2020 GMC Acadia vs. Sierra: SUV or Pickup?

GMC is among many American buyers’ first choices for a family car. GMC’s Acadia is one of the most popular options, and so is the Sierra 1500. How would you go about picking between a midsize SUV like the Acadia and a full-size pickup like the Sierra?

Driving the 2020 GMC Acadia 

A white GMC Acadia on display at an auto show
A GMC Acadia on display | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The 2020 Acadia competes in the same class as the Mazda CX-9 and Kia Telluride. It’s not the sportiest option out there, but the Acadia pleases with its easy-to-drive dynamics, as U.S. News notes. This SUV also gets points for its smooth ride quality and performance options.

You have three engines to choose from with the 2020 Acadia. The base option doesn’t get much love, though. Base Acadia models have a 193-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder with an EPA rating of up to 24 mpg. This option is OK for skirting around the city, but it doesn’t give you the most passing power on the highway. 

2020 GMC Acadia AT4
2020 GMC Acadia AT4 | GMC

The Acadia’s optional engines provide a quicker and more engaging driving experience. GMC added a 230-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as a new option for 2020. The turbo-four gets up to 23 mpg overall. No matter which engine you choose, the Acadia comes with a nine-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are available.

If you’d like to unlock the Acadia’s max towing potential, there’s the 310-hp 3.6-liter V6. When properly equipped, V6 models can tow up to 4,000 pounds. However, the Acadia’s tow rating isn’t anything to brag about. Competitors such as the Toyota Highlander can haul up to 5,000 pounds. 

Driving the 2020 GMC Sierra 

A photo of the GMC Sierra Denali outdoors.
GMC Sierra Denali | GMC

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Like its sibling, the Acadia, the Sierra 1500 is a cushioned ride. The Sierra’s most formidable competitors are the Ford F-150 and the Ram 1500. While the Sierra isn’t exactly a class leader, it does a few things well. Critics appreciate the Sierra for its smoothness and its array of engines. 

If you don’t plan on doing heavy-duty work, you’ll be OK with the Sierra’s standard 285-hp, 4.3-liter V6 that’s linked to a six-speed automatic. The Sierra’s available 310-hp, turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder and 277-hp, 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine are also among the better choices for everyday commutes. The turbo-four has an eight-speed automatic; the turbodiesel gets a 10-speed auto. 

2020 GMC Sierra SLT towing a boat
2020 GMC Sierra SLT | GMC

There are also two beefy V8s for you to consider. The optional 355-hp, 5.3-liter V8 is attainable with either an eight- or 10-speed automatic, as U.S. News highlights. The 420-hp, a 6.2-liter, comes with a 10-speed auto and is your best option for towing. When properly equipped, the larger V8 can tow up to 12,100 pounds

Comparing car cabins 

The Acadia has an attractive car cabin with a sharp infotainment display.
2020 GMC Acadia AT4 | GMC

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Both the Acadia and the Sierra 1500 have configurable car cabins. The Acadia AT4 models seat up to five. In its standard three-row configuration, the Acadia accommodates seven; the captain’s chairs setup reduces seating to six. 

The Sierra holds three in its Regular Cab setup. Families will be more interested in the Double and Crew Cab versions, carrying five or six. You can upgrade the Sierra and Acadia’s standard cloth upholstery with leather along with more amenities such as heated and cooled seats. 

2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Elevation interior
2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Elevation interior | GMC

Furthermore, the Acadia and the Sierra come with desirable infotainment features, including a touchscreen display, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. More active safety features come with the Acadia, such as blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert. You have to upgrade for these with the Sierra.

Which one would you pick?

The 2020 Sierra has a MSRP range of $29,600- $58,900; the 2020 Acadia’s is $29,800 – $48,300. The Sierra is an enticing choice because of its versatility and power. But if it’s a family vehicle you’re after, the Acadia makes more sense. The Acadia has better safety scores and comes with more helpful features.