2020 GMC Acadia

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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
July 2, 2020

Buying tip

GMC charges extra for active safety features on nearly every Acadia save for the Denali model; stick with the recommended SLT and you’ll pay $1,295 extra for automatic emergency braking.

features & specs

AWD 4-Door AT4
AWD 4-Door Denali
AWD 4-Door SLE
18 city / 25 hwy
18 city / 25 hwy
21 city / 27 hwy

The 2020 GMC Acadia gains a turbo-4, but falls behind new three-row rivals.

A newly optional engine, upgraded infotainment, and revised styling mark the 2020 GMC Acadia, but they don’t solve its biggest issue: cutthroat competition.

We give it a rating of 6.4 out of 10, pending a safety score. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The three-row crossover SUV sandwiches a new 2.0-liter turbo-4 between its carryover base 2.5-liter inline-4 and optional 3.6-liter V-6 engines. The new 230-horsepower turbo-4 slides in between the 193-hp base engine and the 310-hp V-6. The turbo-4 is standard on 2020 Acadia SLE with all-wheel drive and the SLT, while the base inline-4 comes on the Acadia SL and front-drive SLE. The V-6 is included with the Denali and the new off-road-oriented Acadia AT4 trim level. 

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Regardless of what’s underhood, the 2020 GMC Acadia’s engines put power to the wheels via a 9-speed automatic transmission instead of last year’s standard 6-speed. The new transmission and a standard stop/start system improve fuel economy on all Acadias, while they don’t alter its mood too much; it’s still a pleasantly quick crossover SUV, with above-average road manners.

Outside, the updated Acadia adopts new LED headlights and a revised grille design that give it a boxier look than last year’s model. The new Acadia AT4 features dark exterior trim and all-terrain tires wrapped around 17-inch alloy wheels, although 20-inch wheels are optional.

Stretching about 194 inches from bumper to bumper, the three-row Acadia slots in above the automaker’s five-seat Terrain and below its truck-based Yukon. Its front seats suit us well, but the Acadia’s a bit narrower than some rivals and doesn’t have the sliding second-row seat of the similar Chevy Blazer, though cargo space is fine.

Crash-test scores are fine, but automatic emergency braking is missing on half the 2020 Acadia lineup; it’s an upcharge on the SLT and AT4, standard on the Denali. GMC gets more generous with other features: All Acadias now have a slick infotainment interface displayed on an 8.0-inch screen and more USB ports. Pricey versions get wireless smartphone charging and perforated leather upholstery, but we’d be satisfied with the Acadia SLT’s turbo-4 engine and Bose audio—though we’d hold a grudge for the extra $1,295 we’d pay for automatic emergency braking.


2020 GMC Acadia


A newly minted nose keeps the Acadia fresh, but the cockpit’s falling back in the pack.

The Acadia’s rugged, upright shape still draws favorable looks, but the interior hasn’t kept up with the high-end look and feel of GMC’s new rivals—the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade. We give the Acadia an extra point for the revamped front end, for a 6 in styling.

The masculine stance of the Acadia doesn’t come off overly brash—at least, not until the AT4 package gets selected. The two-box design has some slight curves to relieve its tall, bluff proportions, and there’s enough chrome to go around on most models, especially at the Denali level. Handsome? Sure. Trendsetting? Nope.

The cockpit shows just how tough it is for a pedestrian appearance to win over drivers. The Acadia’s dash would have generated glowing approval a decade ago; now it’s dated and lacks the luster applied to vehicles like the Hyundai Palisade, with its marvelous quilted leather and wide touchscreen. The Acadia’s simple, shield-shaped dash doesn’t have the crisp linear design or the trim quality to outshine the Koreans—or the Lincoln Aviator, for that matter. It’s just a few years old, but the Acadia’s cabin seems to have used up its shelf life already.

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2020 GMC Acadia


The Acadia’s capable engines and trick all-wheel-drive system endow it with good performance.

GMC fits the 2020 Acadia with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, and with a choice between three engines. With anything but the base engine, it’s a capable ride, with just enough performance on all fronts to muster a score of 7 here, based on the new turbo-4 and all-wheel-drive SLT.

Skip the base 2.5-liter inline-4. With 193 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque, it couples to a 9-speed automatic to send its power to the front wheels. It’s lean on power off the line, and can’t be optioned with all-wheel drive—so pass it up in favor of GM’s new 2.0-liter turbo-4, which generates a much stronger 230 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s linked to the same 9-speed automatic; we’ve driven the combination in the similar Chevy Blazer, and aside from a hiccup or two with low-speed gear selection, the drivetrain suits these crossovers best, with solid low-end punch and relatively quiet operation.

At the top of the Acadia range, a quiet and strong 3.6-liter V-6 spins out 310 hp and 271 pound-feet of torque. An option on every Acadia save the base SL, the V-6 has more substantial thrust but also carries more weight, so the performance gains come across less convincingly than the burbly engine sounds. 

