Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A blue 2022 Ford Explorer ST Atlas is shown parked outside of a restaurant.

Adventure Awaits! 2022 Ford Explorer vs 2022 GMC Acadia

Adventure awaits! SUVs undoubtedly excel at a few things. Firstly, they’re the ultimate choice for drivers that plan on regular travel with the family. Safety features and size are both equally considered when crafting the ultimate SUV, and you can comfortably put performance and efficiency into the mix as well. Specific SUVs, however, are directed towards those who are also thrill-seekers that enjoy their fair share of adventure. Naturally, this has caused a host of competition in this category, and drivers want to know the answer to the question, “Who wins between the 2022 Ford Explorer vs 2022 GMC Acadia?” We’ve got the answer, so let’s begin.

If you want variety, the Explorer has got you covered with eight trim levels. In comparison, the GMC Acadia has four, exactly half as many. Some may find this subjective, but popular consensus would likely show that drivers prefer having more choices. One example of how this translates to the vehicles is with value. With eight available trim levels, the base Explorer model manages to come in at a lower starting MSRP than the Acadia. The base Explorer model, aptly named the Explorer, sports a starting price of $33,245. Should you purchase the base Acadia model, the SLE, it has a starting MSRP of $34,800. Now that we’re aware of the Explorer’s lower starting price, the saving grace comes down to the specs themselves. Can the Acadia keep up? Let’s start talking about performance.

A red 2022 GMC Acadia SLT is shown from a rear angle parked in front of a modern home.

Game Over

Honestly, there’s no comparison. The 2022 Explorer keeps a pattern of consumer choice by offering four powertrains, three of which include turbocharged engines, and the last one is a hybrid. Switching over to the Acadia, there are only two powertrains, one turbocharged engine and your average V6 engine that’s not turbocharged. Although the 9-speed automatic transmission with every Acadia engine is not to be scoffed at, the 10-speed automatic transmission that every Explorer engine comes with is undeniably better.

Any way that you look at it, the Explorer is more powerful. Even the base engines are vastly different despite their similarities. The base engine inside of the Explorer is an EcoBoost turbocharged 2.3L I-4. GMC’s base engine here is a turbocharged 2.0L I-4. However, you can expect a massive increase in performance with the Explorer thanks to its 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque against the Acadia’s 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Towing performance of the Explorer also sees a substantial increase over the Acadia’s base engine with 5,300 lbs against 3,500 lbs. To put this in a greater perspective, this is a 51% increase in towing performance at a lower price point.

Moving up to the V6 engines, there are three variations for the Explorer and only one for the Acadia. The 3.6L V6 engine inside of upgraded Acadia models will have 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque, lending itself to a higher towing capacity of 4,000 lbs. Bringing in the EcoBoost turbocharged 3.0L V6 for the Explorer, you’ll get 365 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. Impressively, this is a 40% increase in torque output against the Acadia’s best engine, and its towing capacity of 5,600 lbs is also a 40% increase. That’s it for the Acadia, but the V6 in the Explorer appears again with even better stats for the ST trim level.

The upgraded turbocharged 3.0L V6 engine for the Explorer ST sees its output improved to an even 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. For the Explorer, this variant of the V6 is the most powerful powertrain for the SUV, and it easily defeats the best Acadia engine with approximately 29% more horsepower and 53% more torque. And, as mentioned prior, a 3.3L Hybrid V6 is also available with 318 hp and 322 lb-ft of torque. Not only does the hybrid powertrain outperform Acadia’s best offering, but it does so while getting 27 mpg city and 28 mpg highway compared to the Acadia’s 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.

Ready, Set, Cargo

A midsize SUV must give you enough space for cargo. This is a necessity, and it’s easy to understand that you’d rather acquire a vehicle that gives you more room. SUVs are multi-purpose, but those who purchase an SUV are likely looking for a vehicle that offers far more space than the average sedan. Well, we’ve got a surprise for you. What if we told you that the cheaper and more powerful SUV was also the most spacious? That’s right, the Explorer offers a far greater amount of cargo space than the competition, but just how vast are the differences?

With the Explorer, even the base model will give you a minimum of 18.2 cu.ft. of space. If you spent more money and bought yourself a base Acadia model, it’ll only offer a minimum of 12.8 cu.ft. of space. Granted, this is while all three rows of seats are upright, but GMC’s offering is still rather abysmal with 29% less space than the Explorer. Folding the third row down greatly improves things for both vehicles, but the Explorer still excels with 47.9 cu.ft. of space against the Acadia’s 41.7 cu.ft. of space, which is nearly a 15% difference.

Lastly, if you require the most cargo space when you need it, then the Explorer will give you 87.8 cu.ft. of space, which is simply impressive for a midsize SUV. The Acadia, in comparison, gives you 79 cu.ft. of space, which is still respectable but not quite enough as it’s still 10% less. Ultimately, when you need your SUV to be the most versatile that it can be, the Explorer is going to be the better option. Once we bring in the fact that the Explorer costs less than the Acadia, it becomes clear that GMC has made some questionable choices with this year’s Acadia.

A green 2022 Ford Explorer Timberline is shown parked on a remote trail during a 2022 Ford Explorer vs 2022 GMC Acadia comparison.

Better Luck Next Time

If you’re pondering between the Explorer and the Acadia, then disregard GMC’s option and go with Ford. When you put these two vehicles side-by-side, there’s simply no excuse as to why GMC felt the need to sell the Acadia at a higher price. It’s almost as if GMC is looking to sell the Acadia at a premium simply because they find their red and white badging to be a fashion statement. We prefer substance over style. And while the Acadia may have style on its side, the Explorer offers both. You, as the consumer, deserve a vehicle that’s worth the money that you’re spending, and Ford has taken the necessary steps to give drivers the best possible automobile that they can get.

There’s not too much else to say about the Acadia other than that we find it’s a disappointment. The Explorer, on the other hand, has an important role to play in the grand scheme of things. Today, you should pick the Explorer, and we believe that GMC is going to be pressured to make some serious changes to Acadia if it wants its midsize SUV to stand head and shoulder with the competition on the market. In the here and now, the Explorer wins this battle by a long shot.