Skip to main content

2024 GMC Acadia First Drive: A 3-Row SUV That Does It All

If you’re looking for a family SUV, you really should be looking at the GMC Acadia

2024 GMC Acadia Picture
  • The new Acadia is longer, taller and wider than the outgoing 2023 model.
  • It's offered in three trims: Elevation, AT4 and Denali.
  • It's a completely new SUV inside and out, offering both luxury and capability.
  • It's the first GMC vehicle to offer Super Cruise, GM’s driver assist technology, on all trims.

No matter what, a three-row SUV must be versatile and wear many hats. For one, it has to fit all the people — and it has to fit all the stuff. It must have the tech to please the masses, a comfortable ride, and a distinguishing design to set it apart from — you know what — a minivan. Oh, and it should also be easy to drive in tight parking lots while also having the capability to handle snow or tow a small trailer.

So, yeah, it's a lot of hats. And the 2024 GMC Acadia wears them all very well.

35 for sale in your area
See All for Sale
2024 GMC Acadia Denali parked, rear three-quarter view

Upsized (again) for 2024

Let’s take a quick step back here. The first generation Acadia was large and in charge, easily serving families and their SUV needs. But the second generation came along and got a lot smaller. Thankfully, the Acadia is back for 2024 as a longer, taller, and wider three-row SUV. There's 23 cubic feet of space available behind the third row, 57.3 cubes with the third-row seat folded, and 97.5 cubes with the second and third rows folded. These are all among the biggest capacities in the class. Do you want an SUV that you can stuff to the gills with luggage and gear? The Acadia is here for you.

2024 GMC Acadia Denali cargo area

But the Acadia is more than just numbers. It has a huge grille up front, which marks and identifies its shared DNA with GMC trucks. It’s a serious SUV. It’s also very high-quality. It’s like that fantastic Viking stove you’ve been eyeballing for your kitchen. Is it the cheapest? No. And so the famous saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”

This SUV isn’t just spacious, it’s a little audacious. It’s got way more attitude than a Hyundai Palisade. It makes the third row of the Toyota Highlander laughable. It drives better than a Volkswagen Atlas, and I think it’s nicer inside than a Kia Telluride. It straddles the line between luxury and mainstream, making it a less precious choice than a BMW X7 or Mercedes-Benz GLS.

2024 GMC Acadia Denali profile

How less precious? The Acadia comes in three trims: the entry-level Elevation (starting at $43,995, including destination), the off-road-ish AT4 (starting at $51,395), and the top-of-the-line Denali (starting at $55,695).

Passing all the three-row SUV tests with flying colors

After driving the new Acadia around Hilton Head, South Carolina, I got very comfortable — very quickly. I’d cruised in the Denali for several hours, and then I spent a few more getting the AT4 dirty with a little off-the-trail fun, and I began to think about life with an Acadia in the driveway. I decided that I would consider trading in my three-row daily driver for this handsome upgrade for three reasons.

GMC Acadia dashboard

This thing is so easy to drive

A good three-row SUV needs to be capable and shouldn't feel like a behemoth when you're behind the wheel. Even though the Acadia is a large vehicle, it isn’t intimidating to drive or challenging to maneuver. This people-mover will carry all your VIPs inside, be they kiddos, doggos, grandparents or friends.

Depending on the trim level of Acadia you choose, you get very specific tuning and suspension for that model. My personal three-row daily driver struggles with that “boaty” feel that happens with many big, soft SUVs; steering can be numb and slow to respond. I was pleased to find this wasn’t the case with the Acadia.

If you did your homework, you'll find that the outgoing Acadia was equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder or a naturally aspirated V6 engine. But the 2024 Acadia has a new turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder that is more potent than either of the old powertrains. All Acadias come standard with front-wheel-drive, but all-wheel drive is also available for any model. It produces 328 horsepower and 326 lb-ft of torque and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission to help give the Acadia a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.

Additionally, there are so many safety aids available that help to take the edge off the Acadia’s size. You get up to nine camera views to assist you. Of course, you have the backup camera, and the system also includes HD Surround Vision (looking at you, tight parking spots, crowded garages) and a rearview mirror camera. So, if you’re having any anxiety about adjusting to a larger vehicle, the GMC Acadia should do an excellent job of quelling those fears.

2024 GMC Acadia Denali second row

There’s a huge amount of space inside

You need a three-row SUV because you want to move a lot of people or a lot of stuff. The 2024 Acadia will accommodate your needs with ease. The second row is massive; with the seats all the way back, legroom is more than ample. When I moved back to the third row (with the second row still all the way back), my 5-foot-4-inch frame fit behind the seat without adjustment. With some tweaks in positioning, the second and third rows should be able to accommodate adults in the second and third rows.

Super Cruise

Bear with me here; this one might be a stretch. This hands-free driving tech can sometimes seem a little gimmicky, especially if you’ve never experienced Super Cruise before or used the adaptive cruise control your current car probably already has. But trust me when I say Super Cruise is the thing you never even knew you needed. You've gotta try it.

The beauty of Super Cruise is in the confidence the system inspires. With this latest iteration of Super Cruise, thousands of miles of additional roads and highways have been mapped and made available to the system. This means that on more roads than ever before, you can activate Super Cruise and stay centered in your lane, maintaining a speed to keep you at a safe distance from the car in front of you, all while your hands are off the wheel. When it is safe to change lanes to pass another vehicle, Super Cruise can handle this, too. (To learn more about Super Cruise and similar systems, check out our Best Hands-Free Driving System article.) But trust me when I tell you that Super Cruise is another tool that makes the Acadia more of a pleasure to drive.

So what’s not so great?

There are a few little things. GMC moved the gear selector to a stalk on the steering wheel to make more space in the center console instead of using a traditional gear shift. It takes a little getting used to, but what bummed me out more was that there are just two stalks on the steering wheel controlling a lot of features. It’s a little overwhelming. Familiarity would flatten the learning curve, but adjusting to it is difficult initially.

Yes, the standard 15-inch diagonal infotainment screen is flashy and humongous. But it got confusing when I attempted to select various drive modes. I kept trying to touch the flashy displays on the screen to no avail. There are buttons to the lower left of the steering wheel instead.

There also isn't a hybrid or plug-in hybrid option. No alternative powertrains. That’s just a bummer in 2024.

But mostly, it’s kind of expensive. To GMC’s credit, it makes an entry-level trim, but we all know that the secret sauce comes with the AT4 or Denali.

2024 GMC Acadia Denali interior seating

Is the GMC Acadia worth the money?

Truth be told, this is where it gets a little awkward. The new Chevy Traverse is very closely related to the GMC Acadia, and it’s really good. It’s also less expensive. But even though the two share the same DNA, they have completely different personalities. A GMC Acadia is a luxurious upgrade, but it’s not pure luxury. Nevertheless, it deserves its premium price tag.

What will you get for that extra money? A more elevated interior, an impressive standard suite of safety features, and model-specific chassis tuning. If you’ve got a penchant for off-road adventures, the AT4 looks the part and can take on the trail, too. And of course, if you want to stand out from the crowd — and be noticed and pampered while doing so — the Denali is the obvious choice.

If you have the means to consider the Acadia, GMC does a great job of reassuring your decision. It's a classy SUV. However, this is where tastes and priorities come into play. The Acadia can accommodate just about any want or need you have for a three-row SUV, but you will pay a premium for it. And that’s OK — just like choosing that Viking stove.