The 2019 Ford Explorer offers high-power Sport and Platinum models.
The GMC Acadia was all-new for 2017.
The Ford Explorer is expected to be all-new for the 2020 model year.
If you’re looking for a new 3-row crossover, chances are both the 2019 Ford Explorer and the GMC Acadia are on your list. Both offer room for the whole family and ample cargo space for all of your stuff. The Acadia was all new for 2017, making it a fairly modern vehicle, while the Explorer has been around for a while, last receiving a full redesign way back in 2011. Below we’ll take a look at the two to help you determine which is the better buy here in 2019.
The Explorer’s 2011 redesign represented a massive departure from what had been the Explorer formula for the past 20 years. No longer was the Explorer based on a body-on-frame, rear-wheel drive truck platform, instead adopting a front-wheel drive-based unibody platform. This allowed for better driving dynamics and better fuel efficiency, allowing the Explorer to better compete in the 3-row SUV segment. In the years since, the Explorer has received a number of updates to help keep it competitive. At the top of the lineup sit the Sport and Platinum models, both of which offer a potent turbocharged V6 engine and standard all-wheel drive. While the Explorer will be all-new for 2020, this comparison focuses on the 2019 model currently sitting on dealer lots. See the 2019 Ford Explorer models for sale near you
The GMC Acadia received a full redesign for the 2017 model year, making it a considerably more modern vehicle than the 2019 Explorer. The new Acadia is a bit slimmer than the first-generation model, but makes good use of its dimensions. The Acadia shares its platform with a number of other GM products like the Chevrolet Traverse and the Buick Enclave. Both are slightly bigger and offer different aesthetics inside and out, giving prospective buyers a few additional options to consider. In line with the other vehicles in the GMC lineup, the Acadia offers a top-of-the-line Denali variant, along with an All-Terrain package that introduces slightly more sophisticated AWD features and aesthetics. See the 2019 GMC Acadia models for sale near you
The Explorer comes with three different engines. Base and XLT models use a simple 3.5-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque. FWD models earn 20 miles per gallon in combined driving, while AWD returns 18 mpg combined. In the middle of the lineup is the Explorer Limited which comes with a 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that puts out 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. With this engine and FWD, the Explorer earns 22 mpg combined, while AWD Limited models earn 21 mpg combined. At the top of the range are the Sport and Platinum models, both of which offers a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 making 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque along with standard AWD. With the 3.5 liter turbo V6, the Explorer earns 19 mpg combined.
The Acadia has a simpler engine lineup, offering either a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder or a 3.6-liter V6. The 4-cylinder, which isn’t turbocharged, makes a meager 193 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque and earns 23 mpg combined regardless of whether it’s paired with FWD or AWD. The Acadia’s optional V6 makes 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque. With the V6, FWD drive Acadias earn 21 mpg combined, while AWD examples will return 20 mpg combined.
On the outside, the Explorer is 198.3 inches long, 78.9 inches wide and 70.0 inches tall. The Acadia is a bit more compact, coming in at 193.6 inches long, 75.4 inches wide and 66.0 inches tall. The Explorer offers 7.8 inches of ground clearance, while the Acadia offers 7.2 inches.
Step inside, and the Explorer offers front seat passengers 41.4 inches of front seat headroom and 42.9 inches of legroom. In its second row, the Explorer has 40.6 inches of headroom and 39.5 inches of legroom, while third row dimensions come in at 37.8 inches of headroom and 31.1 inches of legroom.
While smaller overall, the Acadia is on par with the Explorer in the areas that count. Up front, the Acadia offers 40.3 inches of headroom and 41.0 inches of legroom. The vehicle’s second row offers 39.6 inches of headroom and 39.7 inches of legroom, which is slightly more than the Explorer. The Acadia’s third row dimensions are about the same as the Explorer’s as well, offering 37.2 inches of headroom and 31.1 inches of legroom.
While their passenger areas are about the same, the Explorer offers more cargo room than the Acadia behind the third row. That said, with the third or second rows folded, dimensions are pretty similar. The Explorer offers 21 cu ft. feet behind its third row, 44 cu ft. with the third row folded, and 81 cu ft. with the second and third rows folded. The Acadia offers a tight 13 cu ft. behind the third row, 42 cu ft. with the third row folded and 79 cu ft. with both rows folded.
While both the Explorer and the Acadia offer competent, modern infotainment arrangements, the Acadia comes with more as standard.
While base and XLT models come with a rather tiny, lackluster infotainment screen, optional on the XLT and standard starting with the Limited model is an 8.0-in touchscreen running the latest version of Ford’s Sync infotainment system and offering Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, although 4G LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity are not available.
Standard on the Acadia is a 7-in screen, while an 8-in screen is introduced starting with SLT models. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, as is 4G LTE with Wi-Fi capability.
The Explorer offers four 12 volt outlets and three USB ports, while the Acadia offers one 12 volt outlet and five USB ports. Altogether, the Acadia presents a more generous infotainment offering than the Explorer, but if you’re comparing them in their highest trim levels, the two are pretty close.
The Acadia offers a storage area under its rear cargo floor, an available foot-activated power tailgate, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated outboard rear seats, a power adjustable steering column and an available Bose-branded premium audio system. Other available features include a blackout trim package, an "All-Terrain" package that adds a more sophisticated AWD system along with a few different off-road traction modes. At the top of the range is the luxurious Denali model.
The Explorer offers much of the same available features as the Acadia, but adds available massaging front seats along with power adjustable pedals. A Sony-branded premium audio system is available, as is perforated leather on Limited, Sport and Platinum models.
The Acadia scores well across the board in crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Explorer, on the other hand, performs underwhelmingly in the IIHS’s new small front overlap test, earning a score of Marginal, one up from the lowest possible score.
Altogether, the Explorer’s lackluster performance is attributable to its advancing age, as new crash standards have been established in the nine years since its last major redesign.
Both vehicles can be had with a healthy assortment of driver-assistance safety features. The Acadia can be had with blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, forward-collision warning, a following distance indicator and a driver’s seat that vibrates to alert the driver of whenever a hazard is present. Denali models offer adaptive cruise control and pedestrian detection. The Explorer can be had with adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, front and rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, park assist and rear cross-traffic monitoring.
Altogether, both of these vehicles can be had with a pretty comprehensive offering, but unfortunately the features are spread across mid-and high-end trim levels. We’d like to see more of these features as standard, especially items like pedestrian detection, which oddly, is only available on the Acadia’s top trim level. Competitors like Honda, Toyota and Nissan are well ahead of GM and Ford in this regard, offering all of these features either as standard or as low-cost options on their respective three-row crossovers.
Acadia and Explorer buyers should both see about average reliability. GMC and Ford both offer a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, in line with the competition.
While the Explorer is bigger than the Acadia and offers a better, more diverse range of engines, it is also older and not as safe, as proven by its lackluster crash test performance. The Acadia is a more modern vehicle overall, thanks to its 2017 redesign, and offers more favorable dimensions than the Explorer — it’s considerably smaller on the outside while being only slightly smaller on the inside. Elsewhere, both vehicles offer room for seven, modern infotainment systems and most of the features 3-row SUV shoppers should expect. While the Acadia offers an All-Terrain package, the Explorer offers the potent Sport model, and both offer-luxury oriented variants in the Acadia Denali and the Explorer Platinum. When it comes down to it, it’s hard to call one of these vehicles a clear winner — if you want the space and available extra power, opt for the Explorer, but if you’re looking for efficiency and modernity, the Acadia might be more your style. Find a Ford Explorer for sale near you or Find a GMC Acadia for sale near you