By on August 28, 2019

2020 GMC Acadia

GMC has long made a fuss about its Denali sub-brand, which is meant to signify the most luxurious trim available for any given GMC model. GMCs, of course, are supposed to be more upscale versions of Chevrolet trucks and SUVs, even without Denali badging.

Enter a new sub-brand – AT4. First available as an off-road-oriented trim on the Sierra full-size pickup, and intended to become available on all GMC models within the next two years, AT4 is a trim that aims to emphasize off-road ability – or at least look the part.

While the Sierra’s AT4 trim offers mechanical changes that serve to improve the truck’s off-road prowess, the Acadia version is more about off-road looks, all-terrain tires and standard all-wheel drive notwithstanding. GMC knows the Acadia is a suburban shuttle, not a bad-ass off-roader, and has adjusted the AT4 treatment for this vehicle as such.

All 2020 Acadias get a new grille, new fascias front and rear, and a new taillight treatment. Select the AT4, and you’ll receive a unique grille with black chrome accents, other black chrome exterior bits, unique wheels, and unique badging.

While a 2.0-liter turbo four will now be available on the Acadia (late availability), the Acadia AT4 comes equipped with a standard 3.6-liter V6 that makes 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque. As mentioned above, all-wheel drive is standard, as are all-terrain tires on 17-inch wheels. Twenty-inch wheels are available. The transmission is of the nine-speed automatic variety.

(Full disclosure: GMC flew me to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and placed me in two nice hotels while also offering meals and booze, all so I could drive some of its products. Most of the focus was on full-size trucks, but I got about 40 minutes of seat time in the Acadia AT4).

2020 GMC Acadia

As noted in the disclosure, I didn’t get a ton of seat time in the Acadia AT4 – just a quick loop that was about 20 minutes or so in each direction. A lot of journalists didn’t even bother with the Acadia, as changes for 2020 are relatively minor, but I hadn’t been in one quite some time, and hey, TTAC needs to feed the content beast.

Given the short length of my drive and the fact that it was on nicely paved roads with gentle curves, as well as the fact that a fair bit of it was in stop and go traffic (even Wyoming has traffic jams. Thanks, tourism), this review will be more of the “quick take” variety.

As you no doubt know by now, the second-generation Acadia moved to the C1XX platform, getting smaller and lighter in the process. The weight loss is noticeable – while the old Lambda-based Acadia seemed to lumber around, this thing feels sprightlier by comparison. It’s livelier to drive.

Livelier to an extent, that is. Despite the drop in mass, the V6 only provides adequate acceleration at best – even foot to the floor during a gap in traffic didn’t move the needle, so to speak. To be fair, Jackson Hole and its surrounding environs are at a power-sapping altitude of around 6,000 feet above sea level. Perhaps the Acadia is a bit quicker at lower elevations.

2020 GMC Acadia

Acadia’s exterior is a bit of slightly bland boxiness that is only mildly spiced up by the AT4 bits. It’s not ugly, but you’re not going to notice it in traffic. Be prepared to get lost in a sea of anonymous crossovers at the nearest Bed, Bath & Beyond parking lot.

Inside, I remain flummoxed by the weird tray of buttons that operates the trans, and the overall design looks long in the tooth, thought at least the control layout is user-friendly. Materials are nice but don’t exactly scream luxury.

2020 GMC Acadia

My test vehicle based at $41,300, including infotainment, rear park assist, rear cross-traffic alert, fog lamps, lane-change alert, blind-zone alert, remote start, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, rear-seat reminder, Bluetooth, satellite radio, heated front seats, tri-zone climate control, and hands-free power liftgate. Options included the interior scheme ($1,000), dual sunroof ($1,400), infotainment system with navigation ($995), Driver Alert package ($695, includes front and rear park assist, safety alert seat, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, and forward-collision alert), and the paint job ($495). Add another $1,195 for destination and you get a total of $47,080.

That money gets you a decent, semi-upscale crossover that isn’t quite as luxurious as it could be. However, it’s lighter on its feet than it once was, and it lacks in the way of obvious flaws. While the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade offer more for the (similar) buck, the Acadia won’t leave buyers feeling regretful.

[Images @ 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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29 Comments on “2020 GMC Acadia First Drive – Another AT4 Joins the Lineup...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’d be more interested if the turbo-4 was available in more trim levels but I live at altitude. The push button trans irritates me because if you actually want to manually hold gears you have to reach down there to that stupid (+/-) selector. Either give paddle shifters or mount the buttons up high on the dash.

    I love the cargo room behind the 2nd row but the 3rd row is there to simply be a “Oh look hun there’s a 3rd row”.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The Acadia’s turbo-4 is the limp-wristed new one. It is down 13hp and 37lb-ft of torque compared to your Buick.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I know.

        You want to know what I think the real reason is for the “de-rated” turbo 4 in the new GM vehicles?

