In 2017, almost one-third of all GMC trucks, crossovers and SUVs sold came in the brand’s highest trim level: Denali. This makes sense as the Denali lineup has grown from a single vehicle in 1999 to encompass GMC’s entire lineup for the 2019 model year from the compact Terrain all the way up to the full-size Yukon SUV and Sierra truck lineups. Right in the middle of all these models is the 2019 GMC Acadia Denali, which brings this bold, luxurious trim level to the popular mid-size crossover segment.
2019 GMC Acadia Denali Exterior
While many three-row crossovers look like bloated minivans, the 2019 GMC Acadia has a rugged, SUV-like shape. Part of this was accomplished by downsizing the dimensions making it far smaller than the outgoing Acadia and the current Enclave, but GM designers also gave this crossover a long hood and a long, flat roofline. This all helps give the Acadia a distinct styling from every angle, but the best view of this CUV is the profile where the thick C-pillars and blacked-out D-pillars (which gives the illusion of wrap-around rear windows) add a truly unique appearance.
It’s easy to tell the 2019 GMC Acadia Denali apart from other Acadias signature cues like the abundance of bright chrome, the big wheels and, of course, the bold, chrome grille. The Acadia Denali also upgrades to HID headlights with stylish LED accents, 20-inch six-spoke aluminum wheels and rectangular, chrome-tipped dual exhaust outlets. This tester came in Red Quartz Tricoat, which is a new premium color for 2019 and adds $495 to the bottom-line price. This color is a great accent to the Denali’s chrome trim and two-tone wheels.
2019 GMC Acadia Denali Interior
Although the smaller exterior dimensions make the cabin feel tighter than the previous Acadia (as well as the new Buick Enclave), the 2019 GMC Acadia is still comparable to rivals such as the Honda Pilot. A seven-passenger seating arrangement is standard, but the Denali opens up a little extra space with the second-row captain’s chairs. Matching the exterior, the 2019 GMC Acadia Denali also gets a cabin fitted with high-end materials, the latest cabin technologies and a dark, rugged style.
The 2019 Acadia Denali comes standard with dark, perforated leather on the seats and accent trim such as rich matte-finish wood and brushed aluminum, and the Denali logo embroidered into the headrests adds a nice touch. Standard features inside the Denali trim include heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, power tilt and telescoping steering column, OnStar 4G with LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot and a Denali-exclusive eight-inch color driver information center in the instrument gauge cluster. For added convenience, each row of seats offers USB charging ports for passengers to best enjoy their electronic devices on long trips.
Overall comfort is exceptional inside the 2019 GMC Acadia Denali thanks to standard three-zone climate control, and even though the third-row seats probably aren’t suited for adults on long trips, this is really no different from the third-row seats available in other mid-size CUVs. Between the smaller interior and the darker Denali colors, the $1,400 for the Dual SkyScape sunroof was as beneficial to adding a luxurious view as it was to adding a more open feeling to the cabin. Since GMC’s motto is professional grade, the Acadia offers plenty of cargo space (up to 41.7 cubic feet) as well as a perfectly flat load floor, and it can also tow up to 4,000 pounds when properly equipped.
2019 GMC Acadia Denali Powertrain
Although the second-gen Acadia lineup offers a four-cylinder engine option for budget-conscious buyers, the 2019 GMC Acadia Denali comes exclusively with the 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 rated at 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the eight-speed automatic found in the Cadillac XT5 and nine-speed automatic found in the Buick Enclave, the only transmission offered in the 2019 GMC Acadia is GM’s six-speed automatic. This doesn’t really affect fuel economy as much as you’d expect, though, with this Acadia AWD tester returning EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway**; front-drive Acadia Denali models only improve to 18 mpg city with the same 25 mpg highway rating.
On the road, the 2019 GMC Acadia Denali feels far more nimble than its predecessor thanks to a reduction in curb weight totaling 700 pounds. Not only do the retuned steering and brakes make the new Acadia easier to drive, the Continuously Variable Real Time Damping suspension system, available only on the Denali AWD models, makes for an even more engaging driving experience with suspension dampers that can read the road and adjust ride quality. Finally, the narrow body pillars and tall seating position give the driver excellent visibility from all angles.
2019 GMC Acadia Denali Safety
All 2019 GMC Acadia models come loaded with safety features including eight airbags and Rear Seat Reminder, but the Acadia Denali comes with Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, front pedestrian detection, IntelliBeam automatic headlamp control, Front and Rear Park Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert and Safety Alert Driver Seat. The optional Technology Package ($1,495) adds adaptive cruise control, forward automatic braking and surround vision system. All Acadia AWD models carry a five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
2019 GMC Acadia Denali Overall
The GMC Acadia no longer competes with its platform siblings (Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse) thanks to a shorter wheelbase and more rugged styling, and the Denali trim level continues to be a key reason to consider this crossover thanks to its bolder styling and luxurious cabin. In base form, the 2019 GMC Acadia is one of the more afforadble three-row CUVs on the market with a starting price of $30,195*, while the Denali packs in all its added features starting at $46,695. Equipped with its added safety and styling, the 2019 GMC Acadia Denali AWD used for this test drive review had an as-tested price of $51,885, which, for the record, is almost $8,000 less than the Enclave Avenir we tested last year.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation GMC dealership and test drive the 2019 GMC Acadia Denali today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2019 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.