2021 GMC Acadia

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2021
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2021
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
November 12, 2020

Buying tip

Acadia SLEs now can be fitted with automatic emergency braking; SLTs hit the sweet spot by making that vital technology standard.

features & specs

AWD 4-Door AT4
AWD 4-Door Denali
AWD 4-Door SLE
MPG
18 city / 25 hwy
MPG
18 city / 25 hwy
MPG
NA
MSRP
$41,100
MSRP
$48,300
MSRP
$36,800

The 2021 GMC Acadia shines most brightly in turbo-4 spec, but rival three-row crossovers put out more lumens.

What kind of car is the 2021 GMC Acadia?

The 2021 GMC Acadia is a mid-size crossover SUV that can seat from five to seven people. It’s offered with a choice of three engines and with front-or all-wheel drive. 

Is the 2021 GMC Acadia a good SUV?

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It has good infotainment, a well-tuned ride, and good acceleration from its turbo-4 and V-6 engines. We give it a TCC Rating of 6.2 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s new for the 2021 GMC Acadia?

GMC’s added wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility this year, and made automatic emergency braking standard on the mid-range Acadia SLT and optional on the SLE.

No styling points have changed, and the 2021 Acadia still presents a more boxy, bluff look than the similar Chevy Blazer. With its big grille and LED headlights, it has a distinctive presence. The cabin lacks some of the refinement of its biggest rivals, though a large 8.0-inch touchscreen with a smooth interface wins it points.

GMC fits a 193-horsepower inline-4 to the base Acadia SL; we’ll pass in favor of a strong 230-hp turbo-4 that’s offered on most mid-range models and comes with a 9-speed automatic and available all-wheel drive. It’s relatively quiet and has strong low-end pull, so much so that it makes the 310-hp V-6 on the Denali edition (and optional elsewhere) seem like overkill. In either case, the Acadia is a pleasantly quick crossover SUV, one with above-average road manners.

At about 194 inches long, the Acadia can be fitted with three rows of seats. The third-row fold-away bench isn’t very large, though the Acadia’s front four or five seats are comfortable and surrounded by lots of head and leg room. The SUV’s slightly narrow, though, and three adults across the middle bench will be a squeeze. Cargo space flexes up to 79.0 cubic feet behind the front seats, too, and many models have a standard power tailgate.

How much does the 2021 GMC Acadia cost?

The base Acadia costs about $31,000 and can’t be ordered with all-wheel drive, a bigger engine, or automatic emergency braking. We’d skip ahead to the SLE or SLT models, which get those features as options or as standard equipment. All Acadias have a slick infotainment system with an 8.0-inch touchscreen and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Pricey models also get wireless smartphone charging, Bose audio, and perforated leather upholstery.

Where is the 2021 GMC Acadia made?

In Spring Hill, Tennessee.

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2021 GMC Acadia

Styling

The Acadia’s appeal is semi-rugged.

Is the GMC Acadia a good-looking car?

We think so, though the interior’s in need of an upgrade. We give it a 6 here.

With an upright and square-rigged front end, the Acadia isn’t as pitch-perfect as its Korean rivals, the Telluride and Palisade, but it’s still attractive. A front-end update last year massaged its grille and headlights, but didn’t coin new brash lines on most models. The bluff, tall proportions wear just enough chrome—or blacked-out trim in the case of the more adventurous AT4. It’s a good-looking vehicle, especially in Denali trim, handsome if not trend-setting.

It’s inside where the Acadia falls behind. A decade ago its well-trimmed cockpit would have earned kudos, but vehicles from the Lincoln Aviator to the Palisade and Telluride have reset expectations with wide touchscreens, quilted leather, and gregarious swaths of wood and chrome. The Acadia plays it simpler, with a shield-shaped dash and clusters of controls that don’t look as fresh as those rivals’ linear looks.

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7

2021 GMC Acadia

Performance

All-wheel drive and turbo-4 power give the 2021 Acadia its best life.

GMC offers the Acadia with three engines and with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Skip the base engine and the Acadia performs well, with a capable and controlled ride and ample acceleration. We give it a 7 for performance based on the all-wheel-drive, turbo-4 SLT edition.

How fast is the GMC Acadia?

It’s not, not when it’s fitted with the base 2.5-liter inline-4. That engine’s rated at 193 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque, and even with its 9-speed automatic shuffling through gears quickly, it’s still too lean on power to feel quick off the line. It also can’t be fitted with all-wheel drive.

We’d skip it and choose the 2.0-liter turbo-4, which earns official ratings of 230 hp and a much stronger 258 lb-ft of torque. We’ve driven this combo in the very similar Chevy Blazer, and found it’s the best of the three drivetrains, with relatively quiet acceleration and solid low-end punch, though the 9-speed can hiccup on occasion as it sorts through lower gears in search of the perfect cog. The transmission also has toggle-style controls instead of a lever; it’s something to get used to.

The pricey option here is the Acadia’s 3.6-liter V-6. Quiet and strong, it spools out 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque. It’s available on all Acadias save for the base SL edition. It comes saddled with more weight, but it’s also equipped with more thrust and more friendly engine noises, and it isn’t ultimately much quicker than the turbo-4. 

