2020 GMC Acadia First Drive - Another AT4 Joins the Lineup

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

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).

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.

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.

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]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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3 of 29 comments
  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Aug 29, 2019

    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.

    • Cognoscenti Cognoscenti on Sep 03, 2019

      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.

  • Doug Dolde Doug Dolde on Sep 04, 2019

    Thats just butt ugly

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  • GIJOOOE “Sounds” about as exciting as driving a golf cart, fake gear shifts or not. I truly hope that Dodge and the other big American car makers pull their heads out of the electric clouds and continue to offer performance cars with big horsepower internal combustion engines that require some form of multi gear transmissions and high octane fuel, even if they have to make them in relatively small quantities and market them specifically to gearheads like me. I will resist the ev future for as long as I have breath in my lungs and an excellent credit score/big bank account. People like me, who have loved fast cars for as long as I can remember, need a car that has an engine that sounds properly pissed off when I hit the gas pedal and accelerate through the gears.
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  • CecilSaxon Sounds about as smart as VW's "SoundAktor"