Car Reviews First Drives

2020 GMC Acadia AT4 Off-Road Review: Looking the Part

What a difference a few of the right (off-road-inspired) accessories make

What a difference a few of the right (off-road-inspired) accessories make

Ask most GMC owners what type of vehicle they own, and you’re likely to hear them say a “Denali.” Of course, the Denali is not an actual model but a popular trim. In fact, in some segments, the take rate for this top-of-the-line trim is over 50 percent and the envy of just about every truck and SUV manufacturer. And now it looks like lightning is striking once again in the form of the AT4 trim package on pickups and now, the 2020 GMC Acadia.

The 2020 Acadia AT4 is the automaker’s newest model to offer a premium off-road package; the trim will slot just above the well-equipped SLT and below the more luxurious Denali. Some of the more significant features and upgrades include standard 17-inch gloss black wheels (20-inch wheels are optional), more 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.

We recently took a quick drive in the updated 2020 GMC Acadia just outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where we navigated the high-altitude highways and several dirt roads sitting above a 6,000-foot elevation. All Acadia AT4s will be equipped with the 3.6-liter V-6 engine, good for 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque, along with a new nine-speed automatic transmission—a conventional shifter has been replaced by pushbuttons to free up center console space. Even at higher altitudes, we found the Acadia AT4’s throttle response fairly quick and immediate off the line and smooth as it accelerates through the powerband.

We’ve had mixed experiences with nine-speed transmissions in the past but found this version solid in the lower gears and quick to downshift when we put our foot into it. Although this powertrain combination doesn’t feel like it’s going to blow anyone away in a straight-line duel with three-row SUV competitors, we found there was plenty of power for high-speed merging into traffic. Our only complaint with the setup is that this new package, presumably designed to offer a sportier feel, doesn’t allow for us to see what gear we’re in unless we shift manually using the hugely inconvenient center console pushbutton setup. Not only does the console location make it tough to see without a long downward glance off the road, but you have to lean over to do it.

To test the 2020 Acadia AT4 off-road, we did a little dirt road running through the fields and forests leading us to some Snake River fishing holes, several with nasty stream crossings and muddy holes to navigate. As a result, we had the chance to move the dual-clutch AWD system to the Mountain Road setting, giving us quick throttle response, a more appropriate traction control setting, and a more controlled gear hold and shift pattern. Frankly, we had more fun on the dirt roads in the Sport setting, which allowed us to run through the lower of the nine gears faster to get up to speed quicker, where we could spin the tires more freely.

Despite our brief off-road adventure, no one should mistake the 2020 Acadia AT4 for a serious off-roader—ground clearance is just over 7 inches, there’s very little suspension flex, and without an extra low-range gear, all traction benefits are done with smarter software. Even so, there’s plenty of capability here to expand the vehicle’s comfort zone. We’re guessing relatively few people will run through the multi-traction settings as much as we do, but we’d prefer GMC included a few more settings (or more bandwidth to the existing ones) to allow for more slipping and sliding fun when the roads turn nasty.

Our favorite feature to the new Acadia AT4 package? We found the 255/65R17 Continental TerrainContact all-terrain tires performed exceptionally well in grabbing and flinging mud, as well as keeping us moving smoothly over the slippery river rock. No matter which of the five settings our Traction Select was in (High 2, High 4, Sport, Trail, or Towing), the tires’ grip gave us all the traction we needed no matter what the challenge.

It’s also worth noting that the most significant changes for all 2020 Acadias across the full lineup include a completely retuned rear suspension to provide more control to the driver and comfort to rear passengers. GMC has also added an available 2.0-liter turbo-four (delivering 230 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque), an available head-up display, and a new infotainment system that will personalize itself over time to better fit your needs and preferences.

2020 GMC Acadia Trims and AT4 Pricing

The 2020 GMC Acadia will be offered in SL, SLE, SLT, AT4, and Denali trim levels. The AT4 package will start at $43,395 USD, offering a maximum towing capacity of 4,000 pounds (1,814 kg) and a 22-gallon gas tank with AWD (or 19 with FWD models). We’ll have more to say when we get the new 2020 Acadia AT4 in house against its appropriately dressed competition.