Is the GMC Acadia 4WD?

Some versions are, though no Acadia has low-range gearing for true four-wheel drive. Instead, Acadias with all-wheel drive have selectable drive modes that reprogram the throttle and transmission to enable moderate off-pavement driving (for which you’ll want something less slick than the Acadia’s all-season tires). 

On every Acadia we’ve driven, the fuss-free steering is nicely weighted and responsive. Its ride impresses us more: It’s composed and tuned for optimal daily-commute control, even on versions upsized from 18-inch wheels to 20-inchers. The 20s transmit some additional ride noise into the cabin, but that doesn’t alter its essentially smooth ride, set slightly to the softer side.

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2021 GMC Acadia

Comfort & Quality

Four or five adults will fit well in the Acadia.

With seating for up to seven passengers, the 2021 Acadia fits four or five adults best. Cargo space is ample, and the Acadia’s front seats fit us well—so it’s a 7 here.

In the base Acadia, GMC fits manual-adjustable 4-way cloth seats, but most other versions have power-adjustable, leather-upholstered seats. Choose them where you can, as their bolsters snug in and give good support without cinching or confining. The Acadia’s cockpit has lots of bins to hold small items, from the storage bin that takes the place of a shift lever, to its large cupholders.

The Acadia can fit three people across the second row when it’s fitted with a bench, but two adults won’t tussle for shoulder room. Some versions have options for two captain’s chairs, which suit passengers even better. The Acadia doesn’t have a sliding second-row seat like the similar Chevy Blazer. We’d skip the third-row seat unless you ferry small passengers often; it’s not as usable as many third-row benches.

The Acadia sports 79.0 cubic feet of space behind the front seats, and 41.7 cubic feet behind the second row. With all its possible seats in use, the Acadia still has 12.8 cubic feet of cargo room. 

Higher-priced Acadia crossovers have relatively quiet interiors and tight build quality, but at the $50,000 price point the Acadia Denali lacks the panache of rivals like the Lincoln Aviator.

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2021 GMC Acadia

Safety

We’re waiting on the NHTSA to update its Acadia ratings.

All signs are good, but we haven’t finalized a score since the IIHS hasn’t finished its testing. The agency gives the Acadia “Good” scores for impact tests, but hasn’t tested the crossover’s headlights—so it doesn’t carry a Top Safety Pick designation. 

The NHTSA gives the Acadia five stars overall.

The base Acadia doesn’t come with automatic emergency braking, and it’s a spend-up option on the SLE. It’s now standard on the SLT, AT4, and Denali, and comes with adaptive cruise control and active lane control, while Denalis can also be fitted with a rear camera mirror.

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2021 GMC Acadia

Features

The Acadia soft-pedals safety gear, but comes through with infotainment.

GMC’s Acadia crossovers deliver excellent infotainment and a variety of trims, but the safety gear we deem essential is left off base models and costs extra on another. We give it a 7, adding points for its touchscreen, which now has standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and for value.

The base Acadia SL costs about $31,000, and has a 4-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. It also gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, LED headlights, 7-passenger seating, 17-inch wheels, 4-way manually adjustable front seats, and keyless start. All Acadias have a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty.

Which 2021 GMC Acadia should I buy?

We’d move into the Acadia SLE. For about $35,000 it has drive modes, 18-inch wheels, and satellite radio, and can be fitted with all-wheel drive and V-6 or turbo-4 power. Also on its options list are heated and cooled power front seats, a sunroof, Bose audio, a power tailgate, and a safety bundle that includes automatic emergency braking.

For about $6,000 more, the Acadia SLT comes with automatic emergency braking, 6-passenger seating, the turbo-4, a power driver seat, heated front seats, leather upholstery, Bose audio, and remote start—or you can opt into the Acadia AT4 and its 5-passenger seating, cloth seats, 17-inch black wheels, V-6, and off-road hardware. 

How much is a fully loaded 2021 GMC Acadia?

The Acadia Denali costs about $50,000, and comes with heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, the V-6 engine and all-wheel drive, wireless smartphone charging, and standard adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. 

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2021 GMC Acadia

Fuel Economy

The Acadia posts mid-pack fuel-economy ratings.

Is the GMC Acadia good on gas?

It’s OK. The EPA gives the base 4-cylinder versions ratings of 21 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined, good enough for a 4 on our scale. The turbo-4 performs better: with front-wheel drive, it’s rated at 22/29/25 mpg, and with all-wheel drive, it scores ratings of 22/27/24 mpg. 

With the V-6 and front-wheel drive, the Acadia checks in at 19/27/22 mpg, and with all-wheel drive, 19/26/21 mpg.

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$29,800
MSRP based on FWD 4-Door SL
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6.2
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety N/A
Features 7
Fuel Economy 4
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2021 GMC Acadia Pricing Insights

  • 2021 Acadia selection improving; 2020s still available
  • $5,500 factory rebate on 2020s; $4,000 on 2021s
  • Lease a 2020 from $285 for 36 months
  • New 0% APR for 84 months on 2020s
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