2020 GMC Acadia AT4 review: Rugged looks with room for the family
It's OK if the answer is no. This large SUV has never really been built to tackle anything more than a muddy road or snowy driveway. But for 2020 the Acadia is now available in AT4 trim, which, at least in theory, is intended to help you venture off the beaten path and get home again once you're finished playing in the dirt. Enabling some modest off-road capability, this model features a twin-clutch all-wheel drive system and all-terrain tires for extra traction in adverse conditions. Visual changes include the addition of black-chrome exterior accents, unique wheels and special badging.
As with high-end Denali models, GMC is treating its AT4 trim like a sub-brand. By the end of this calendar year, AT4 versions of every GMC vehicle will be available, with the Terrain, Canyon and all-new Yukon arriving for the 2021 model year.
But let's focus on the Acadia. The current generation of this SUV has been around for about three years. Since nothing remains static in the automotive business, GMC has mildly refreshed this vehicle for 2020 to ensure it's competitive with newer rivals like the Kia Telluride,Hyundai Palisade and Ford Explorer.
Some of the Acadia's most significant changes were made under the hood. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is now offered, delivering 230 horsepower with 258 pound-feet of torque. As in previous model years, two naturally aspirated dynamos are still available. This includes a base 2.5-liter unit that's good for a middling 193 ponies, and a 3.6-liter V6 churning out 310 horses.
Maximizing performance and efficiency is a new nine-speed automatic transmission. It's standard across the Acadia range and replaces a six-speed gearbox that was used in past model years.
Controlling the transmission is an equally new gear selector. Gone is a traditional shift lever, replaced by a series of buttons and rocker switches. Located at the bottom of the center stack, this collection of controls takes some getting used to. I fumbled around with it for a day or three, but once muscle memory came into play it wasn't a problem.
Other enhancements for 2020 include an upgraded infotainment system with a higher-resolution touchscreen spanning 8 inches and a more intuitive user interface. This system is indeed speedy and straightforward. Pinch-to-zoom performance on the map is as good as you'll find on any phone, which is the standard all automakers should aim for. The Acadia can also be fitted with a 15-Watt wireless charging pad, while LED headlamps are standard across the range. In addition to a smattering of traditional USB ports, two USB type-C outlets are included on the center console.
In the family way
Like rival vehicles, the Acadia can accommodate up to seven people, but you can also get it with just six or even five seats. This makes it a good fit for both larger and smaller families. My AT4 test model is not fitted with the available third-row bench, which means it only has room for a driver and four passengers.
Travelers in the second row have plenty of space to stretch out, plus the floor is flat, which means whoever is relegated to the middle spot does not have to straddle a hump with his or her feet. The Acadia's front buckets are cut for broad-shouldered folks, meaning they're plenty wide. However, for smaller individuals like me, they're not particularly comfortable, being too firm and bereft of bolstering.
This GMC is adept at hauling around a family's worth of stuff, from strollers and hockey bags to a veritable mountain of groceries. Behind that second-row seat, you get just shy of 42 cubic feet of room, though that number swells to 79 when the split backrest is folded down. These figures are largely comparable to what the Acadia's major rivals provide, though Toyota's new Highlander, the Palisade and Explorer are all slightly more capacious in both measures.
Beyond the cargo hold, there's plenty of other storage space. Not only is the center console generously sized, thanks in part to the switch from a traditional mechanical shifter to an electronic one, there's plenty of room in the glovebox and door panel pockets for other tchotchkes.
A no-nonsense interior
The rest of this Acadia's interior is mostly pleasant. No, it's not the most opulent cabin in the segment, that title likely goes to the Palisade, but neither does it feel slipshod like the Explorer's. My AT4's clearly legible instrumentation, intuitive infotainment system and logically placed controls make driving a mostly stress-free affair.
Adding a dash of style, my tester's interior also features perforated leather trim rendered in jet black and Kalahari, sort of a peanut-butter hue. These cow hides are attractively colored if not particularly rich, feeling more like vinyl than anything peeled off an animal's body. At least this option looks nice and only adds $1,000 to the Acadia's price tag.
What's less forgivable is the weave-pattern trim used liberally throughout the interior. Even by imitation carbon-fiber standards it looks poor. While many of the Acadia's controls are easy to use, some of its knobs feel rubbery and low-rent, particularly the dials operating the climate system.
A host of driver-assistance features is available in the Acadia, though some items cost extra. Standard fare includes rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, a high-definition reversing camera and rear park-assist. Optional tech includes front-and-rear park assist, lane-departure warning and automatic emergency braking, which are bundled in the Driver Alert Package II. It's 2020, shouldn't features like these be standard across the range? Fortunately, this options group is only $695.
What cannot be had at any price on the AT4, however, is adaptive cruise control. GMC only offers this super-useful feature on all-wheel drive Denali models fitted with the Ultimate Package, an extra $5,295. At least regular, old-fashioned cruise control is standard.
Such powertrain, much smoothness
Shift into drive with the flick of a finger and this GMC delivers unexpectedly strong performance. AT4 models are fitted exclusively with that 3.6-liter V6, which is good for 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque.
