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2021 GMC Acadia Review

GMC’s Acadia is a midsize crossover SUV with three rows of seats. It can be ordered as a 6-seater (with center-row captain’s chairs) or as a 7-seater with a center bench for three. One exception: The AT4, the rugged off-road version, is available as a 2-row 5-seater, or as a 6- or 7-seat 3-row SUV like the other Acadias. As such, the 2021 GMC Acadia competes with a variety of SUVs that range from the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Honda Passport to the Hyundai Santa Fe and Volkswagen’s Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport models.

Three engines are available in the 2021 GMC Acadia: a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 194 horsepower, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 230 hp, or a 3.6-liter V6 with 301.  Each engine is available with front- or all-wheel drive, and all mount to the one available type of transmission: a 9-speed automatic transmission.

What’s New for 2021?

It’s a quiet year for the GMC Acadia. All 2021 models get wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, which is very convenient. SL and SLE models get a new urethane steering wheel with audio controls. There is also a new trim package called Elevation. Available on the SLE and SLT, Elevation includes a black grille, black exterior accents, black-accented 20-inch alloy wheels, and gloss-black roof rails. See the 2021 GMC Acadia models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Roomy but not overly large
  • Three engine choices
  • Well equipped
  • Good infotainment
  • FWD or AWD
  • The AT4

What We Don’t

  • Not much cargo room behind third row
  • Adaptive cruise available on top model only
  • No hybrid version
  • Not a strong towing rig

How Much?


Fuel Economy

The Acadia SUV offers three engines: a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, and a 3.6-liter V6. All powerplants team with a 9-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive (FWD) and all-wheel-drive (AWD) models are available. The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder powers only the base Acadia, the front-drive LS.

With 194 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque, the 2.5 gives the Acadia LS EPA fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg in combined driving with FWD.

The 230-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which generates 258 lb-ft of torque, is a more powerful but slightly thriftier. The front-drive 2.0-liter Acadia is rated by the EPA at 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined. With AWD, that drops slightly, to 22 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined.

If you opt to for the 3.6-liter V6, with 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque, the FWD Acadia is rated at 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined; with AWD that drops to 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined.

The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is standard in the AWD SLE Acadia and SLT. The 4-cam V6 powers the AT4 and the Denali.

Standard Features & Options

The 2021 GMC Acadia is offered in five trim levels: SL, SLE, SLT, AT4, and the Denali, with 5-, 6- and 7-passenger configurations available. Adding 4WD to any grade — except the SL (on which it’s not available) and the AT4 (on which it’s standard) — increases the bottom line by $2,000 or $2,400 depending on model.

The Acadia SL ($29,800, plus $1,195 destination) is a front-drive 2.5-liter model equipped with cloth upholstery, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, a pushbutton starter, tri-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel OnStar, a blind-spot monitor, lane-change alert, rear cross-traffic alert, an 8-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a 4G Wi-Fi hot spot and five USB ports. The SL is a 7-passenger model that can be ordered with second-row captain’s chairs for 6-passenger (2-2-2) seating.

The FWD GMC Acadia SLE ($33,600) uses the same 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, while the AWD Acadia SLE ($36,800) employs the turbo 2.0-liter. Standard equipment at the SLE level includes 18-inch alloy wheels, satellite radio, and available safety and driver-assist features like a power liftgate and automatic emergency braking.

In addition to the 2.0-liter turbo, the Acadia SLT ($40,895) has a hands-free power liftgate, navigation, and 6-passenger seating with second-row captain’s chairs. The SLT lso comes with leather upholstery, heated front seats, and an 8-speaker Bose audio system.

Now entering its second year of availability, the AT4 ($41,100) is the rugged Acadia, one equipped with the 3.6-liter V6, a special dual-clutch AWD system, and aggressive 17-inch high-profile off-road tires. The AWD AT4 is designed for travel on dirt roads, and it comes standard as a 5-seat model with a second-row bench for three, which means it has a large cargo area.

At the top of the lineup is the luxurious Acadia Denali ($46,300 FWD; $48,300 AWD). It’s loaded. Besides chrome-heavy styling flourishes, the 2021 Acadia Denali is equipped with 20-in alloy wheels, LED headlights, a configurable gauge cluster, an 8-way power passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, 2-person memory settings for driver’s seat and outboard mirrors, a heated power-adjustable steering wheel, and wireless smartphone charging.

