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First Look: 2013 GMC Acadia and Acadia Denali

Aiming to maintain momentum in a tough segment.

by on Feb.09, 2012

The 2013 GMC Acadia Denali makes it Chicago debut.

Chicago Auto Show-goers will be the first to get a close-up look at the updated 2013 GMC Acadia, as well as the premium spin-off, the Acadia Denali.

The two new models will likely play a critical role for GMC, now the second best-selling brand in the General Motors portfolio.  Despite its age, the outgoing Acadia crossover had its best year yet in 2011, with demand surging 16% — and half of its sales coming from customers trading in non-GM products, according to Tony DiSalle, GMC’s vice president of marketing.

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“While (traditional) trucks and SUVs will be the foundation of the GMC brand,” DiSalle said during a Chicago Auto Show preview, “we’re expanding our appeal with bold crossovers like the Acadia.”

But the big CUV will have some tough competition, facing up against domestic products of comparable or slightly smaller size like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer, as well as imports ranging from the Toyota Highlander to more upscale models from European imports that also target what GMC calls the “professional grade” customer.

GMC Marketing VP Tony DiSalle unveils the new 2013 GMC Denali.

The full-size Acadia gets a relatively modest makeover for 2013, with an emphasis on safety and infotainment technologies.

The most immediate, visual update is the use of a more upright front end with a chiseled-looking new three-bar grille.  The LED daytime running lamps are new but the primary headlamps remain projector bulbs or optional HIDs.  The 2013 GMC Acadia gets new 18- and 19-inch tires.  And the rear features new taillamps and spoiler and wraparound glass.

Inside, the crossover adopts a more refined look – to better distinguish it from its down-market sibling, the Chevrolet Traverse.  There are more up-market materials and finishes, including aluminum accents and French stitching, with new red accent lighting.

The Acadia scores an industry first with the optional new front-center airbag system.  It’s designed to protect the occupant on the opposite side of the vehicle in the event of a side collision.  Meanwhile the crossover also gets new blind-spot detection technology and Cross-Traffic Alert, which spots oncoming vehicles when backing out of a parking spot.  A rear backup camera becomes standard for all Acadia models.

On the infotainment side, the 2013 Acadia now features standard Color Touch radio controls, and GMC’s IntelliLink system allows a customer to sync a smartphone for services such as Stitcher and Pandora.  It even can be used to extend the range of the remote key fob for remotely starting the vehicle to warm it up or cool it off.

A 3.6-liter V-6, producing 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, remains the sole powertrain option, though the driveline adopts an updated version of the six-speed Hydra-Matic automatic gearbox.

Prices are yet to be announced but the maker said the 2013 GMC Acadia will go on sale late this year – at the same time as the 2013 Acadia Denali.  That designation has proved to be a significant drawing card for GM’s truck brand.  It has been pulling 30% of Acadia buyers in recent years and, “We expect that to grow,” forecast marketing chief DiSalle.

Among other details, the Acadia Denali gets a unique, polished three-dimensional grille, redesigned front fascia, 20-inch wheels and a new power tilt/telescope steering wheel. It also gets interior upgrades, including perforated leather heated and cooled seats.

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