stars out of five in frontal and rollover crash tests and five stars in side crash tests.

Installing child-safety seats in the Acadia’s captain’s chairs was easy. The two sets of lower Latch anchors in the second row are out in the open and easy to access. I especially liked that the captain’s chairs can slide forward so you can reach little ones. It’s disappointing that the Acadia does not offer Latch anchors in the third row. With so much room to haul passengers, it seems like a major oversight.

The 2012 Acadia Denali has standard front-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control and anti-roll control, a backup camera, parking sensors and six airbags, including side curtains for all three rows. A one-year subscription to OnStar is also standard. All-wheel drive is optional.

Get more safety information on the 2012 GMC Acadia Denali here.

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