        The 9-speed auto. My Buick has an 8 speed Aisin transmission while the 9-speed is GMs own design (co-developed with Ford but Ford is now choosing a revised 8 speed version.)

        I think that the 9 speed CAN’T handle the nearly 300 lb ft of torque that the “old” 2.0T puts out. I think instead of building a better transmission that GM is turning the 2.0 T into a gelding.

        Adding speculation to this would be that the Terrain, which can be had with what should be the same engine as my TourX (but with the 9-speed auto) ONLY puts out 260 lb ft of torque NOT the 295 lb ft that my Buick does.

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          GM Authority has gone into some detail about this and has sited that GM engineers are going for a Hyundai like approach with more refinement in the NVH department, more low down power, lower emissions, better MPG and a flatter torque curve. Note that Hyundai has also detuned their 2.0T and 2.4 liter engines with these things in mind and managed to squeeze a little more mileage out of the Sonata and Sante Fe 2.0T/8 speed setups.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I have a feeling greater happiness running on 87 octane was a factor in the new engine as well.

            However, much like with the Hyundai 2.0/2.4/3.8 I think detuning and offering the slowest cars in class is a mistake. According to the SAE curves, the new LSY 2.0T is “flatter” than the older 2.0T, but it doesn’t have any more power down low either (they both make about 260 at 1500) and overall it is just a weaker engine (although the weakness is more noticeable at mid and high RPMs).

            An XT4 buyer might care more about 1MPG than output over 3000RPM, but GM also is putting this lower output engine into their CT4/CT5 sport sedans. Having a dead fish motor and being a half second slower than the competition is not going to be a virtue in that class.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The LSY 2.0T is detuned because of the high and low variable lift heights and cylinder deactivation, hence the tri-power moniker. It has a much broader output than LTG which results in better miles per gallon.

      Motoman photo shoot crew was seeing well into the 30’s mpg just driving to a photographic area in a XT4 review on YouTube.

  • avatar
    gtem

    $495 for a drab gunmetal grey paintjob, did I read that right?

    AT4 moniker is laughable on this thing, worse even than something like the Rav4 Adventure (hey they at least bump the ground clearance on that). I’ve driven an SLT V6 rental and was generally pleased. Drove an SLE 2.5 the year before and thought the powertrain was atrocious.

    Just returned a rental Tahoe LT, now THAT is something that is at least memorable and satisfying to drive in a way that no FWD based crossover is.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    My guess is that we’ll be seeing a review of the GMC HD pickup as a result of this trip? :)

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    PROFESSIONAL GROCERY GETTER

  • avatar
    dal20402

    They should take a cue from the Germans and call the ones that are just appearance packages “AT Line” or something. Save AT4 for vehicles that have off-road chops.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I see AT4 and I think 4-speed automatic transmission.

    This, I’m sure, is fine. Everything about it is fine. It’ll serve whoever buys it fine for 3-4 years before they trade it in on something else.

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    Its a minivan but with conventional doors and awd, guys. Nothing to see here. Oh and ‘all terrain’ tires as in pavement, wet pavement, concrete, and gravel are *all* the terrain this will see. Got it. Put it over there with everything else typically parked at a Chucky Cheese.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    GM keeps making this same mistake: 1st- make product with special branding that means something (AT4, SS, etc.). Apply this to a few appropriate vehicles (trucks, muscle cars, etc. as appropriate). As soon as special branding starts to mean something- apply to something completely not appropriate for the brand- making something milquetoast and making people shrug when they see the branding.

    GM- SPECIAL EDITIONS NEED TO BE SPECIAL! that is all.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Is it just me or is this just a cookie-cutter copy of the Ford Explorer? At first glance I thought it was “BNG” (Bold New Grill) engineering.

  • avatar
    TheDutchGun

    The AT4 moniker should not be applied, but it’s not the worst looking vehicle I’ve ever seen.

    Just don’t call it something it isn’t.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Malaise Part II

  • avatar
    bd2

    That front clip is one of the better jobs that GM has done recently – clean, but masculine lines.

    Now, if they can only fix the design of the dash which looks so 1990s.

  • avatar

    Does it have a rubbish interior?

  • avatar
    Best_Ever

    “interior scheme” Man, you can say that again. I’d say they applied that to the entire vehicle.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    Looks like GM gave the Arcadia the Sierra’s grille and Dodge Charger headlights.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    Nice looking update.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Have driven plenty of Acadia 3.6/6 speed combos and they are plenty quick enough, especially with some miles on them. The 9 speed should enhance acceleration some provided they get the programming right.

    • 0 avatar
      cognoscenti

      ponchoman49 wrote: “…provided they get the programming right.”

      This. Unfortunately, as I’ve personally experienced in every volume GM vehicle in recent years, they will mess up the transmission programming terribly for those of us who actually enjoy driving. The dashpot effect is noticeable and irritating, and in even in what they call “manual mode”, an upshift press is a request, not a demand. The last GM vehicle I drove that treated manual mode properly was the G8.

  • avatar

    Thats just butt ugly


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