2020 GMC Acadia AT4 First Drive Review: Versatile Personality

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2020 GMC Acadia
2020 GMC Acadia | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

We tested out the new 2020 GMC Acadia AT4 and its rugged look in Wyoming. Here’s what we think about this new variant.

I had personally only seen and heard of Wyoming in the movies before GMC invited me to Jackson, a small town of roughly ten thousand souls nestled at the bottom of the Yellowstone Park and next to the Idaho State border. Two types of personalities on wheels were available for test drives during the event, the new 2020 Sierra HD family of trucks, and the more domesticated 2020 Acadia.

It was only when I got off the airplane that I realized that Jackson wasn’t some boring cattle and ranch town. In fact, the “downtown” core looks like if Aspen, Colorado and some western movie set from Clint Eastwood’s best works had mated. Throw in a few Starbuck’s, Swarovski stores and a large amount of wealthy Asian tourists, and you get Jackson, Wyoming – a popular tourist spot in the middle of nowhere.

After spending a day in the valleys and endless fields running the 2020 Sierra HD through its paces, I was given some time with the 2020 GMC Acadia AT4, a more convenient vehicle to navigate through the busy streets of Jackson than the workhorse I had been riding all day.

Aesthetically, the 2020 Acadia got a new front and rear fascias, LED Headlights and taillamps and different wheel styles. Inside, a Head-Up Display, Rear Camera Mirror and the latest iteration of GMC’s Infotainment System along with new dashboard-mounted transmission controls have been installed. It is also outfitted with safety features like Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert & Rear Park Assist. On the lightly reworked body, an updated suspension aims at providing a smoother ride.

The base 193-horsepower, 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine is still there, along with the ‘ol “base of the GM sauce” 3.6-litre V6 producing 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque. But there’s a newcomer this year; a twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that puts out 230 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.

We were sent out with the new, rugged-looking AT4 variant. A sub-brand that GMC is spreading throughout its lineup. Although new, the Acadia AT4 gets the trusty 3.6-litre V6. It is paired to a new nine-speed automatic transmission – which replaces the 6-speed across the model range.

On the road with the 2020 GMC Acadia AT4

2020 GMC Acadia | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

Wanting a well-equipped SUV often implies climbing to the upper variants. And within the domestic manufacturers, that choice often drags a lot of chrome with it. Indeed, superior variants are commonly outfitted with more “bling” which isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. The AT4 tries to cater to those who enjoy the gear, but not the shiny trims.

It positions itself between the SLT and top of the range Denali trim, as an off-road-oriented option, with blacked-out trims that make it look more rugged. This AT4 variant hit the Sierra and Sierra HD, now it comes to the Acadia. And so we heard, it will come to the Canyon in 2020 as a 2021 model.

Unlike the Sierra HD AT4, the 2020 GMC Acadia AT4 doesn’t get that much off-road gear. But you still get unique exterior finishes and darkened elements, and a standard Advanced Twin-Clutch AWD System, All-Terrain tires, exclusive exterior finishes, etc.

The 3.6-litre V6 does its job well with reliable power and torque available. I’m always nervous when we see a new 9-speed unit. Commonly calibrated towards fuel efficiency, these gearboxes often find themselves confused as to what gear to choose during hard accelerations. Burying the accelerator pedal on the 2020 GMC Acadia AT4 didn’t cause any hesitation, though, as the unit shifts quickly and seamlessly through gears. On the highway, pickups are also smooth.

The new Acadia provides a comfortable ride. It’s satisfyingly precise steering system lets the driver point and aim in a busy urban environment, while still giving confidence at high speed. Around corners and in steep mountainous terrain, the Acadia AT4 felt stable with virtually no body roll. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take it off-road to challenge the twin-clutch AWD system, but a winter test drive will be on the to-do list shortly!

The transmission “buttons” in the centre stack took some getting used to. But this new configuration does free some space in the console. I bet that after a few weeks of owning a new Acadia, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.  The five-passenger configuration is standard, with an available third row. Yes, this third row is cramped for an adult, but can still serve a purpose for hauling the little ones. Otherwise, comfort is on par for the driver and passengers, with sufficient legroom in the second row.

Conclusion

2020 GMC Acadia | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

In the end, the 2020 GMC Acadia felt at home in Jackson. Capable of hauling passengers around tourist-ridden narrow streets with precision, but also able to powerfully escape to the highway and into the mountains, if need be.


2020 GMC Acadia AT4 Photo Gallery

2020 GMC Acadia | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube
2020 GMC Acadia | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube
2020 GMC Acadia | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

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