Caraganza First Drive Review 2020 GMC Acadia Denali: Life inside the comfort zone



Everyone has their ‘comfort zone’, that happy place we don’t like to stray from. In our comfort zone we are surrounded by familiar things; things that make us comfortable, and, well, happy. So then, it stands to reason that when we are out of our comfort zone, we usually aren’t happy about it. It’s normally a place filled with things alien to us; strange bits that make us uncomfortable.

This is true with cars. Now, when you buy a new car it will most often be one that you can afford, and one that you like well enough to spend money on.  Anything with that new car you are not familiar with isn’t a big deal since now that you own it, and you have plenty of time to make it familiar; make it your happy place.

I don’t get that luxury.

When people find out I’m an automotive journalist and that a get a new car every week, they get jealous.  Sure, it’s cool getting a new car every week, but it also means that every single week I have to set up a new car to my liking.  And the more years I do this the harder that gets.  Take a BMW for example. Great cars, but there are so many gadgets, knobs and buttons that I literally have to pull out the owner’s manual to figure it all out. And god forbid I forget (or don’t figure out how) to turn off the ‘lane assist’ feature, that annoying little nanny/safety accessory that ‘gently’ steers the car back into the lane. As an older guy having my car do that is downright frightening. And don’t get me started on the Cadillac version that rumbles the seat and steering wheel when you drift out of your lane.  No, just no.  If I have forgotten to turn this off, I will pull off the road and figure out how to do so.

The point is we are starting to put so much tech in cars that it’s getting downright scary.

That’s why I like getting vehicles like the 2020 GMC Acadia I got for a recent week.



This is an SUV that isn’t too big, nor too small.  It’s right sized, comfortable, and not too techy.  For 2020, GMC gave the Acadia a facelift, with a new front grille, made LED headlights standard, and made some tweaks to the rear end. There’s also a new turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, a new AT4 model with off-road-inspired design that includes 17-inch wheels fitted with all-terrain tires. And a new 8.0-inch infotainment system with improved software and a higher-resolution touchscreen. GMC has also added a new electronic gear selector freeing up space in the center console. A hands-free liftgate is now available, and there are fresh designs for the Acadia’s 18- and 20-inch wheels. Finally, a nine-speed automatic is now standard with every engine.

The 2020 GMC Acadia is available in five trim levels — SL, SLE, SLT, AT4 and Denali — with three engine choices and front wheel or all-wheel drive available.  The SL gets the base 2.5-liter engine (193 horsepower, 188 lb-ft of torque) and front-wheel drive. Seating for seven is standard, with no option for second-row bucket seats.  The SLE offers a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine (230 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque) or the V6 (310 hp, 271 lb-ft).

The top of the line Denali (like the one I had for my week) is powered by the V6 engine with front-wheel drive standard (AWD is available). It’s loaded with almost all the options GMC offers, including active safety features such as forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking as well as lane keeping assist (which is easy to turn off I have to not). It also gets navigation, a Bose stereo system, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated second-row seats. There’s also a unique grille and an upgraded interior.

Yes, the Denali I had was a bit pricy at $52, 435 optioned out, but the base SL starts around $30,000 so don’t shy away due to the price.

The new design gives the refreshed Arcadia a classier, less boxy look.  And inside you don’t need to study an owner’s manual to figure out how to set your favorite radio stations.  The point is that being in a GMC Acadia is like being in one of my happy places.   Sure, it’s got all the modern safety stuff, the nav, infotainment, but you don’t need to speak German in order to figure it all out.  It’s simple, straightforward and on the road, at least for me, just the right size for an SUV.

In other words, for those of us who like to live inside our comfort zones, it’s perfect.

The 2020 GMC Acadia Denali
MSRP: $ 48,300
MSRP (as tested): $52,435
Engine: 3.6-liter V6 310-hp @ 6,600 rpm, 271 lbs.-ft. torque @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Fuel Mileage (EPA) 18 city, 25 highway, 21 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested mixed conditions): 22 mpg
Curb weight: 3923 lbs.

Interior Dimensions
Front legroom     41.0″
Front headroom     40.0″
Rear hiproom     53.3″
Front hiproom     55.7″
Front shoulder room     59.4″
Front tread     64.5″
Third row hiproom     42.9″
Third row shoulder room     54.3″
Rear shoulder room     58.7″
Rear legroom     39.7″
Third row legroom     29.7″
Maximum interior cargo volume     79.0 cu.ft.
Interior cargo volume seats folded     41.7 cu.ft.

Exterior Dimensions
Exterior Length     193.4″
Exterior Height     66.7″
Overall Length:  193.6″
Overall Width: 75.4″
Overall Height: 66″
Wheelbase     112.5″
Ground clearance (min)     7.2″
Towing capacity     4,000 lbs.

Maintenance warranty (months/miles)     12/ unlimited
Corrosion perforation warranty (months/miles)     72/100,000
Basic warranty (months/miles)     36/36,000
Powertrain warranty (months/miles)     60/60,000
Roadside assistance warranty (months/miles)     60/60,000

Greg Engle