I must confess, unless it has a turbocharger bolted to each cylinder head and is mounted under the hood of a Cadillac ATS-V, I've never been terribly impressed by GM's 3.6-liter six-shooter. I last experienced it in a Chevy Colorado midsize truck a few months back and found it disagreeably coarse. Fortunately, its manners are much improved in the Acadia. It remains mostly quiet throughout the rev range and almost no vibration can be felt inside. This engine also makes the Acadia feels far more responsive than you'd ever expect based on its relatively modest output figures, providing loads of high-rpm pull. Bury the accelerator pedal and it sprints to redline with enthusiasm. Making up for a lack of lower-end grunt is the Acadia's resourceful new transmission.
Shockingly, that nine-speed gearbox is one of the best I've ever tested. Most transmissions these days are fine, but sometimes they're slow to respond or get befuddled, but that is not the case here. It swaps ratios seamlessly and swiftly. Upshifts are nearly imperceptible, though it's not afraid to drop gears when get-up-and-go is required -- just roll on the throttle and it responds eagerly. There's no need to stand on the accelerator, either, to summon a downshift like in so many modern vehicles.
With all-wheel drive a prominent part of its powertrain mix, my AT4 stickers at 18 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg highway. Combined, Uncle Sam says it should average 21 mpg.
The AT4's ride is firm, though by no means brutal. Interior noise levels seem slightly higher than in comparable vehicles, likely due to its aggressive, all-terrain tires, a set of Continentals mounted on the standard 17-inch wheels. Machined-face 20s are offered for an additional $900, coming wrapped with less-aggressive all-season rubber.
Off-roader or soft-roader?
All that tire talk brings me to another point. Just how capable is the Acadia AT4 off road? Well, I'd be leery of taking this utility vehicle anywhere more challenging than a washed-out dirt road as it only has 7.2 inches of ground clearance, but hey, you do you. That's a full inch less than what some versions of the Explorer provide and still behind both the Highlander and Palisade.
Offsetting this lack of height, the AT4 model is fitted with plenty of other useful kit. For instance, the standard twin-clutch all-wheel drive system offers a range of selectable settings. For greater fuel economy, it can route torque to just the front wheels, though there are also all-wheel drive, sport, off-road and towing modes to choose from.
Aside from its knobby tires, the Acadia AT4 also comes with hill-start assist, which keeps it from rolling backward on grades, and hill-descent control. This helps the SUV go down inclines at a slow, steady pace, so you don't have to manually ride the brakes. This is certainly some useful tech that bolsters the vehicle's off-road cred, but that rather low ground clearance is still going to be an issue if you head too far off the beaten path.
A useful, if not segment-leading choice
With its excellent drivetrain and versatile interior, the 2020 GMC Acadia AT4 is a solid option for families of varying sizes thanks to its different seating configurations. Not only that, this vehicle drives well and looks rugged, plus its infotainment system is a winner. Too bad adaptive cruise control is nowhere to be found and many popular driver-assistance features cost extra.
An entry-level Acadia SL with front-wheel drive, the base four-cylinder engine and no-extra-charge Summit White paint will set you back just 5 bucks less than $31,000, including $1,195 in delivery fees. My test AT4 model was, naturally, far richer than that, though still not completely unreasonable, checking out at $45,090. Of course, if off-roading is your top concern, a similar outlay will, for instance, get you a Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, though it's not going to be as spacious inside and a third-row seat is unavailable at any price.
The 2020 GMC Acadia Denali might at first glance look like yet another midsize SUV in a market filled with them. But beneath that unassuming sheet metal lie the makings of one of the segment’s very best, with a ride quality so supple it renders obsolete virtually anything like it this side of $60,000 – and even a few that cost considerably more.
That price tag looms large for at least a couple of reasons. For starters, it’s a princely sum of money – especially for something with a GMC badge on the grille. Not that this version of the Acadia doesn’t punch well above its weight in a few different ways; more on that later. But considering what $60,000 will get you in an SUV these days, the Acadia Denali occupies something of a precarious corner of the mainstream market. That’s long been an issue for GMC as it has expanded its luxurious Denali lineup beyond pickups and into more SUVs.
Make no mistake, the Acadia Denali is more than capable of holding its own against those premium competitors. But at the end of the day, it’s still a GMC Acadia dressed up in a designer suit, only it’s one without a prestigious label stitched inside. If you’re shelling out that kind of money, you probably want people to know it. Just ask yourself: Would you rather drive this or a Lexus RX L? How about a Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class?
This Denali version starts at $53,998, but that’s for one without the available adaptive dampers; budget an extra $1,750 for those on their own, or $3,995 to add them as part of a package. My tester included the latter – along with a premium paint job – for a pre-tax price of $60,778. That’s a lot of money for a mainstream midsize SUV, but it’s priced competitively compared to rivals like the Dodge Durango Citadel or Hyundai Palisade Ultimate, both of which land within spitting distance of the loaded Acadia. And then there are those similarly sized premium competitors from Lexus and Mercedes, as well as the Acura MDX, all of which can be had for about as much – though the Lexus and Acura can both cost more depending on how they’re specced.