Acadias with all-wheel drive come with a drive mode selector that offers sport, towing, and off-road programs, as well as a front-drive mode. In the versions we’ve driven, nicely weighted steering delivers good road feel, without much fuss. What’s more noticeable—and useful for daily driving—is the Acadia’s composed ride. Though 20-inch wheels replace the standard 18-inchers on some models, even the bigger tires don’t impede on the Acadia’s swell ride quality, which lands slightly on the side of softness, as it should. The 20-inch wheels transmit more thumps into the cabin, but don’t jostle like the overly stiff setups on some luxury-brand SUVs. 

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2020 GMC Acadia

Comfort & Quality

The Acadia excels with four or five passengers on board.

The Acadia comes in five-, six-, and seven-passenger editions. They’re all comfortable for four adults or five passengers, but the third-row seat isn’t ready for prime time. We rate it an 8 for comfort and quality, with extra points above average for well-shaped front seats and for its cargo space.

Base Acadias only come with manual four-way cloth seats, but the more popular versions have power-adjustable, leather-upholstered chairs. They’re the ones you want, with bolsters that are firm enough without a confining feel, though the seat bottoms could be a bit larger for bigger passengers. GMC puts small-item storage in easy reach, from the cupholders and storage bin that sit where a shift lever might usually stand, and USB ports aren’t far away.

In the second row, the Acadia can seat three across when it’s equipped with a bench, though the middle passenger will have to set boundaries for shoulder room. It’s better in higher-trim models, which get twin captain’s chairs in the second row—though the Acadia doesn’t have the sliding second-row seat of the similar Chevy Blazer. 

A five-passenger version omits the available third-row seat, and it’s a good omission: The Acadia’s rearmost seat doesn’t fit many people well.

Cargo space swells from 12.8 cubic feet behind a raised third-row seat, to 79 cubic feet with all but the front seats folded down, where possible. 

We like the Acadia’s fancier cockpits, with their tight build quality and relative quiet. For about $50,000, the Acadia Denali feels like it’s missing a bit of panache, though—especially when it’s compared to the rival Lincoln Aviator.

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2020 GMC Acadia


The 2020 Acadia has good crash-test scores and available safety equipment.

The updated 2020 Acadia gets nearly top marks on federal and IIHS scorecards, only two omissions keep it from scoring higher on our scale.

It's a 6 for safety thanks to a five-star fed score. Automatic emergency braking isn't standard on all models, and the IIHS hasn't rated its headlights. Both would earn additional points on our scale. 

In the tests it has completed, the IIHS gave the new Acadia top "Good" scores on all its tests and rated the optional automatic emergency braking system that's available on top trims (but standard on the Denali) as "Superior" in avoiding forward crashes. Every Acadia gets blind-spot monitors, which help, and a surround-view camera system is available.


2020 GMC Acadia


Strong infotainment and variety boost the Acadia in the features column.

GMC serves up a wide range of Acadia crossovers, and puts a slick new infotainment system in them all. It omits key safety gear from the best Acadia values, though—so it earns a 7 here.

The $30,995 Acadia SL comes only with the 4-cylinder non-turbo engine and front-wheel drive, as well as an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, LED headlights, 17-inch wheels, seven-passenger seating, four-way manual front seats, keyless start, and three-zone automatic climate control. We’d skip it and the $34,995 Acadia SLE, which gains selectable drive modes, satellite radio, and 18-inch wheels, as well as options for the V-6 or turbo-4 with all-wheel drive, a sunroof, heated and cooled power front seats, a power tailgate, and Bose audio. 

The $40,895 Acadia SLT is our pick. It has the turbo-4, leather upholstery, six-passenger seating, a power driver seat, heated front seats, remote start, and Bose audio. Spend another $1,295 and it comes with automatic emergency braking, a safety feature that’s standard on some $20,000 compact hatchbacks.

The $44,395 Acadia AT4 might draw interest for its off-road style. It gets five-passenger seating, 17-inch black wheels, cloth seats, the V-6, and an off-road mode and off-road tires. The $49,990 Acadia Denali caps the lineup with heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, wireless smartphone charging, the V-6 engine and all-wheel drive—and standard automatic emergency braking, as well as adaptive cruise control.

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2020 GMC Acadia

Fuel Economy

The 2020 GMC Acadia posts average gas mileage ratings.

The Acadia doesn’t soar in fuel economy, though two of its three engines are 4-cylinders. We give it a 4 for gas mileage, based on its newest power source.

Base 4-cylinders draw EPA ratings of 21 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined. With the turbo-4 and front-wheel drive, the Acadia’s pegged at 21/28/24 mpg; with all-wheel drive, at 21/27/23 mpg.

The V-6 engine in front-drive Acadia crossovers earns EPA ratings of 19/27/22 mpg, and all-wheel-drive versions, 18/25/21 mpg.

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Styling 6
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 6
Features 7
Fuel Economy 4
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