Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Reviews 2020 GMC Acadia AT4 Review: Good No-Fuss Midsize SUV

2020 GMC Acadia AT4 Review: Good No-Fuss Midsize SUV

There are few more understated midsize SUVs in the segment which aids in the GMC Acadia’s appeal

  • Pricing for the 2020 GMC Acadia starts at $37,198 in Canada, $29,800 in the US.

  • 2020 marks the Acadia’s mid-cycle refresh.

  • The AT4 is a new trim for 2020.

Occasionally, carmakers get it right, eventually. I clearly recall my first encounter with the then all-new 2017 GMC Acadia back in late 2016 and I was left quite displeased with my experience. I traveled roughly 1,500 km with a Denali-trimmed unit and despite appreciating the Acadia as a whole, I dismissed it as a contender in the midsize SUV segment.

The main issue was GM‘s dreadful 6-speed automatic transmission which suffered from clunky upshifts, rough downshifts, and generally bad behavior. I was actually able to drive another 2017 Acadia that same week and found the same issues. This was enough for me to disregard it.

From bad to good

Two other “problems” arose with the 2017 GMC Acadia that, however, remain in 2020, and 2021. One is forward-side visibility which is nearly completely hampered by huge “A” pillars and large mirrors. The other is the fact that this robust-looking SUV is actually a FWD vehicle until AWD is manually activated.

2020 GMC Acadia AT4 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The big improvement, the one that has made me perform an about-face on the Acadia is that the 6-speed has been replaced with a 9-speed automatic – this has transformed the SUV. In the past, I’d described the 310-horsepower 3.6-litre V6 and its 271 lb.-ft. of torque as adequate – the extra 50% in gears has improved responsiveness and acceleration. With the powertrain snafu out of the equation, suddenly the GMC Acadia comes into its own.

I rediscovered an SUV that was generally docile and well-behaved, one that I actually found pleasing to drive. There’s nothing especially notable about the Acadia’s chassis other than perhaps the five-link rear independent setup. Point is that the ride is cossetting, comforting, and competent.

Big easy driver

With little to no drama, the Acadia soaks up rough road surfaces. Steering is decently responsive wand I found brake performance to be reassuring. One reason for the enjoyable driving experience, I’m convinced, comes down to the fact that the tester was an AT4 with its singular 17-inch wheels wrapped in large P255/65R17 all-terrain tires.

2020 GMC Acadia AT4 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The new for 2020 AT4 trim on the GMC Acadia is, in my opinion, the best of the midsize SUV’s lineup. Physically, although the enhancements are superficial, they give the Acadia a no-non-sense presence. The wheels, the black chrome-accented grille along with the dark wheel arches deliver a, albeit small, dose of off-road credibility. The new-for-2020 front fascia is a vast improvement over the previous Acadia and with the AT4 touches, it’s even better.

Now, the 2020 GMC Acadia AT4 does, in fairness, include hill start assist and hill descent control (not available with other Acadias) as well as a specific AWD system with an Active Twin Clutch setup for improved handling and stability. The fact of the matter is that this system is more competent than most so long as you remember to turn it on. In my experience, it will remain in the last selected mode most of the time. On at least two occasions, it reverted back to FWD from AWD.

Family move-in ready

Another aspect that makes the AT4 the smarter choice is that it’s the only Acadia that limits seating to five. Where the often-pointless third row is stowed, GMC has wisely fitted a comprehensive cargo management system. The trunk itself is huge, at 1,181 litres (41.7 cubic feet).

2020 GMC Acadia AT4 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

In fact, the cabin is extremely spacious. It won’t win any design awards however the ergonomics and overall functionality are beyond reproach. Included with the AT4 are an 8-inch screen with GMC’s Infotainment System (Apple CarPlay, Android Auto) with navigation, heated cushy cloth-covered seats, Bose audio, a WiFi hot spot, and plenty of storage. The only item lacking is a heated steering wheel which is only offered with the Denali.

Priced from $47,898 in Canada, $42,200 in the US, the 2020 GMC Acadia AT4 delivers decent value. More importantly, it is extremely versatile and comfortable. It is easy to live with and suffer no real shortcomings, and it is able to two up to 4,000 lbs.

Fuel consumption and competition

Final point: I’ve asked GM on a number of occasions why they insist on using a manually-activated AWD system when the competition offers driver-input-free systems. Their answer always revolves around fuel efficiency. When I then enquired whether the posted fuel consumption ratings (13.1L/100km City, 9.4L/100km Hwy) were established in FWD or AWD, I was never given a satisfactory answer. Bottom line, I actually averaged over 13.5L in mixed driving which leads me to believe that the supplied data is slightly misleading as it’s based on FWD driving.

Against the Honda Passport, Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, and other 2-row midsize SUVs, the GMC Acadia has gone from one of the last to the top 5 in the segment.

2020 GMC Acadia AT4 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2020 GMC Acadia AT4 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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