To buy an Acadia Denali without the adaptive dampers is akin to ordering a pancake breakfast without the maple syrup – sure, you can do it, but that doesn’t mean you should. If the Acadia Denali is a hot stack of the finest buttermilk flapjacks around, the electronically controlled suspension is the top-shelf syrup that would make Mrs. Butterworth bow her head in shame.
Simply put, if you aren’t planning to add them to your Acadia, then save yourself even more dough and go with a cheaper trim; yes, they’re that good. Exclusive to the Denali version, the adaptive dampers take an already impressive ride and transform it into an outstanding one. The system uses sensors at all four corners to adjust compression and rebound rates in response to body roll and road conditions. It’s not the only system of its kind on the market but it’s certainly among the best, dispatching anything and everything that could disrupt the serenity of the ride. That the Acadia Denali rides on 20-inch wheels makes the adaptive dampers that much more impressive. While the profile of the tires isn’t particularly low – usually the main amplifier of rough roads – upsized wheels themselves tend to exacerbate road-quality concerns, yet they’re hardly noticed here.
Not much is noticed audibly either, with excellent sound deadening and active noise cancelling keeping unwanted noises at bay. It helps crank up the premium environment inside, as does the stellar tri-zone automatic climate control system that includes switches in the second row.
The seats, too, are sublime, with supportive cushioning cloaked in buttery leather upholstery. They also feature heat and ventilation functions up front, as well as heat in the second row. Both front seats also have eight-way power adjustability, while the second row is made up of comfy captain’s chairs (a folding bench can be optioned instead for seven-passenger seating). There should be no surprises that sitting in the third row isn’t especially rewarding, the chairs themselves thin and the space that surrounds them limited.
Fight it if you must, but those in need of three rows of seating with any frequency should really be shopping for a minivan. Not even the super-sized GMC Yukon XL delivers the space of something like the Honda Odyssey when it’s time to move more than four or five people, let alone the same kind of ease with which to climb inside.
With that out of the way, if you plan to keep the third row tucked into the floor most of the time, the Acadia offers lots of space to carry stuff. The paltry 362 L behind the furthest row jumps to 1,181 L with it folded out of the way. While the wheel tubs cut into usable space ever so slightly, it’s a large enough cargo hold to stash oversized items inside. While the second-row seats aren’t removable without the help of an impact wrench and some elbow grease, they fold flat enough to make the trip home from the lumber yard without the need for a trailer. Towing capacity could be better – it tops out at 1,814 kg (4,000 lb) – but it’s enough to pull a fishing boat or pop-up camper.
Aside from outright utility, there’s room enough inside the Acadia for a family of four – and space for a couple extra passengers in a pinch. Cabin width is generous, with a large console between the front seats and plenty of space between the second-row captain’s chairs to keep the kids out of each other’s reaches. While some additional interior storage would be welcome, there are at least a few handy areas inside to stash stuff. There’s a large passthrough beneath the centre console, as well as a drawer that slides out of the back of it to provide extra storage and cupholders.
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User Friendliness: 9/10
Handy though the passthrough between driver and passenger may be, it’s afforded at the cost of the switch to a push-button gear selector system that’s new for 2020. Located beneath the HVAC controls on the dash, the setup isn’t exactly intuitive – nor does it look especially upmarket.
That’s true of the rest of the cabin controls, too, though what the switchgear lacks in style it makes up for with simplicity. Most controls are concentrated to the centre stack and console area – the parking brake and height-adjustable power tailgate are the exceptions – and are boldly labelled and easily identified. The steering wheel buttons are equally easy to master without the need to crack the pages of the owner’s manual, while most prompt corresponding messages in the gauge cluster.
The infotainment system – in this case, running through an eight-inch touchscreen – is the latest from General Motors (GM), and it’s underrated for its combination of style and simplicity. The graphics are crisp and colourful, while the screen itself is responsive to inputs. There’s also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for simple smartphone mirroring, and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
It’s been a few years since GMC shrunk the Acadia, resulting in right-sized dimensions that make it just a bit easier to drive while maintaining the good sightlines and outward visibility it’s long been known for. The height-adjustable driver’s seat helps here, too, providing users of varying stature with the same view of what’s happening around the 4,912-mm (193-in) SUV.
While the previous iteration of the Acadia was a bit bloated, the styling of the slightly shrunken version plays perfectly to its dimensions – and the facelift it received for 2020 is sure to garner some extra attention. That’s especially true of this Denali version, its massive chrome grille far more in-your-face than before. Otherwise, it’s mostly unchanged outside, with something of an ordinary-yet-attractive aesthetic.
Much of the interior is the same with the exception of the reorganized centre console, and it’s filled with clever shapes and styling cues that match the exterior. The Denali’s open-pore wood and fake brushed aluminum trim look good, too, though the ivory and blue motif on the dash and doors aren’t especially stylish. Thankfully, a black interior scheme is offered, too. Choosing that more conventional cabin would also help hide the downmarket and downright cheap look of some of the controls inside.
Despite being dogged by the cheap plastic switchgear that looks and feels a step below the premium SUVs with which it competes, the Acadia Denali comes packed with most of the features you’d expect in an SUV like this. There’s that supple leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and tri-zone automatic climate control. Then there’s the outstanding infotainment system with built-in navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The stereo, too, is an upgraded Bose unit, though it features a rather average eight speakers.
