Home » The 2024 GMC Acadia’s Infotainment Screen Is So Good All Cars Should Copy It

The 2024 GMC Acadia’s Infotainment Screen Is So Good All Cars Should Copy It

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I recently got a chance to take a spin in a couple of new 2024 GMC Acadias and days later, I still feel like they are excellent family haulers. Part of the reason why comes down the the large 15-inch display serving as the centerpiece of the crossover’s interior. When so many automakers get infotainment wrong, GMC is doing it right and maybe everyone else should follow its lead.

Infotainment is a huge part of how a new car works. The giant screens of today hold more than your Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but your car’s vitals, settings, and HVAC systems. Screens can control whether your seats are heating or ventilating, screens can control where your vents are pointing, and in extreme cases, screens can control which direction your car will be traveling. So it’s crucial to do it well, or else you, the automaker, may lose some sales and face the scorn of frustrated drivers.

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[Full Disclosure: GMC invited me out to South Carolina to test the 2024 GMC Acadia Denali and AT4. The automaker flew me out, put me up in a resort that cost more than my rent, and provided enough ice-cold drinks to offset the insane temperatures and humidity.]

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The current state of car infotainment is pretty wild. Every automaker seems to have a different way to achieve more or less the same thing. I suppose I’ll start with the one everyone knows and that’s Tesla. The automaker has a minimalist interior design philosophy, which means hidden vents, very few buttons, and a giant center display that controls everything. It looks very “clean” and uncluttered, something quite trendy today.

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It’s no secret that Tesla is obsessed with its minimalist aesthetic, even if it comes at the disadvantage of the driver. In fairness, after playing with Tesla’s nearly no-button approach you can get used to it.

Tesla Screen

But I am of the belief that a really good system isn’t one that you get used to, but could use the moment you hop inside. In the past of buttons and small screens — or no screens at all — it wasn’t rocket surgery figuring out how to adjust your HVAC vents or how to get the car’s read of its current fuel economy, you just hit a button.

Next, let’s move to Volkswagen. This automaker’s modern infotainment era was baffling for the longest time. VW’s infotainment screen hid options behind menus and was remarkably laggy, even in regular production vehicles. But the worst part is that VW recognized that many buyers still wanted buttons, then totally half-baked it. VW’s infotainment system had an infamous touch capacitive slider that, for some inexplicable reason, didn’t even light up at night. And VW wanted you to control your climate temperature with that! Then, VW managed to make steering wheel controls finicky, so your whole interface experience was a solid sucker.

Vw Id4 Screen

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Thankfully, Volkswagen has openly admitted to screwing this up and real buttons will be making a return on steering wheels. The touch sliders are still out there on some VW infotainment systems, but it looks like VW is changing that, too.

Let’s give you another example. Volvo has a Google-based infotainment system. I dig this because I love infotainment systems that are as easy to navigate as your phone screen is. Yet, even Volvo committed the sin of placing frequent operations on the screen. Sure, the climate temperature is always on the screen, but you have to go into the menu if you want to adjust the airflow direction, fan speeds, or the dual-zone temps. Why can’t you just grab a knob or hit a switch?

Volvo Screen

I could go on, but other automakers bury common settings in layers of menus, add a touchpad like a crutch, or continue the aforementioned frustrating problem of putting common functions on the screen. Again, you could get used to all of this stuff.

Of course, not every automaker and not every model is like this. To give one example would be the Mazda CX-30, which doesn’t pile everything into its infotainment screen and gives you nice buttons. The Toyota Tundra TRD Pro I tested last year also divorced common functions from the infotainment, again giving you buttons to play with and a nice large volume knob.

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Tundra Screen

The Lexus LX 600 was an oddball with its dedicated vehicle function display, but at least it still had some buttons to hold, turn, and push.

While buttons may not look cool and aren’t nearly as futuristic, they work. Buttons mean you don’t have to look at a screen to raise your temperature or to adjust volume. Buttons mean you can feel some heat in your seat without accidentally putting a song on repeat. We live in a world where we’re trying to stop drivers from being distracted, yet put their car’s functions on a big tablet or behind touch capacitive interfaces.

GMC Does This Great

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So here’s where I think GMC can take a win. The 2024 GMC Acadia has a hefty 15-inch screen as its interior centerpiece. Like other automakers, this screen has a bunch of functions behind pages and menus. However, GMC has thought about the end user here.

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The first thing I liked about the GMC Acadia’s infotainment display was the fact that navigation didn’t take an IT degree. There’s a clear home button at the top left of the screen and going through the system’s pages felt like using a big tablet. It’s not the easiest system I’ve ever used, but you aren’t going to have steam coming from between your ears trying to figure out your Acadia’s average fuel economy. Google is also built-in, so Maps is right there and you can ask Google Assistant questions. But you still get full-screen Apple CarPlay if you’re an iPhone user and Android Auto connectivity with your phone.

