If your family has outgrown its standard five-passenger vehicle, and you just can’t muster the strength to purchase a minivan, you’ve likely begun to consider a large crossover SUV. With better fuel economy than a truck-based SUV, three-row passenger utility and respectable towing prowess, the 2015 GMC Acadia is quite capable and appealing.
One of the Acadia’s signature calling cards is its smooth and quiet ride. Unlike some massive truck-based (body-on-frame) SUVs, it can be driven daily on pitted freeways and uneven asphalt in comfort. Along those highways, you’ll be able to carry quite a bit of luggage, too, as the Acadia has one of the most spacious interiors in the class. The Acadia slots between its platform-mates (the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse) in terms of luxury and price, but it is still considerably well equipped and seriously spacious. And while the Acadia isn’t a heavy-duty hauler, it can still haul up to 5,200 pounds when properly equipped, a respectable number in the crossover segment.
Because they’re so mechanically similar, the Enclave and the Traverse deserve a look as well. They essentially provide identical capabilities to the GMC with slightly varying equipment and aesthetics. The sporty 2015 Mazda CX-9, the wagonlike 2015 Ford Flex, the handsome 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe or the well-rounded 2015 Toyota Highlander are all worth checking out as well. The 2015 GMC Acadia is right in the mix, though, and it’s a great choice if serious cargo capacity, a cozy drive and seating for eight are your priorities.
The 2015 GMC Acadia delivers a nice balance between secure handling and a cozy ride. Even so, you’re always aware that this is a large, heavy vehicle, and it feels a little more cumbersome in the parking lot and around turns than other three-row crossovers.
The V6 engine has enough power to get the Acadia up to speed on the highway but it lacks punch during authoritative passing maneuvers, especially when full of cargo and passengers. It can also sound harsh and unrefined under hard acceleration. In addition, the automatic transmission can be slow to react when a quick downshift is needed, though its gearchanges are at least smooth. Most owners will get used to these characteristics, but if you want more in the way of performance, a CX-9 or Flex is probably more your speed.
The 2015 GMC Acadia is a large crossover SUV offered in three basic trims: SLE, SLT and Denali. The SLE and SLT are further subdivided into SLE-1, SLE-2, SLT-1 and SLT-2 trims.
An eight-passenger seating configuration with a second-row bench seat is standard on the base SLE-1 and optional on the rest, which have a standard seven-passenger configuration with second-row captain’s chairs.
The SLE-1 comes standard with 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, rear privacy glass, keyless entry, cruise control, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, OnStar telematics, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a 6.5-inch touchscreen display and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, a USB port and an auxiliary sound jack. There are also dual USB charge-only ports on the rear of the center console.
On top of the SLE-1’s equipment the SLE-2 adds remote car start, a power liftgate, an eight-way power driver seat (with two-way lumbar), a two-way power passenger seat (manual recline), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and the Intellilink electronics interface that includes voice controls, Bluetooth sound connectivity and smartphone app integration.
Further up the ladder, the SLT-1 adds 19-inch wheels, foglamps, variable-effort steering, heated mirrors, tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery in the first and second rows (third row vinyl), heated front seats, an eight-way power passenger seat, rear-seat sound controls with headphone jacks and a 10-speaker Bose sound system.
The SLT-2 adds power-folding mirrors (with a driver-side auto-dimming mirror), driver memory functions, a heated steering wheel and access to additional options. These add-ons include ventilated front seats and the Technology package, which includes xenon headlights, a head-up display and cargo area sound controls.
The Denali includes all of the SLT-2’s optional items, plus unique styling flourishes inside and out, 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, dual exhaust tips, a panoramic sunroof, forward collision alert system, lane departure warning system, increased sound insulation, a wood-trimmed steering wheel and a navigation system.
That sunroof is optional on all other Acadia trims except the SLE-1. The SLT trims and the Denali can also be equipped with a rear-seat entertainment system that includes a Bose surround-sound sound system, a 120-volt power outlet and a navigation system.
The Acadia features an attractive interior, as most of the surfaces you’re likely to touch or lean an elbow on are padded and of solid quality. Most three-row vehicles have extremely limited rearward visibility, and the Acadia is no exception. As such, the standard rearview camera is a huge help.
IntelliLink controls the entertainment, phone and navigation functions in most Acadia models. It provides smartphone radio app integration and features a clean layout and intuitive menu structure but it is sometimes slow to process touch inputs (and in a few instances, wholly unresponsive), which can make it frustrating to use.
Front occupants will enjoy abundant head- and legroom, as will most second-row occupants, but the middle row seat cushions are mounted low, reducing comfort for adults. Sliding those seats all the way back alleviates this issue, but effectively kills third-row legroom. Getting to the third row is reasonably easy, even if the second-row slide/release is difficult to access. The third row is actually roomy enough for two adults to fit in comfortably (as long as second-row occupants are generous), though it’s realistically best suited for those of smaller stature or children. This is especially true if you want to fit three across.
When it comes to cargo space, the Acadia is definitely a leader in its class. Even with the third-row seats in place, it can carry up to 24.1 cubic feet of luggage. That figure jumps to 70.1 cubes with the third-row seats folded flat and a cavernous 116.1 cubes with the second row stowed.
Standard safety equipment on the Acadia includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, a rearview camera and rear parking sensors. All but the SLE-1 also have an innovative front-center airbag that inflates between the driver and right front passenger for additional protection in a side-impact collision.
The standard OnStar system includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, an emergency button, stolen car locator and active intervention, and remote door unlock.
The SLT-2 and Denali also feature standard side blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert. The Denali comes standard with forward collision alert and lane-departure warning systems, which are optional on the SLTs.
In government crash tests, the Acadia earned a top five-star rating for overall performance, with five out of five stars for total front-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Acadia was given the highest rating of "Good" in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Every 2015 GMC Acadia is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine. In the Denali it produces 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, while in the SLE and SLT trims it produces 281 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are standard, and all-wheel drive is optional.
In SUVS performance testing of the related Buick Enclave (with 288 hp and all-wheel drive), we measured a 0-60 miles per hour time of 8.6 seconds, which is average among large crossovers with a base V6. Properly equipped, the Acadia can haul up to 5,200 pounds.
The EPA estimates a front-drive Acadia will return 19 miles per gallon combined (17 city/24 highway). All-wheel-drive Acadias also get 19 miles per gallon combined but drop by 1 miles per gallon on both city and highway ratings (16/23).
Compliant drive quality; massive cargo area; seating for up to eight passengers; top crash test scores.
With a big cargo hold, a cozy drive and generous standard features, the three-row 2015 GMC Acadia ably meets the needs of crossover SUV shoppers. It’s one of our top picks.