Basically, if you want it, the Acadia Denali’s got it – right down to advanced safety features like lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, and automatic emergency braking up front. Stuff that isn’t included in the price can be added through packages – like the dual sunroof setup featured on this tester, as well as adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera mirror, a camera-based surround view system, and the fantastic adaptive dampers – or standalone options like a trailer hitch and rear seat entertainment system.
Despite being ineligible for one of its safety ratings, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) lists most of the Acadia’s crash-test results as “good,” with only one “average” mark for driver leg injury during moderate front overlap testing.
Credit where it’s due, the loaded version of the Acadia comes decked out with all kinds of advanced safety features – something GM isn’t known for. Even the top-of-the-line version of the similarly sized Chevrolet Blazer does without the stuff that comes standard in this Acadia model despite being introduced just last year.
Just like the Blazer RS, the Acadia Denali comes powered by a 3.6L V6 engine, and it proves that refinement is scalable. Not that the Chevy is rough by any means, but the loaded Acadia is on another level. Output from the naturally aspirated engine is rated at 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque, and it’s served in a progressive way that modern turbo motors simply can’t match.
Shifts from the nine-speed automatic transmission are hardly felt, with the engine’s rising and falling revs the only clues as to what’s happening under the hood. The smoothness of the powertrain can’t be understated, with the kind of mechanical polish that’s not even found in some premium SUVs. It’s not especially quick, but the V6-powered Acadia’s acceleration is pleasantly progressive.
Driving Feel: 9/10
So too is the way the powertrain and ride quality combine to make for one of the most pleasing SUVs like it to drive. The adaptive dampers work with the multi-link rear suspension and magnificent front struts to deliver a planted feel, while the steering is among the best electrically assisted systems in the segment. Body roll is negated by the adaptive dampers as soon as the Acadia starts to lean, while the steering remains surprisingly responsive for an SUV that tips the scales at about 2,000 kg (4,409 lb).
It’s only the brakes that betray the Acadia’s nimbleness, lacking sufficient bite at times and leaving the three-row feeling as heavy as its curb weight would suggest. While it does with a more conventional all-wheel-drive system rather than the twin-clutch version that’s fitted to the Acadia AT4, there are a few different modes selectable via the console-mounted dial that shuffle output to different wheels as conditions call for it.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
Leaving it in front-wheel drive is the best way to overachieve when it comes to fuel consumption – an area that isn’t especially favourable for the Acadia in the first place. Ratings stand at 13.1 L/100 km in the city, 9.4 on the highway, and 11.4 combined, according to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), none of which are particularly impressive. A weeklong test covering 540 km resulted in combined consumption of 10.8 L/100 km.
Midsize SUVs are offered in abundance these days, and there are plenty worth considering – especially in the $60,000 range. However, none of them can compete with this GMC Acadia Denali when it comes to ride quality, and that’s a feature worth paying for.
Hiding its family friendliness behind a veil of ruggedness, the 2022 GMC Acadia does its best to avoid the minivan-alternative status. A turbocharged four-cylinder serves as the entry-level engine but a 310-hp V-6 is optional. Families will like the Acadia's spacious first and second rows, but those relegated to the third row may feel the pinch. A host of infotainment and driver-assistance technologies are offered as standard, which will satisfy those seeking modern amenities. Despite its long list of positives, the Acadia still gets outranked by many other mid-size SUVs that simply provide more value, better driving dynamics, more cargo space, or heightened capabilities.
What's New for 2022?
The entry-level SL trim has been cut from the lineup for 2022, making the better-equipped SLE the new base model. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder is also dead, leaving a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a 3.6-liter V-6 as the available engines. A host of driver-assistance features are now standard across the lineup, including automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring. Two new 18- and 20-inch wheel designs and a new color—Light Stone Metallic—are optional features.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We'd choose the mid-level SLT trim, which adds niceties to the equipment list such as leather upholstery, remote start, heated front seats, in-dash navigation, and a hands-free tailgate. In addition to those SLT extras, that model comes with the standard LED headlights, heated, power-adjustable mirrors, and keyless entry and push-button start.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Acadia's base engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 228 horsepower and the optional 3.6-liter V-6 makes 310 horsepower. A nine-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard with either engine, and all-wheel drive is optional. While you'll never forget that you're driving an SUV, the Acadia is competent and reasonably composed. The Acadia feels ponderous during high-speed cornering, but when driven in a less aggressive manner (as most people drive most of the time), the ride is forgiving and stable. An adaptive suspension—standard on the Denali and optional on SLT trim with all-wheel drive—adjusts the dampers every two milliseconds to help smooth out the ride over bumps or to tighten things up if the driver starts feeling frisky.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates the front-drive version with the turbo four-cylinder engine will earn 22 mpg city and 29 highway. The V-6 with front-wheel drive has estimates of 19 mpg city and 27 highway. However, we haven't tested an Acadia with the nine-speed automatic transmission on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test. For more information about the Acadia's fuel economy, visit the EPA's website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Acadia's compact exterior may help it fit into garages and parking spaces, but it imposes consequences on interior spaciousness. The interior design is pleasing to the eye, and most controls are intuitive and within reach of the driver. A black-and-white gauge cluster with red needles provides information at a glance. Denali models feature a reconfigurable center screen that provides a plethora of additional vehicle information depending on the driver's settings. The tilting-and-telescoping steering column could use more range to give very tall or very short drivers a comfortable position, but it works for most people. The leather-wrapped steering wheel features aluminum trim that is convincingly upscale. Unfortunately, some of the interior materials have a cheap look and feel. With the third row in use, we were only able to fit two carry-on suitcases in the Acadia, but with the second- and third-row seats stowed, we were able to fit 28. The Dodge Durango held four cases behind its third row and 30 with the rear rows of seats folded, so it might be a better choice if you'll be frequently hauling people and cargo at the same time.
