Did you know that SUVs and trucks are quickly replacing the sedan as the most popular vehicle in America? With projections that SUVs, vans, and trucks will make up 78% of automotive sales by 2025, it’s no surprise that automakers like GMC and Kia are doing everything in their power to corner the SUV market. That’s exactly what we see when we compare midsize SUVs like the 2021 GMC Acadia vs 2021 Kia Telluride.
But before we dive into this midsize match-up, let’s first tackle the elephant in the room – the fact that consumers are opting for spacious, gas-guzzling SUVs over more fuel-efficient, compact sedans. To be fair, the gas-guzzling SUVs of years past are few and far between thanks to innovation across the industry that’s made SUVs incredibly fuel-efficient. Heck, there are even hybrid options that give drivers fewer reasons to stop at the fuel pump and more money in their wallets!
This improvement in efficiency is one reason that SUVs are growing in popularity. Consumers also love the fact that SUVs are massive road warriors that offer better visibility as well as more safety, thanks to their larger size. When you consider that every automaker equips its lineup of SUVs with cutting-edge technology and safety features, then it’s no surprise why more consumers are making the switch. So, what does this mean for the GMC Acadia and the Kia Telluride? Let’s find out.
Round 1: Options and Affordability
The first round in our midsize match-up is all about options and affordability. GMC and Kia give consumers plenty to choose from across each lineup. The Acadia starts at $29,800 and culminates with the luxurious Denali trim that starts at $46,300. The middle-tier trims include the SLE and SLT as well as the rugged and adventure-ready AT4. The Telluride LX base model is priced higher than the Acadia at $32,190, but the three other trim options are more modestly priced, culminating in the SX at $42,590. Right off the bat, this gives the Acadia the advantage of having both a more affordable option and a more luxurious option than the Telluride.
While we can easily compare trims all day, let’s take a closer look at the Acadia Denali and the Telluride SX, as they offer the most luxury and performance from each brand and paint a clear picture of everything the automakers have to offer. The Denali name signifies the ultimate in luxury and power for GMC, and that’s reflected throughout the trim. The Denali is equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 engine under the hood and has a plush interior that boasts leather seating and ash-wood trim accents. This premium trim is also outfitted with a suite of innovative tech and safety features that includes a 6-inch color head-up display, an 8-inch infotainment system, and the GMC Pro Safety Plus Suite of driver-assist tools.
The Telluride SX also offers a variety of premium features that begin with 20-inch sport wheels and LED exterior lighting. The interior embodies the luxury that comes with its higher price tag and includes leather trim and heated and ventilated seating, the latter of which is also available in the second row. As for tech and safety, the SX doesn’t disappoint with a large, 10.25-inch touchscreen display with navigation, a wireless charging station, and a similar safety suite as the Acadia Denali.
Round 2: Performance and Practicality
The next round in this match between the Acadia and the Telluride is all about performance and practicality. Because let’s face it, gas-guzzling SUVs are so last decade. All joking aside, the Acadia and the Telluride prove that drivers can have power and performance as well as efficiency and practicality. The midsize SUVs can hold their own on the road, and that doesn’t come at the cost of fuel efficiency.
Kia keeps things simple with Telluride’s one-engine lineup that equips the SUV with a 3.8-liter V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission that delivers 291 horsepower, 262 lb-ft of torque, and an EPA rating of 26 MPG on the highway. Owners can opt for the all-wheel-drive model, which is equipped with Torque Vectoring Cornering Control that’s ideal for taking the Telluride off the pavement and on the trail. This capability is enhanced with the Telluride’s all-wheel-drive modes that adapt the SUV to the environment and provide better stability and performance in conditions like snow, rain, mud, and ice.
GMC gives drivers plenty of options with three available engines on the 2021 Acadia. The Acadia SL is equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and nine-speed automatic transmission that delivers 193 horsepower, 188 lb-ft of torque, and up to 27 MPG on the highway. This engine can be upgraded to the more powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo that comes standard on the SLT and is available on most other trims. The turbo engine is paired with the same nine-speed automatic transmission to deliver 230 horsepower, 258 lb-ft of torque, and up to 29 MPG on the highway.
The most powerful engine in the Acadia lineup is the 3.6-liter V6 that is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and comes standard on the AT4 and Denali, with availability on the SLE and SLT. Despite being smaller than the V6 in the Telluride, this engine is more powerful, delivering 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque. It also does this without sacrificing fuel efficiency, managing a superior EPA highway rating of 27 MPG.
Round 3: Safety and Driver-Assist Tech
The third and final round of our midsize match is all about safety. GMC and Kia are both committed to offering the most advanced safety and driver-assist features available, which is exactly what you’ll find on the Acadia and the Telluride. In fact, when it comes to safety, the models are incredibly similar. The Acadia is equipped with the GMC Pro Safety Plus suite that includes modern features such as Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, IntelliBeam headlights, and Rear Park Assist. Acadia owners can further upgrade the suite to include advanced tools like Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, all of which are standard on the Denali trim.
The Telluride’s suite of safety features is known as Kia Drive Wise and offers much of the same technology as the Acadia with unique names, of course. The suite includes the Blind Spot View Monitor, Highway Driving Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance, and Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection. One feature that’s unique to the Telluride is Safe Exit Assist that ensures passengers in the backseat can open the door and exit the vehicle safely, but all the major features are in-line with what the GMC Acadia brings to the table.
And The Winner Is…
If you’re in the market for a reliable midsize SUV that offers the latest in safety and technology as well as outstanding performance and luxury, then you’re certainly off to a great start by comparing two of the best-selling SUVs on the market. The 2021 GMC Acadia and the 2021 Kia Telluride are both outstanding SUVs that strive to offer drivers everything they want and need in an SUV. At the end of the day, it all depends on your budget, lifestyle, and driving needs. However, the GMC Acadia offers much more variety for you to build your perfect SUV, including a broader range of trims and more efficient engine options. You can rest assured that whichever you choose, neither the Acadia nor the Telluride will disappoint, but GMC does have a leg up over Kia in this market segment.