Review: 2020 GMC Acadia AT4

Here’s the story of an SUV that went on a diet, and things turned out well. The original GMC Acadia was a full-sized SUV when it debuted for 2007, but ten years later the automaker lopped off a few inches, both length and width, along with about 700 pounds.

Today, with some minor additions for the 2020 model year, the result is a mid-sized SUV that can look — and sometimes act — rugged, while maintaining some city integrity, too.

If you’re looking for third-row availability to manage your busy family lifestyle, take a peek at the Acadia. Last year it came up just a tad short of selling 100,000 units.

The Basics

There are multiple trim levels to choose from, and the MSRPs reflect those many options.

With the base SL model you’ll be looking at the standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, which kicks out about 193 horsepower. Front-wheel drive is standard, but AWD is available.

The top-of-the-line Denali version will find you in the optional 3.6-liter V6 that pumps up the jam to 310 horses, and also delivers a zero-to-60 time of right around 6 seconds.

A turbocharged 2.0-liter is available, too.

GMC ditched the old 6-speed transmission and upgraded each of the trim levels to the new 9-speed. This not only improves the drive, but helps just a smidge with gas mileage.

The exterior of the Acadia has been spiffed up a bit, and for some models (including the AT4 trim that I drove) it has a tougher appearance. In SUVs, that actually counts for something.

The Inside

With seating for seven, you won’t be crushed for space. In fact, although it’s not the roomiest option out there, the Acadia does well with its mid-sized space, providing a bit more than you might expect just looking at the outside.

There are different configurations you can request for your three rows, which is a nice feature.

I found everything laid out well, including an attractive dashboard. The 8-inch touchscreen looks and functions well, and the mixture of leather and aluminum was pleasing.

Not all of the materials are high end, however, and there are spots inside the Acadia that don’t seem like they fit in a $40k-plus SUV. I never felt like they were cheap, but they also don’t fold you in luxury.

The seats, though, were quite comfortable, and I think would serve you well on any long road trip.

Personal storage up front was impressive. Like a lot of people today, I’m now a snob regarding that storage bin between the front seats. In the Acadia it’s generous.

There’s also good space under the console, a place to keep all the extra paraphernalia we seem to tote around in our daily lives.

You’ll need to adjust to the way you shift gears in this SUV, but soon you’ll come to appreciate the fact that there’s not a big ol’ knob taking up space.

Rear cargo space is okay, but comes up short when compared with similar-sized SUVs. It all depends on how many trips you intend to make to-and-from the airport, or how much kid junk you need to continually haul.

The Drive

I give the Acadia good marks here. The V6 in my AT4 model provided plenty of zip and confidence-boosting power when merging.

Steering, braking, and handling are all about average, with no complaints.

The Tech

I personally love that there are buttons and knobs everywhere; this guy is not a fan of the overly-teched-up controls for things like audio and climate.

The Acadia has an easy layout of controls, for which we thank GMC.

The touchscreen works well, and you’ll find each trim level equipped with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The CarPlay worked flawlessly for me, and that’s not always a given.

There are lots of the usual driver assist and safety features you crave. The HD rear view camera looked good, and you’ll find front and rear park assist available, along with lane assist, automatic emergency braking, and front pedestrian braking.

If you’d like, you can also get the hands-free liftgate, which comes in quite handy at the store.

Oh, and there’s something I’ve completely misunderstood for the last couple of years, a feature the Acadia can provide, too.

Its a “be sure to look in the back seat” warning that comes on when you park and get ready to leave. I always thought it was reminding me to grab my groceries or backpack.

Then I learned that it’s essentially a reminder that you might have a kid back there. Sorry, this makes me laugh, even though I know it’s a nice safety feature for harried parents.

The Bottom Line

GM is gradually getting out of the large SUV arena, pretty much down these days to just the Traverse and the Enclave left to battle it out with the other heavyweights.

And that’s just fine. I think most people find they don’t need massive vehicles like they once believed, and the mid-sized segment is naturally getting more crowded and competitive.

The Acadia holds its own. While gas mileage isn’t stellar, the combination of good looks, nice handling, and decent-to-good storage capability put it squarely in the running.

It’s most definitely worth a test drive.

The Details

2020 Acadia AWD AT4
3.6-liter V6
9-speed transmission
All-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 18/25/21 combined
MSRP: $41,300
As tested: $45,680

Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer

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