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2024 GMC Acadia Review: Distinctive Looks, Common Personality

gmc acadia at4 2024 06 exterior front angle scaled jpg 2024 GMC Acadia AT4 | Cars.com photo by Melissa Klauda
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Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

The verdict: The redesigned 2024 GMC Acadia returns to GM’s big crossover-style SUV platform, essentially becoming a fancier, pricier Chevrolet Traverse.

Versus the competition: Segment-best ride quality and a truly classy cabin are offset by a loud, lackluster powertrain that doesn’t match up well with the Acadia’s competitors. The GMC’s off-road chops, however, aren’t too shabby.

If the 2024 GMC Acadia you’re looking at on this page looks a lot bigger than the outgoing one to you, rest assured your eyesight is just fine. It is bigger, much bigger, because it’s been reengineered to resume its position in the pantheon of GM’s large three-row crossover-style SUVs as the upscale middle child between the mass-market Chevrolet Traverse and the luxurious Buick Enclave, both of which have also been recently redesigned. The new Acadia has switched platforms and now shares its underbits with both of those big “mid-size” SUVs, along with most of their major components like powertrain and suspension. But GMC stylists have given it a look all its own inside and out to make it fit in with the rest of the GMC showroom, and the interior of the new Acadia is a definite step up in quality and materials from the Traverse.

So, how does it stack up against its GM stablemates, and how does it compare with the huge crop of three-row SUVs now on the market? At GMC’s invitation, we went to Hilton Head, S.C., to drive the ‘24 Acadia on-road and off to find out. (Per Cars.com’s ethics policy, we pay for our own travel and lodging when attending such manufacturer-sponsored events.)

Related: New, Larger 2024 GMC Acadia Priced From $43,995

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A Simplified Lineup

GMC has rethought the trim lineup for the new ‘24 Acadia, paring it down to just three: the base (but not basic) Elevation, the mid-level, off-road-oriented AT4 and the top-spec Denali. Two of those trims were on hand at the vehicle’s media launch in South Carolina, available for driving through the marshy local environments and on smooth asphalt highways. First up was the Denali, which, like the rest of the Denali “sub-brand” at GMC, receives all manner of glitzy chrome embellishments — but for the Acadia Denali in particular, dark chrome is the order of the day; it’s a more subtle look compared with all the flash on Denali pickup trucks. LED lighting is present all around the vehicle, and available 22-inch wheels shod with all-season tires help add a more sophisticated look to the family rig. The Denali badge is bigger than the Acadia badge on the rear tailgate, showing just how much attention and cachet GMC has built with this trim line.

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Underhood is the exact same turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as you’ll find in the ‘24 Traverse, making the same 328 horsepower and 326 pounds-feet of torque and mated to the same eight-speed automatic transmission. That GMC couldn’t eke out any more grunt from this engine for the more luxurious and expensive Acadia is kind of disappointing, but it also reflects GM’s view that its customers don’t honestly care what’s under the hood, as long as the vehicle does what’s asked of it.

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The Acadia does, but only just adequately. It doesn’t feel like it has 328 hp due to lazy gas-pedal response, a slow-to-react transmission and an overall powertrain tune that doesn’t really make it feel sprightly or all that quick. It does, however, produce plenty of noise from that engine, with even moderate acceleration sending up a cacophony into the cabin that was reasonably acceptable in a cheaper Traverse but is less so in this more upscale, more expensive Acadia. It sounds like a tractor engine, but it moves the Acadia well enough for most uses. It’s also rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds when equipped with the Trailering Package (standard on the AT4 and Denali).

Rolling down the mostly smooth pavement around Hilton Head, the Acadia Denali was supremely comfortable. The ride quality is what most stands out about the new SUV — it is utterly undisturbed by any road imperfections despite the big 22-inch wheels and tires. There’s no floatiness, no bouncy body motions, just beautifully damped cruising. I wish the steering was as well tuned, however, as the Acadia exhibits the same on-center vagueness and flightiness as its Chevy cousin. It feels like the wheel is always being pulled in some direction or another, or that the electronic lane departure steering assist that I deactivated wasn’t actually fully deactivated. It makes for tiresome straight-line cruising, especially at higher speeds, as you find that the Acadia is always requiring corrective input. It’s not annoying enough to sink the Acadia in recommendations, but if not for the Acadia’s sublime ride quality and body control, it’d be a different story.

GM’s Super Cruise hands-free driving system also makes its debut on the Acadia for 2024, and it’s available on all trim levels. It works as well here as it does in any of the applications in which I’ve tried it, but it has also been recently expanded to include places like rural two-lane highways, which feature things like oncoming traffic, intersections, driveways and other things that make me absolutely not want to use even cruise control, much less take my hands off the steering wheel. The system does work in these environments, but only periodically, and it’s not a relaxing experience. Out on the highway, however, when all traffic is proceeding in the same direction and there’s a much more controlled flow, it’s a much better story. That’s the only place I’d ever recommend using the system.

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Delightful Denali Digs

So the driving experience doesn’t really set the Acadia apart from the Traverse … like, at all. However, the cabin environment certainly does, especially in the top-trim Denali. It’s a totally different look in here than you’ll find in the Chevy, with a blockier, more geometric bent to the styling that fits in well with vehicles like the new GMC Hummer EV SUV. There’s a bright digital gauge cluster that positively shames the one in the Toyota Grand Highlander with its reconfigurability, easy readability and overall sophistication. But the bigger news is the main dashboard screen, a 15-inch touchscreen that feels like it’s in Instagram photo format. Whereas the Traverse has a 17.7-inch horizontally oriented touchscreen, this more portrait layout is actually quite nice (and one of the few portrait-style screens we can say that about). There’s a good mix of hard buttons, toggles and touchscreen controls for everything from climate control to various ancillary systems, and all of it works quite well — except for the panel of switches to the left side of the dash, where your drive mode selector is right next to the electronic parking brake, and neither is easily visible while driving. The rest of the system works great until you get into a cellular-data dead zone (as we did once or twice).