Infotainment and Connectivity
When it comes to technology, the Acadia offers plenty for the whole family. From an abundance of USB ports to a Wi-Fi hotspot, passengers can easily stay connected. The touchscreen infotainment system is intuitive and responsive. Charging more than one device that requires a 12-volt outlet may prove a challenge, as only one of those outlets is provided.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Acadia offers several standard driver-assistance technologies such as automated emergency braking, automatic high-beam headlamps, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assist. For more information about the Acadia's crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
The Acadia comes with a comprehensive warranty and maintenance coverage package as standard, with additional protection plans available from dealers. Hyundai offers longer limited and powertrain warranties, but GMC does cover the Acadia's first maintenance visit within the first year of ownership.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for the first visit
2020 GMC Acadia AT4
front-engine, front/all-wheel-drive, 5–7-passenger, 4-door hatchback
DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
223 cu in, 3649 cc
310 hp @ 6600 rpm
271 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Wheelbase: 112.5 in
Length: 193.6 in
Width: 75.4 in
Height: 66.0 in
Passenger volume: 109–142 cu ft
Cargo volume: 13–42 cu ft
Curb weight (C/D est): 4400 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
Zero to 60 mph: 6.1 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 17.2 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 14.9 sec
Top speed (governor limited): 131 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/city/highway: 21/18/25 mpg
More Features and Specs
Review: 2020 GMC Acadia Denali
- What’s Good: Sharp design update, refined powertrain, premium feel
- What’s Bad: Some low rent interior bits, premium price
Sometimes I feel like GM’s truck and SUV brand is like background scenery, the sort of stuff you notice as you zoom past on your way to somewhere else but don’t spend much time thinking about. These objects aren’t necessarily bad, but they often don’t make much of an impression either.
I think this feeling sticks in my mind because so many vehicles that wear the GMC badge are workhorses, designed for the dirty work that keeps our world together. I mean contractors, tow truck drivers and road maintenance crews need vehicles too, right?
They sure do, and there’s nothing wrong with GMC serving those markets. However, the brand also builds an impressive roster of vehicles for retail. Sometimes those trucks and SUVs aren’t fully appreciated, however, because they exist in other forms within the GM family, especially Chevrolet. Such is life for GMC.
The current second-gen Acadia was introduced in early 2016 as a 2017 model, but unlike its predecessor, the new model is significantly smaller but can still seat up to seven. Being 178 mm (7 inches) shorter, 102 mm (4 inches) narrower and approximately 318 kg (700 lb.) lighter enabled GM to move the Acadia to a smaller mid-size platform shared with the Cadillac XT5 and Chevrolet Blazer.
Like its predecessor, the second-gen Acadia launched with a 3.6-litre V6 (310 hp / 271 lb-ft.) and a new entry-level 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine that produces 193 horsepower and 188 lb-ft. of torque. Both engines were paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission with either front or all-wheel drive.
While the Acadia’s 2020 updates are considered a mid-cycle refresh, the changes are extensive and go far beyond the surface changes these updates normally entail.
The most obvious difference is an exterior design update that includes new standard LED headlights, grille, front and rear fascias and GMC’s signature C-shaped lighting. On the powertrain front, the 6-speed automatic has been replaced with a 9-speed autobox, and a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder (230 hp / 258 lb-ft.) is standard on the SLT. The 2.5-litre four powers the entry-level SLE, while the V6 is standard on AT4 and Denali trims.
Speaking of the AT4, it joins the Acadia range as a fourth trim option, and comes with a unique grille, wheels, badging and black chrome exterior accents. It slots below the Denali and above the SLE and SLT.
Inside the cabin, the Acadia receives an Electronic Precision Shift unit that replaces a traditional gearshift lever for more storage space in the center console area. Other interior changes include an updated GMC infotainment system with new features and customization, new head-up display and rear camera mirror.
More luxe than you think
My Acadia Denali tester is a six-seater equipped with the Denali Pro Grade package which comes with a range of extras such as HD surround vision, adaptive ride control, adaptive cruise control, Dual SkyScape 2-panel power sunroof, rear camera mirror, rear camera mirror washer and more ($3,995). My tester’s paint, carbon black metallic, added $495 with an engine block heater ($195) and wheel locks ($95) rounding out the subtotal before destination ($1,900), dealer fees and taxes.
