Let's be honest — automotive writers prefer writing about high-performance vehicles instead of family haulers. They live to test sport anythings and only accept the more practical ones in the rotations because it's part of the job. The Top Gear Guys regularly scorn any vehicle an average person would drive.
But after a week in a small, powerful and jittery crossover that will go unnamed, I was relieved to switch over to a 2020 GMC Acadia AT4, the subject of this week's review. It wasn't like I didn't have some fun in the previous tester, but having to squeeze into the cramped interior and put up with the jarring suspension while waiting for the traffic to thin out so I could have some fun got old after a while.
So when the larger mid-size Acadia crossover SUV arrived, it was a relief to not have to fold myself into the driver's seat and dread the speed bumps getting out of the parking lot. What I didn't expect — but what immediately showed itself on the open road — was how well it drove. With 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque, the 3.6-liter V6 had plenty of power. The nine-speed automatic transmission shifted smoothly. The supple suspension leveled out the uneven pavement. The surprisingly precise steering gave it a nimble feel. And the interior was both comfortable and — as opposed to my previous ride — very quiet.
I'm not saying anyone who lusts after a sports car, sport coupe, sport sedan or any other performance vehicle should switch instead the most recent version of the Acadia. Far from it. But they might be surprised by what such a supposedly middle of the road manufacturer like GMC is making these days.
GMC redesigned the Acadia for 2020, giving it a host of new features, and improved off-road capability in the AT4 trim. In addition to the new transmission, there's also an optional 2.0-liter turbocharged engine package and a new infotainment system that is the best the company has ever offered.
Inside, the Acadia can be configured to hold five, six, or seven passengers. The five-passenger version uses two rows of seating with a rear bench seat. There's an optional third row, and the second row bench seat can be swapped for dual captain's chairs. Out test model had two rows of seats, which created a huge amount of cargo space where the last row goes, even more with the second row folded flat.
Out test Acadia was the AT4 model, which came with the V6, a twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system (with multiple drive modes), all-terrain tires on 17-inch wheels (20-inch wheels are optional), and a bold, bold black-accented exterior that gave it serious look, accented by the large GMC signature grill. Although more off-road capable that other models, it is still best considered an all-weather vehicle that can also handle moderate trails without being damaged — given a good driver, of course.
The interior featured attractive two-tone leather seats. The infotainment system is built around an 8-inch touchscreen that supports standard voice recognition control. It also included a wealth of safety features, such as rear parking assistance and cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring with lane change alerts, and an HD rear view camera.
No vehicle is perfect, of course. The Arcadia has a push and pull button dash-mounted transmission shifter that saves space but never felt logical. It included push buttons for manually shifting gears when set in Low that I doubt many people will ever use. And the driver's seat that vibrates to warn of approaching hazards takes some getting use to, although not as annoying as the beeps on some safety systems.
Overall, though, after a weeks of daily driving, I found the 2020 Acadia AT4 to be a surprisingly capable and even fun to drive mid-size crossover SUV. Our nearly fully-loaded model was priced at $45,680, which is a very good price and was significantly below the much smaller and not nearly as comfortable crossover I'd previously tested. I'm not saying it's a fair comparison, but if I have to chose one to live with, it would be the GMC family hauler, honestly.
2020 GMC Acadia AT4
Base price: $41,300
Price as tested: $45,680
Type: Mid-size SUV
Engine: 3.6-liter V6 (310 hp, 271 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 18/25
Overall length: 193.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,923 pounds
Final assembly: Spring Hill, Tennessee
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