On the safety front, automatic emergency braking is standard on the Denali, along with forward pedestrian detection, forward collision alert, automatic high-beam headlights, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and a safety-alert driver’s seat.

We recommend the optional $1,795 Technology Package. It comes with adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, a high-definition surround-view camera, and a Rear Camera Mirror. Adaptive suspension also is available on the Acadia Denali, and it continues to amaze us with its ability to blend an ultra-comfortable ride with good body control for composed cornering manners


All GMC Acadia models come with front-side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags, a driver-knee airbag, and a special airbag in between the front two seats. OnStar emergency communications is also included. Also standard on all 2021 GMC Acadias: a blind-spot monitor, a rear cross-traffic warning system, and rear parking sensors.

A Driver Convenience Package – standard on the top three models – includes an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar, heated front seats, a programmable hands-free power liftgate, and a 120-volt power outlet. The SLT and Denali also get upgraded emergency braking (with pedestrian detection), lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, automatic high-beam headlights, and a head-up display.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash testing, the GMC Acadia has earned a 5-Star overall crash rating, the best possible rating.

Behind the Wheel

Although it’s a comfortable family hauler, the latest GMC Acadia feels sharp and maneuverable. Outward vision is great, and the muscular V6 impresses with its smooth delivery of horsepower and torque. The entry-level 4-cylinder engine doesn’t have the V6’s grunt, but it gets the job done. If you plan on using the Acadia for family trips to the mountains, opt for the 2.0-liter turbo or the V6.

Inside, no one will complain about a lack of space in either of the second-row configurations. Third-row space is down from the Acadia’s predecessor and its bigger GM crossover cousins, and it’s only capable of seating two. Space back there actually is pretty good, however, with the sliding second row making it possible for adults and teens to fit reasonably well. It’s the cargo area that takes the bigger hit, as there’s only 12.8 cu ft. of space behind the raised third row and 79 cu ft. with all seats lowered — figures bettered by most competitors.

While we’re impressed with the Acadia’s long list of features and equipment, we wish the interior had a more premium feel and look.

Other Cars to Consider

2020 Honda Passport Honda’s raised two-row crossover SUV offers a roomy cabin and the Honda Sensing suite of safety technologies. An Acadia AT4 competitor.

2020 Hyundai Santa FeA well-rounded two-row crossover SUV, the 2020 Santa Fe is as technologically advanced as just about any vehicle out there. Slots between smaller compact crossover and larger midsize ones.

2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee With its luxury appointments and more aggressive AWD, the 2020 Grand Cherokee competes with the Acadia, especially the AT4.

Used Buick Enclave Want more luxury features for a similar (or lower) price? Consider a 2018 or older Buick Enclave. Quiet, roomy, and dripping with luxury, but with slightly older tech.

Questions You May Ask

Where is the GMC Acadia built?

The Acadia is built at the General Motors factory in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

 Is the 2021 GMC Acadia capable off-road?

While it can be used on the dirt, the GMC Acadia is far from a dedicated off-roader. If you plan to drive it on the dirt, opt for an AT4. It has a twin-clutch AWD system, plus aggressive tires and Hill Descent Control.

What’s included in the optional Technology Package?

Available on the Acadia Denali, the Technology Package includes a high-definition 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, enhanced emergency braking, and a Rear Camera Mirror.

Does the GMC Acadia have a third-row seat?

It does. Almost all Acadias have a folding third-row bench for two. The one exception: The AT4 comes standard as a 2-row 5-seater, although you can order it as a 3-row SUV with six or seven seats.

 What’s the GMC Acadia Elevation?

Basically, the Elevation is a new blacked-out trim package for 2021. Available on the Acadia SLE and SLT, the Elevation package has black exterior trim, a black grille, black roof rails, and black-accented 20-inch alloy wheels.

 Autotrader’s Advice

While we think the GMC Acadia SL works well as a no-frills budget choice, we’re smitten by the AT4, which is now in its second year. With its V6, its dirt-tuned twin-clutch AWD, and its aggressively treaded tires, you’ll have no trouble making it to that remote trout stream or schlepping the kids to school. Find a GMC Acadia for sale

Our editors are here to make car buying easier. We’ve driven, reviewed and compared thousands of cars. We’ve bought and sold more than our fair share, too. And as part of the sprawling Cox Automotive group of companies, we have exclusive access to a range of valuable data and insights. Whether you’re looking for the best car, the best deal or the best buying advice, you can trust... Read More about Autotrader

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