Even without the extras, the Acadia Denali is a pretty luxurious vehicle. Standard kit includes 20-inch aluminum wheels, heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated and ventilated leather front seating, heated rear outboard seats, 8-inch infotainment display, Bose premium 8-speaker audio system and a lot more.
Generally, the Acadia Denali’s cabin offers a high degree of comfort, with a pleasing mix of leathers, plastics and wood accents that convey a sense of craftsmanship and refinement. The only blemishes are some rather cheap looking plastic trim inserts in the dash, and hard plastic below the steering wheel, on the glove box cover and lower door panels. On the plus side, they’re mostly below the eyeline.
More impressive to these eyes are convenience items like the wireless smartphone charge tray, storage bins below the center console, easily accessible hard keys for the heated steering wheel and seat climate controls and horizontally oriented cupholders. These details can annoy over time if not executed properly, so good on GMC designers for getting them right.
On the road
The Acadia Denali acquits itself well in everyday driving situations. The 3.6-litre V6 is smooth and responsive off the line, but also has enough power in reserve for easy passing on the highway and through city traffic. The 9-speed automatic shifts smoothly and keeps the engine operating mostly between 2,000 and 3,000 rpms. The ride is composed and reasonably quiet in regular driving conditions, and its handling feels secure.
In terms of driving modes, there are five: 4×4, 2×4, Sport, Off-road and Trailer tow (if equipped). During the drive window, I kept my tester toggled mostly to regular 2WD mode as the weather didn’t co-operate with a huge amount of snowfall for 4WD testing. When I used it briefly, traction and stability were notably improved although I should note my tester is also equipped with winter tires.
I also sampled Sport briefly, just to get a sense of sharper throttle response from the V6, which feels like sport mode in a lot of similarly equipped SUVs I test. Quicker, but not worlds apart from the regular drive mode. One other note about modes, when equipped with the trailer tow package, the Acadia Denali can tow up to 1,814 kg (4,000 lb.). As for fuel efficiency, I averaged 9.8L/100km during my test which is very impressive, although that number is skewed somewhat from extensive highway driving during a run to Detroit and back.
The updates the 2020 GMC Acadia Denali has received makes an already good option even more compelling in a very crowded mid-size SUV segment. With seating for up to seven, along with the ability to tow more than 4,000 lb. when properly equipped, and its loads of tech and smart design features, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see an uptick in Acadia sales in Canada (4,357 sold in 2019).
The starting MSRP of $53,198 is reasonably steep, however, and as my test vehicle proves, it’s not difficult to push the transaction price close to $60,000 by selecting an option package or two. Of note, the similarly equipped Chevrolet Blazer RS and Ford Edge ST both undercut the Acadia Denali by more than $5,000, which could hurt the GMC when its being cross shopped.
So, while a price near $60K is a bit much for a non-luxury marque in a very competitive segment, I think GMC has done a good job of broadening the Acadia’s appeal with its 2020 updates. It is, at the very least, worthy of consideration for those shopping for a mid-size SUV.
Acadia denali 2020 gmc reviews
The active, athletic spirit of GMC’s new AT4 model line – first introduced with the Sierra 1500 – expands to the 2020 Acadia lineup. The Acadia AT4 incorporates a number of distinctive exterior cues, including an exclusive grille design with a black chrome finish, gloss black roof rails, black mirror caps, and a black chrome tail lamp accent panel. 17-inch wheels finished in black chrome – an AT4 exclusive – and all-terrain tires are standard, while 20-inch wheels/tires are available.
Acadia AT4’s distinctive appearance also extends within the cabin, with dark chrome interior accents, and unique seating – including available Jet Black/Kalahari leather-appointed seating surfaces. While both six- and seven-seat configurations are available, Acadia AT4 offers a five-passenger seating configuration as standard equipment, along with a Cargo Management System, providing additional storage flexibility within the cargo area.
ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY AND CONNECTIVITY
A modern vehicle should be as forward-thinking and connected as you are – which is why we worked to equip the 2020 Acadia with a number of innovative technologies designed to help you stay up-to-date, even while on the go.
To start, the 2020 Acadia is available with the Next Generation GMC Infotainment system, which incorporates an 8-inch diagonal color touch screen, along with an improved user interface. This system also provides Bluetooth† hands-free phone connectivity, along with Android Auto† and Apple CarPlay†. Acadia also offers an available 4G LTE Wi-Fi®Hotspot†, providing connectivity for up to seven devices, allowing passengers to check email, post to social media, or browse the Web.
Acadia models equipped with available embedded navigation also incorporate Cloud connectivity†, which can provide improved real-time traffic updates, or migrate driver profiles – which can include radio station presets, vehicle preferences, and so on – from one compatible vehicle to another.
Keeping devices charged while traveling can also be important, and Acadia is certainly up to that task, with no fewer than 5 USB ports† – including two USB-C ports – available throughout the cabin. Additionally, Acadia is available with wireless device charging, which can charge Qi and Powermat- compatible devices without requiring a charging cable†.
2020 GMC Acadia Test Drive Overview
Positioned as a premium brand alongside its Buick sibling, GMCs are supposed to be nicer than Chevys but not as nice as Cadillacs. Of course, this is nothing but marketing mumbo-jumbo. You can spec a Chevrolet Blazer or Traverse beyond the $50,000 mark, and the GMC Acadia is built on the same platform, uses the same powertrains, and is assembled in the same Spring Hill, Tennessee factory as the Cadillac XT5.
