Small range, huge price change. If we told you an entry-level Acadia SLT could be yours for $35,000, you might nod appreciatively. If we told you a flagship Denali could cost $60,000, you’d probably move straight on to reading about Land Rover’s comparably-priced Range Rover Velar. There simply isn’t enough upside to spending a $25,000 premium on your Acadia, when you consider the competition available at that price point.

If you’re going to choose an Acadia, you really need to stick with the mid-range SLT model, costing just shy of $40,000. That’s still quite a lot for one of the smaller SUVs in this sector, but it strikes the best balance between value and equipment. It offers heated and electrically adjustable leather seats, navigation, and a Bose audio system, all of which are missing on base SLE models, and which feel rather impoverished as a result. We’d also advise against the show-without-go AT4 trim, though it does pack the AWD that otherwise costs up to $2,300 as an addition.

Good on the move. Whether you choose front or all-wheel drive, Acadia’s engines are worthy of comment. The standard two-liter turbocharged gas engine produces an entirely reasonable 228 hp, while the alternative is a much punchier 310 hp V6. The latter brings towing capacity of up to 4,000 lb, and meaty mid-range acceleration. Needless to say, fuel economy is poor; the V6 returns 21 mpg combined in AWD guise, and even the two-liter FWD only manages 25 mpg.

It’d be unfair to describe the Acadia as an exciting driver’s car, but it’s surprisingly engaging. The well-weighted steering combines with limited body lean to dispatch winding bends with ease while sticking with the smaller 18-inch wheels maximizes ride quality. If comfort is a top priority, tick the adaptive dampers box on the sales form for an even cushier ride.

2022 GMC Acadia Interior

Two rows are better than three. It would be ridiculous to describe a 193-inch SUV as ‘small’, but the Acadia is certainly easier to park than its gargantuan Yukon brother. It’s still able to squeeze three rows of seats in, though the third row is best for compliant children, and this does require specifying the middle row as a pair of captain’s chairs with a narrow gap to squeeze through.

If you avoid poverty-spec SLE trim, the power-adjustable front seats are comfortable enough for long journeys. At the other end, there’s a cargo capacity of just under 13 cubic feet with a full complement of passengers, and almost 80 cubes if you make everyone get the bus. Interior quality is nothing to write home about, but everything is practically designed apart from the unusual button-operated transmission system. We’re not sure we’d ever get used to it.

Falls short on safety. If you assumed all SUVs were inherently safe, think again. The Acadia isn’t an unsafe vehicle, but it’s disappointing to see adaptive cruise control as an expensive optional extra. The IIHS rated its headlights as ‘marginal’ and the rest of it merely ‘good’, while the NHTSA has yet to share its thoughts. At least the standard safety kit on every model includes active lane control and emergency braking.

Final thoughts. The Acadia is one of those vehicles where praise and criticism are equally hard to generate. It’s a pretty middling effort by GMC, which has no standout features and no great weaknesses, other than the price of higher trims. You could buy a Range Rover for the price of an Acadia Denali, and frankly, you should. The AT4 is also superfluous – expensive yet not that luxurious, designed to resemble an off-road workhorse yet not particularly adept in the rough stuff.

Lesser trims make more sense, but our overall rating is calculated on SLT trim specifically. This is where the Acadia makes the most sense, banishing the privations of SLE while retaining a reasonable sticker price. For $40,000, you can forgive its relatively cramped cabin and unintuitive gearlever, focusing instead on the car’s strong performance (with either engine) and fine road manners. The nine-speed automatic transmission is a particular strong point, and 18-inch wheels let the impressive ride quality shine through.

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