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I also like how the display has a constant lower taskbar. It doesn’t matter if you have a giant map up or are trying to view the crossover’s up to nine cameras, there’s a taskbar right there with common functions ready for you to tap. Admittedly, I would have loved for the heated and ventilated seats to have been buttons rather than screen prompts, but at least the function is within easy reach without having to open any menu.

What I really dig is how GMC arranged the buttons. I get it, the buttons don’t look great, but GMC made them work. The 2024 GMC Acadia, like the GMC Sierra EV and the Ford F-150 Lightning, has a giant screen. However, there’s a large volume knob down at the bottom. There’s no tapping the screen or anything like that. Just twist the large knob to bring on the tunes.

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However, unlike the F-150 Lightning, GMC gives its Sierra EV and GMC Acadia a button bank for common functions. Defroster, fan speed, and temperature options are just a flick away. But wait, there’s more! Next to the driver is another button bank allowing you to change drive mode and AWD settings on the fly. These are real, tactile switches, too, yet they don’t spoil the nice interior. If anything, I love them because it sort of feels like being in a cockpit.

Now, while I like GMC’s setup, I will ding it a few times here. Like other automakers, GMC has placed the HVAC blending functions behind a menu. Likewise, the power window lockout and light settings are behind two different menus. The toggle for fog lights should not be behind any menu, guys! A simple button will do the trick. Likewise, there’s no reason why the power window lockout function couldn’t be a switch on the driver door panel like it has been on so many cars for so many years.

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So, while I would love more automakers to follow GMC’s lead here, I’d love to see it get taken further.

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I’m not saying everything needs to have a button, but just the common stuff. While adding buttons to an infotainment display and interior seems like a little, inconsequential thing, I think buyers of the 2024 GMC Acadia will love it. Remember that the buyers of this crossover are likely to be families, people who don’t want to fuss with an annoying screen. Heck, the person behind the wheel may even occasionally be a teen driver, someone who doesn’t need additional distractions. So, good on GMC and I hope other automakers eventually arrive at a similar idea.

(Images: Author, unless otherwise noted.)

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Ben
Ben
24 days ago

Admittedly, I would have loved for the heated and ventilated seats to have been buttons rather than screen prompts

Heated seat buttons on a screen are an automatic failure. A number of the other gripes you listed are inexcusable errors in interface design too in 2024. These systems have been around long enough for people to have figured out what does and doesn’t work, yet nobody seems to get it right. I tend to assume this is the fault of the beancounters who won’t give the interface designers all of the hard buttons they ask for, but whatever the reason it’s stupid and in a world where distracted driving is becoming one of the biggest dangers on the road I increasingly think there should be regulations about interface design, like there was with the PRNDL standard (which I wish they would enforce – these new shifter designs are absolute crap too).

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
25 days ago

Wait, where in SC? I get why BMW, Volvo, and Mercedes do things here (and even Honda with their ATV plant), but unless its a supplier connection (and we do have Michelin, Bosch, ZF, and more…) I don’t get why you would come to SC in the summer? Was it at Brosnan Forest?

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
25 days ago

I miss the old school where everything is physical button, switch, dial, wheel, etc. I can locate them without taking eyes off the road and check their positions. This includes the same pattern and technique for selecting the gears in the automatic gearbox.

Now, I would have to relearn the different techniques in different vehicles for selecting the gears…and hunt for the specific function and figure out the procedure. Try it without looking up the handbook or spending many minutes of trial and error. And commit all of the obscure procedures to the memory.

Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
25 days ago

Is it just me, or did GMC recreate / copy the BMW iDrive system and just move the click dial to the screen instead of down by the gearshift?

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
25 days ago
Reply to  Derek van Veen

That’s the volume knob, it’s just a touchscreen no goofy cursor tool

Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
24 days ago

The “goofy cursor tool” allows you to navigate the iDrive screen without having to faff around with touch menus. One of the few recent items BMW got right (at least for a time, who knows what they’re up to now).

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
24 days ago
Reply to  Derek van Veen

no the point of the touchscreen is there is no faffing around, you press what you want. Yeah hard to do while driving but so is figuring out which item is highlighted. And you don’t need a community college class to learn how to use it. (Speaking of all non-touchscreen controllers, not specifically iDrive)

Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
23 days ago

Agree to disagree. IMO, the touchscreen does not belong in a vehicle as there is no muscle-memory compared to a physical interface, therefore it is more dangerous to use if the vehicle is in motion.

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
21 days ago
Reply to  Derek van Veen

It’s easier hand movements yes (once you learn it) but the one’s I have used the amount of time you spend not looking at the road is higher. You have to look for what the currently highlighted section is, move it, look to see if it moved correctly, and repeat.
You should really not need to use the screen at all while driving, anything critical should be a button. For things that you should do while parked that need to be on the screen, like entering an address in the nav or adjusting settings, a touchscreen is 100x easier. Lock it out while in motion if need be, but to not have one at all is just awful.

Last edited 21 days ago by Chartreuse Bison
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