In any case, if you’re looking for a “professional grade” SUV, the 2020 Acadia comes in SL, SLE, SLT, new rugged AT4, and luxurious Denali trim levels. My test vehicle was the Acadia Denali, equipped with optional all-wheel drive, dipped in lovely extra-cost Satin Steel Metallic paint, and featuring the optional Technology Package. The window sticker read $52,385, including $1,195 for destination charges.
This year’s design changes are most noticeable in front, where the SUV’s flat, blunt face adopts squared-off headlights and a boxier grille with more intricate detailing. This is what a GMC is supposed to look like, and the Denali’s brightwork properly conveys the Acadia’s upscale aspirations.
Changes to the cabin are not as obvious. Aside from new electronic transmission shift switches located beneath the climate controls, a redesigned center console, and real open-pore wood trim for Denali models, it’s the same as it was before.
As is true of the Acadia’s competitors, the cabin contains a mix of soft surfaces and hard plastic panels. Controls are laid out in a logical fashion, and it’s easy to find, reference, and use what you’re seeking. However, in the Acadia Denali, aside from the leather upholstery and wood trim, there is nothing aside from some contrast stitching and bronze-tinted plastic metallic accents to establish the SUV as a premium choice.
GMC offers three different engines in the Acadia. Lower trims have a 193-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Choose the Acadia SLT, and a new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is standard, providing 230 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. GMC Acadia AT4 and Denali variants ditch the turbo and include a 310-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine, which is available in most other Acadias.
All three powerplants are paired with a new nine-speed automatic transmission for 2020, and every Acadia is offered with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) except for the ostensibly off-road-focused Acadia AT4, which has an exclusive dual-clutch AWD system as standard equipment. The AT4 also has all-terrain tires and a blacked-out exterior appearance to underscore its rugged personality.
I think the naturally aspirated V6 and nine-speed automatic make a terrific powertrain combination, supplying smooth, refined, effortless power and offering up to 4,000 pounds of towing capacity. You can run a Denali AWD in FWD mode to conserve fuel, but torque steer is a frequent byproduct of such action.
My test vehicle’s powertrain included automatic engine stop/start and an engine cylinder deactivation system, each designed to improve fuel economy. The EPA rating for the test vehicle is 21 mpg in combined driving, and I averaged 20.1 mpg running the SUV primarily in FWD mode.
GMC has finely tuned the Acadia’s ride and handling qualities to the point where the steering, suspension, and brakes behave exactly as you want them to at all times. The good thing about this approach is that the Acadia draws no scorn from its driver. The bad thing, though, is that this SUV is utterly forgettable in terms of its driving character.
Depending on the trim level and configuration, the 2020 GMC Acadia seats five, six, or seven passengers. Denali trim provides 6-passenger seating thanks to standard second-row captain’s chairs, but you can choose a bench seat as a no-cost option.
Up front, wide and supportive 10-way power-adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation ensure comfort within the leather-lined Denali’s cabin. They’re perfect for road trips, as I discovered last year when my family rented a 2019 Acadia SLT for a western-U.S. national park vacation.
My test vehicle had heated second-row captain’s chairs with similar levels of comfort, and rear passengers enjoy air conditioning vents, USB ports, and a household-style power outlet.
Though modern Acadias are smaller inside than the original recipe versions, the third-row seat is roomier than you might expect, especially if occupants in the second row are willing to slide their seats forward a bit. However, the distance between the seat and the back of the SUV isn’t generous, a worrisome factor in a rear-impact collision.
Interior storage space improves for 2020, thanks to the Acadia’s new electronic transmission controls and reconfigured center console with a tray underneath the “bridge” that connects it to the dashboard.
Cargo volume measures just 12.1 cubic feet behind the third-row seat, and to use it, you’ll need to stack stuff vertically to the roof. Nobody does that. Therefore, know that you can carry two extra people or some cargo, but not both at the same time.
Fold the third-row seat down, open the liftgate, and the Acadia’s cargo hold is generous at 41.7 cubic feet. Again, speaking from first-hand family road-trip experience, this is plenty of room for such activities. Maximum cargo volume with the second-row seats folded down measures 79 cubic feet, about average for the segment.
Every 2020 GMC Acadia includes the infotainment features people want most. We’re talking Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and GMC Connected Services including a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot. This year, versions with an 8-inch touchscreen boast a higher resolution display, a simplified user experience, and improved voice recognition.
Equipped with navigation and a decent-sounding Bose premium sound system, our test vehicle’s voice-recognition technology passed most of our test prompts without issue, though sometimes it took more than one attempt to obtain the desired action or result.
In terms of system operation, the Acadia’s infotainment system is remarkably simple to understand and use, and anyone with a smartphone will be able to figure out how it works without opening the owner’s manual.
Additional technology upgrades for 2020 include new USB-C connection and charging ports (in addition to USB-A), a more powerful (and optional) wireless charging pad, a high-definition surround-view camera, and a rear camera mirror. The rear camera mirror uses a video feed to show the driver what’s behind the Acadia, providing an unobstructed wide-angle view that is especially helpful when the cargo area is packed with road-trip provisions.
