I was expecting delivery of a 2020 GMC Acadia Denali but was instead surprised when a 2020 GMC Acadia AT4 showed up, GM’s new premium off-road package which will slot just above the well-equipped SLT and below the more luxurious Denali. The most obvious differences are standard 17-inch gloss black wheels shod with aggressive all-terrain tires, more pronounced black-lined wheel arches, a unique grille design with gloss black inserts, gloss black roof rails, and a new multi-setting twin-clutch AWD system.
GM already offers the AT4 in its lineup of trucks so why not drop that trim into its line of SUVs and Crossovers. It works very well in the Acadia AT4, I like the blocky purposeful design, which allows for more cargo and dog space…….it really is a great looking car. The only thing missing is higher ground clearance, which is a little over 7 inches and while on our off-road course we heard some rubbing from the underside when navigating the trail.
All Acadia AT4s come equipped with the 3.6-liter V-6 engine, good for 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque, mated to a new nine-speed automatic transmission with push buttons in the dash instead of a conventional shifter, a move to supposedly free up center console space. I found them fiddly and odd to use and I found myself having to take my eyes off the road to select a gear.
On The Road
The V6 pulls well and since the AT4 weighs a couple of hundred pounds less than the Cadillac XT6 we recently tested, it was able to get from 0-60 in 6.1 seconds, 0.3 seconds quicker. It’s a tidy handler too, in Sport mode the engine snarls and the transmission never misses a beat, and the car goes where you point it, and despite wearing 255/65R17 Continental TerrainContact all-terrain rubber, it handled and gripped very well on the road. I found the steering, certainly in Sport mode better than in the XT6 I recently drove. It actually provides some feedback.
Leave the AT4 in front-drive only and torque steer rears its head as well as some wheelspin at lower speeds, especially if you’re a little heavy footed at a stop light. Brakes provide good stopping power, without fade and at no time did we have any issues stopping the 4,390 lb AT4.
Off the beaten track
To test the 2020 Acadia AT4 off-road, we headed to our favorite truck trail, Mother Grundy, suitably rutted and thanks to recent rains, some large puddles to drive through. The dual-clutch AWD system works well in Mountain Road setting, with good throttle response, and plenty of traction, thanks, in part, to the excellent Contis. Smaller rutted sections were easy but, in some sections, we heard scraping noises, cause some concern. This is the downside since without any additional ground clearance or skid plates the AT4 is limited in its ability to explore the kind of terrain that the Colorado ZR2 would eat for breakfast.
My tester came with the upgraded $1000 two-tone black-and-brown leather (Kalahari) upholstery which were very comfortable and supportive. The interior is not short of room by any means, my tester had 2 rows with a rear bench, a third row is an option with captain’s chairs or a bench, either way you still get 42 cubic feet of luggage room behind the second row.
The dash layout is logical and well-presented, and GMC’s revised 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is a big improvement, with an intuitive layout and good responses to both touch and voice commands. All controls fall easily to hand except for the new button shifters that have replaced the more conventional shifter. This has created more space in the center console that includes cup holders, and additional general storage space. The new buttons take a bit of getting used to especially when you need reverse, since you now must look down and pull the button to engage a gear. The system does automatically put the vehicle in Park if you turn off the engine.
All Acadias come standard with rear park assist, lane-change alert, and rear cross-traffic alert, my tester had the although automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, front park assist, forward collision alert and front pedestrian braking.
For $45,090 you get a lot of car here and one that could be described as a semi-upscale crossover, together with rugged good looks and a decent ability off road. It drives lighter than before, is great on road and has tons of space inside without feeling big to drive. It’s a hell of a bargain too.
2020 GMC Acadia AT4 Numbers
BASE PRICE: $42,200
AS TESTED PRICE: $45,090
VEHICLE TYPE: Front-engine, front-/all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
ENGINE 3.6-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
POWER: 310 hp @ 6,600 rpm
TORQUE: 271 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
O–60 mph 6.1 secs
CARGO VOLUME: 79 cu ft first row folded, 41.7 cu ft behind rear seats
CURB WEIGHT: 4,390 lb
FUEL ECONOMY Combined/city/highway: 21/18/25 mpg
OUR FUEL ECONOMY: 16.5 mpg
PROS: Great ride, spacious inside, quicker than expected.
CONS: Needs more ground clearance, weird shift buttons