See, the new system uses Google Built-In technology and makes heavy use of cloud computing for everything, including the car’s voice commands. Asking the navigation system to “pause navigation” for a moment while we tried to speak to a colleague in the car didn’t work, as it couldn’t connect to the outside world. Such is the problem with these new Google-based systems, and it’s not a problem that’s unique to GM: A data connection is required in order to make full use of your car’s embedded systems and voice commands.

The rest of the Acadia Denali interior is absolutely lovely. Real wood lines the dash and doors, the leather quality is excellent, the stitching is straight and true, and the color selections follow the familiar Denali aesthetic. It feels like an upscale environment, easily as good as our benchmark Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy that won our 2024 3-Row SUV Challenge earlier in the year. It’s quite comfortable, too, with excellent space in the first two rows, including plenty of head- and legroom. Third-row space is decent but not huge — full-sized adults will fit, but they won’t want to be back there for terribly long. Your kids will be happier there, and you’ll be fine with putting them there, as access to the third row is easy thanks to standard folding second-row captain’s chairs. Cargo room is obviously much better in the ‘24 Acadia than in the ‘23 due to the switch to GM’s big mid-size SUV platform. If you’re coming out of a ‘23 and looking for a ‘24, the size improvement will almost certainly make you happy.

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Over the River and Through the Woods

GMC’s AT4 trim has been something of a mixed bag depending on which vehicle wears it. In the pickup trucks, it’s an excellent off-road package, bringing a host of parts, tires, wheels, suspension mods, factory lifts and more. But in the GMC SUVs, it’s been little more than an appearance package, with the last Acadia AT4 not getting much more than slightly more aggressive tires and special trim. For ‘24, however, the Acadia AT4 gets the same changes as the Traverse Z71, which means a bunch of upgrades to make it work much better in the dirt and that amount to much more than just an appearance package.

From the front, the Acadia AT4 has a different lower bumper with an integrated aluminum skid plate, functional red tow hooks that you can see and a steel underbody skid plate that you can’t. The big 20-inch standard Acadia wheels are replaced with unique 18-inch wheels with much knobbier all-terrain off-road tires. Mechanically, the AT4 gets a 1-inch lift, a retuned off-road suspension and even a different all-wheel-drive system meant more for off-road work. Inside, there’s a new Terrain mode in the digital drive mode selector, which works more as a rock-crawling mode, while Off-Road mode allows for higher-speed maneuvers — helpful for maintaining engine revs and forward momentum while traversing things like sandy trails.

The AT4 drives a little differently than the Denali, but not much. It’s a little louder inside due to the knobbier off-road tires, and the handling isn’t quite as sharp, but the ride quality is just as good thanks to the taller-sidewall tires and excellent tune of the shocks and springs. The most amazing thing is that the ride quality is good on- or off-road, with the ability to barrel down dirt and gravel forest roads at 40-50 mph over washboard terrain with no negative impact to the cabin at all. A little shake comes through the steering wheel, but it’s nothing like what you’d experience in even an off-road pickup (Ford F-150 Raptors excepted). Off-Road mode allows you to really gun it through deep sand, sliding all over the place, while Terrain mode is useful for climbing minor obstacles. This is not, however, a highly capable off-road SUV — it’s meant more for periodic trips to a rural cabin or for really poor weather on unprepared dirt roads than scaling the Rubicon Trail. It basically does off-road what I generally expect all SUVs should be able to do, regardless of whether they’re car- or truck-based underneath. But the AT4 does it with aplomb and comfort, something not all SUVs achieve.

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Pricing and Features

With the bump in size for the 2024 model year comes a bump in price for the Acadia, as well, which is to be expected — it did get cheaper when it went to a smaller platform, so it makes sense it’d get pricier with the size increase. The base front-wheel-drive Elevation trim level starts at $43,995 (all prices include a $1,395 destination charge), but it comes well equipped with 20-inch aluminum wheels, a hands-free power liftgate, keyless entry, remote start, faux leather upholstery, power heated front seats, three-zone automatic climate control, the aforementioned digital screens and a 12-speaker Bose stereo. Bump up to the AT4, which is only offered with AWD, and you’re starting at $51,395, but it does include unique interior appointments of cloth-and-vinyl seats with embroidered head restraints, different colors and all of that off-road AT4 equipment. The top Denali starts at $55,695, and it includes a lot of luxury content like heated and ventilated front seats, one-touch folding second-row captain’s chairs, a power-folding third row, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display and more. You can option a Denali even higher, but where it starts is pretty much where a lot of competitors tend to top out.

Overall, the new 2024 Acadia is a solid and highly competitive entry in the big three-row family SUV class. It provides a value model that’s still quite upscale and well equipped, a luxury model that has all of the bells and whistles, and an off-road-oriented model that won’t penalize you on pavement and genuinely brings some capability with it. It’s a nice upgrade from the Traverse’s rather plasticky cabin and provides buyers with an aspirational option for when they’re ready for something a little nicer looking and feeling inside and out.

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