GMC needs to step up this SUV’s safety game. While the 2020 Acadia comes standard with several helpful features, it is quickly falling behind in terms of customer access to advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS).
Standard equipment includes a rear-seat reminder system and Teen Driver technology, each designed to improve the safety of children at various stages of their lives. Standard GMC Connected Services includes automatic collision notification and SOS emergency calling, among other features, but the free trial period is quite short.
As far as ADAS safety features, GMC equips the base Acadia SL and up with a standard blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning system. This is good because studies show these are the safety technologies people are most likely to find useful.
However, if you want forward collision warning and low-speed automatic emergency braking, which are most effective at preventing accidents and reducing collision forces, you must upgrade to SLT or AT4 trim at a minimum.
Even here, these features cost extra, part of a Driver Alert Package that also equips the SUV with lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance, pedestrian braking, parking sensors, automatic high-beam headlights, and a head-up display. GMC offers an enhanced automatic emergency braking system that operates at speeds greater than 50 mph, but inexplicably, this is exclusive to the pricey GMC Acadia Denali.
In crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2020 Acadia 5-star ratings in most assessments, plus a 4-star rollover resistance rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) offers incomplete data for the Acadia; the SUV hasn’t been tested for headlight performance or for small overlap frontal-impact protection for the front passenger. In other tests, the IIHS gives the SUV high marks.
Attractive, comfortable for up to five people, roomy in terms of cargo space, dynamically agreeable, equipped with idiot-proof infotainment technology, and safe based on the crash-testing conducted to date, the 2020 GMC Acadia appears to be an appealing midsize SUV.
What’s missing here, aside from a discernable driving character, is value.
In addition to its stinginess with driving assistance and collision avoidance technologies, GMC doesn’t come close to matching the free trial periods to its connected services offering that some other automakers do. Also, while GMC provides your first maintenance visit to the dealership at no charge, this doesn’t compare to other automakers who offer a similar benefit. Plus, unless you want flat white paint, every exterior color costs extra money. And if you want a sparkly white paint job, you’re going to spend more than a grand for it.
These factors, combined with interior quality that doesn’t quite meet expectations at an MSRP of over $50,000, reek of nickel-and-dime approach to the Acadia. But GMC almost always offers big discounts on this SUV, no doubt subsidized by this premium brand’s approach to charging extra for everything.
If GMC wants the Acadia to grab attention and sell in greater numbers, solving the value equation is likely the fastest and easiest path to success until the SUV’s next redesign arrives.
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The 2020 GMC Acadia crossover SUV has plenty of space, a snazzy Denali variant, and tough-looking styling. It's a great family vehicle that wears a rugged mask.
The 2020 model strives to impress with a flurry of updates. Under the hood, there's a new 2.0-liter turbo-4 for mid-level models, and a new 9-speed automatic is standard with all engines. A stop/start system has also been made standard on all models for improved fuel efficiency. On the outside, a light refresh brings redesigned LED headlights and squares off the front end for a more truckish look.
Also new this year is an available off-road themed AT4 trim. Soon to be rolled out across the GMC line, the AT4 designation means fatter tires, more off-road hardware, and a tougher look.
The new turbo-4 brings the engine offerings for the Acadia up to three. The base models are powered by a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes 193 horsepower and 188 pound-feet of torque. It's limited to the bottom two trims and is only available with front-wheel drive.
Above this is the new 2.0-liter turbo-4, which makes 230 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It comes with the mid-trim SLE when equipped with all-wheel drive as well the SLT.
The most powerful option on the Acadia's menu is a 3.6-liter V-6 with 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque. This engine is limited to the Denali and AT4 trims.
Front-wheel drive is standard on most trims, but all-wheel drive is standard on the AT4 and available on all but the base SL.
Standard active-safety features include blind-spot monitors and rear parking sensors. Automatic emergency braking, which is quickly becoming standard in most vehicles across most segments, is limited to option status on the SLT and AT4. It's standard on the Denali, however, along with adaptive cruise control and active lane control.
All prices include a $1,195 destination charge.
The base SL ($30,995) is front-wheel drive and is powered by the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. Standard equipment includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED headlights, 17-inch wheels, and tri-zone climate control.
The SE ($34,995 for FWD, $36,995 for AWD) adds selectable drive modes, 18-inch wheels, and satellite radio. It also opens up more options, including both the turbo-4 and V-6 engines as well as features like Bose audio, a power tailgate, and heated and cooled seats.
The SLT ($40,895 for FWD; $42,895 for AWD) comes with the turbo-4, leather upholstery, a power driver's seat, heated front seats, and Bose audio.
The AT4 ($44,395) is the off-roader of the bunch, getting 17-inch black wheels, cloth seats, V-6 power, all-terrain tires, and an off-road mode. All-wheel drive is standard.
At the top of the lineup is the Denali ($49,990). It comes with most luxury features available on the Acadia, including automatic emergency braking, heated and cooled front seats, heated second row seats, and wireless phone charging. The V-6 and all-wheel drive are standard as well.