Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A black 2021 GMC Acadia is parked outside of a building after winning a 2021 GMC Acadia vs 2021 Ford Explorer comparison.

An SUV that’s Ideal for the Whole Family

The SUV has become the vehicle of choice for most families, as more and more drivers have seen the benefit of a vehicle that offers the space of a minivan and the performance of a sedan. Many family drivers have also seen the need for bigger and more spacious SUVs as their families have grown, needing more seats and larger trunk space to accommodate their desires. Comparing the 2021 GMC Acadia vs 2021 Ford Explorer will reveal two popular models that meet the needs of the suburban family driver. Both of these SUVs have a reputation for being reliable, safe, and, above all, affordable.

Many drivers see a three-row midsize SUV as the ideal family car as it will provide more passenger and cargo space than a compact SUV or crossover while having better fuel economy and a more affordable price tag than a full-size SUV. Also, that extra row of seats comes in handy, as these midsize SUVs can easily accommodate six or even seven passengers. In comparing the 2021 GMC Acadia vs 2021 Ford Explorer, we will see that both of these midsize SUVs have a great deal to recommend them, but one comes out as the clear better choice for family drivers.

Pricing, Trims, and Special Editions

One of the most important factors for drivers choosing a car for a family is affordability. Most families are on a tight budget and need to get the most out of every purchase, especially with respect to a new car. That is why price points are so important because most SUVs that have a high MSRP for their base model will end up costing even more if you want to get the additional features and equipment available on higher trims.

The 2021 GMC Acadia has an MSRP of $29,800 for its base model, the Acadia SL. The SL, SLE, and SLT trims all provide a good balance of features at an affordable price, but there are some more specialized trims as well. The Acadia AT4 is an SUV with special off-road features for an MSRP of $41,000, while the Denali comes in at $46,300 and boasts all the features of a luxury vehicle. There is also an Elevation Edition available as well, giving six different Acadia versions to choose from.

The 2021 Ford Explorer has a higher overall price point, with the base model Explorer starting an MSRP of $32,450. The XLT, Limited, and King Ranch add more features and luxury. The Explorer ST is more road performance-oriented at an MSRP of $52,830, but the Explorer lacks an off-road model like the Acadia AT4.

As you can see, the GMC Acadia has a lower overall price point than the Ford Explorer across the board. For example, the base model Acadia SL is almost $3,000 less than the Explorer. Furthermore, the top trim Acadia Denali is just $1,000 more than the mid-level Explorer Limited trim. If you want to get an Explorer Platinum with all the bells and whistles, it is going to cost you about $8,000 more than a fully loaded Acadia Denali.

A silver 2021 Ford Explorer is parked in a red desert in front of mountains.

Engines and Performance

Both the 2021 GMC Acadia and the 2021 Ford Explorer both offer three different engine options. The standard engine on the Acadia is a 2.5-liter I-4 gas engine that can produce 193 horsepower and generate 188 pound-feet of torque. There is also a smaller but more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 gas engine that produces 230 horsepower and generates 258 pound-feet of torque. The largest engine on the Acadia is a 3.6-liter V6 gas engine that produces 310 horsepower and generates 271 pound-feet of torque. It is easily the most powerful of the three engines and will give you the best overall acceleration.

The Ford Explorer’s base engine is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged I-4 that can produce 300 horsepower and generate 310 pound-feet of torque. There are also two versions of the 3.0-liter EcoBoost Turbocharged V6 gas engine, one that produces 365 horsepower and generates 380 pounds-feet of torque, and the other that will give you 400 horsepower and 415 pounds-feet of torque. Finally, Ford offers a hybrid engine option for the Explorer, a 3.3-liter V6 that can give you 318 horsepower and 322 pound-feet of torque.

The Ford Explorer engines are larger and more powerful than the ones on the GMC Acadia models. However, this power comes at a price, as each cannot match the fuel economy of its GMC counterpart. For example, the Explorer 2.3-liter EcoBoost I-4 will only give you 24 MPG combined, while the 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 on the Acadia will give you 25 MPG combined. The same holds true for the two SUVs with the V-6 engine, with the GMC Acadia providing up to 22 MPG combined, while the Ford Explorer will only get 21 MPG combined.

In addition, the GMC Acadia will provide better overall handling than the Ford Explorer. The Acadia comes with front-wheel drive standard, while the Explorer is rear-wheel drive standard. If you live in an area with inclement weather, then you will have to pay extra for all-wheel drive on the Explorer if you want any kind of traction. This is not as much of an issue with front-wheel drive SUVs. The GMC Acadia will also corner better than the Ford Explorer since it has a tighter wheelbase of 112.5-inches as compared to the 119.1-inch wheelbase on the Ford. This will make getting into and out of spaces more difficult for drivers of the Explorer, which can be an issue for suburban family drivers.

The interior of a 2021 GMC Acadia shows the steering wheel and infotainment screen.

Standard Safety Features

Both GMC and Ford have given the base models of the Acadia and Explorer a number of standard active safety features. For example, the 2021 Ford Explorer comes with a rearview camera, lane-keeping system, and AdvanceTrac stability control. The base model 2021 GMC Acadia SL has similar standard features but adds a number of additional ones as well. This includes Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert that will help you avoid a collision when changing lanes, Rear Cross Traffic Alert that will let you know if a vehicle is about to cross your path when backing out of a spot, and Rear Park Assist that actively helps you parallel park your 2021 Acadia.

In addition, the Acadia features the Teen Driver system that is ideal if you have a young driver in your family. This will make it impossible for the young driver to disable any safety features while also limiting the volume of the Acadia’s infotainment system. Teen Driver will also give you a report so you can know if there are any issues with the young person’s driving.

The GMC Acadia Is the Family SUV for You

The 2021 Acadia offers you the choice of three different engines, two different drivetrains, and six trims, all at a very affordable price. What is more, GMC has equipped every Acadia with some of the most vital standard active safety features for suburban drivers. While the 2021 Ford Explorer has many positive features, it just cannot match the Acadia when it comes to price, performance, fuel economy, and safety. If you are looking for a family SUV, then look no further than the 2021 GMC Acadia.