Crossover & Midsize

2021 Buick Enclave vs. GMC Acadia: 1 Remains the Better Premium SUV

Looking for a luxury midsize SUV? Last year, we evaluated two cousins in the General Motors family: the 2020 Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia. All factors considered, we found the Enclave a “more well-rounded option compared to the Acadia.” This year, as we continue to analyze Buick, GMC, and other SUVs in this segment, we put the 2021 Enclave and Acadia in a head-to-head. And again, one came out on top.   

The 2021 GMC Acadia 

The new GMC Acadia’s exterior styling is similar to that of the 2020 model. However, it’s also a smaller vehicle than its predecessor — and lighter too. Despite its shrinkage, it still seats seven in its base model, rough-and-tumble AT4 version, or upscale Denali trim. It’s also well-powered with three engine options: a 2.5-liter inline-four (193 hp/188 lb-ft of torque), a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four (230 hp/258 lb-ft of torque), and a 3.6-liter V6 (310 hp/271 lb-ft of torque). Each pairs with a nine-speed automatic transmission, and all provide reasonably good handling and performance. 

The Acadia starts at $29,800. However, the interior materials don’t match its price point, even at the highest trim levels. In the base model, you’ll be treated to an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration regardless of trim. However, you’ll also get amenities like an 8.0-inch gauge cluster display and an eight-speaker sound system. There’s not nearly as much cargo space in its hold as many of its competitors. Given a measly 12.8 cubic feet, you might have to drop the third and even second rows if your next trip requires a lot of luggage or equipment. Folding the third row gets you 41.7 cubic feet, while both rows down get you 79 cubic feet. Unfortunately, if you’re a family of six, plan to pack lightly for your next vacation.

But the Acadia has some cool features. The Denali trim comes with adaptive dampers to smooth out your ride over rough terrain. The AT4’s off-road features are impressive for a vehicle in this segment and can help you comfortably navigate the occasion off-road trek. Plus, the Acadia has earned a 5-star rating from the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA).    

The 2021 Buick Enclave

Against the Acadia stands this year’s Buick Enclave, whose exterior styling similarly remains unchanged from last year’s version. However, the 2021 Enclave’s styling is suitably attractive for a vehicle in this segment. Unlike the Acadia, the Enclave offers only one powertrain option: a 3.6-liter V6 and nine-speed automatic transmission. But because it produces 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque and can hit 60 mph in 7.0 seconds, that’s not a bad thing. Also, with an MSRP of $40,000, it starts at $10,000 more than the Acadia.

But looking inside, you’ll notice plenty of headroom and legroom throughout, with captain’s chairs in the second row. There’s also plenty of cargo space: 26.1 cubic feet in the cargo hold, with 3.1 feet from a storage bin under the floor. Drop the third row, and cargo space expands to 58 feet. And if it’s just you and a front passenger, drop both rows for a whopping 97.6 cubic feet. 

Though the space is admirable, the 2021 Buick Enclave suffers from an interior that doesn’t appear opulent enough to justify its price. However, the generous space and standard amenities like an 8.0-inch touchscreen and six-speaker sound system are definite pluses. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration are standard, as is a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Buying a higher-level trim gives you built-in navigation and other excellent features, including a wireless charging pad. You’ll also pay extra for advanced safety features like automated emergency braking and lane-departure warning. However, the standard Buick Enclave is safe: It earned a 5-star NHTSA rating.      

And the winner is …

Both the 2021 GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave are solid SUVs if you’re looking for a premium three-row SUV. Both handle well, comfortably hold passengers, and come with intuitive technology. They also boast perfect NHTSA safety ratings.

However, both suffer from underdeveloped interiors. The Enclave’s high starting price, less-than-ideal interior, and lack of standard driver assists might be enough to send some buyers elsewhere. But when you consider the Enclave versus the Acadia, the latter’s cheaper starting price point doesn’t fully offset its weak interior. Combine this with a noticeable lack of cargo space, and there’s really only one option between the two.

If you’re considering a new Buick Enclave or GMC Acadia, go for the Enclave. You’ll pay a bit more at the outset, but you’ll also get an all-around better SUV.