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Car Buying Advice, Tips and Reviews

A black 2019 GMC Acadia is parked on cracked ground in front of misty mountains.

How Does the Acadia Stack Up to the Highlander?

There is no shortage of mid-size SUVs on the road – it’s a popular market with a lot of buyers out there so it makes sense that manufacturers are clamoring to be noticed in it. With so many options to choose from, however, it can get a bit overwhelming. While more choices are always a good thing, there is a point of diminishing returns where you end up with options for the sake of options. I find it helpful to narrow my view to just a couple models, like the 2019 GMC Acadia vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander, so that I can see what they offer point-by-point.

If you are a die-hard fan of GMC or Toyota, or just have a preference for one model over the other, then the good news is that these two vehicles are very comparable. You can pretty well go with your preference and not worry that you missed out on a huge opportunity or something vastly superior. If you do not have a preference already, and you’re interested in what each of these vehicles has to offer, then things can be a bit more complicated.

For the most part, either the 2019 GMC Acadia or the 2019 Toyota Highlander is a great pick that has pretty much everything you could want. Their differences are surprisingly minimal, and your choice will probably come down to a particular feature you want.

Available Engines and Performance

Both the 2019 GMC Acadia and the 2019 Toyota Highlander have two engines available, restricted by the trim level you choose. In most ways, these engines are very similar, so if you are looking for a blowout here, you’re going to be disappointed.

The starting engines on these two mid-size SUVs are quite comparable. The 2019 GMC Acadia starts off with a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that offers up to 193 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque. By comparison, the 2019 Toyota Highlander starts with a 2.7L 4-cylinder engine that provides up to 185 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. As you can see, the starting engine in the Acadia is slightly more powerful than the one in the Toyota model.

If you choose a higher trim level, then you can get a more powerful engine in these two SUVs. The second option for the 2019 GMC Acadia is a 3.6L V6 engine that offers up to 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque for great overall power and performance in an SUV. By contrast, the second engine for the 2019 Toyota Highlander is a 3.5L V6 engine that provides up to 295 hp and 263 lb-ft of torque. Once again, the engine in the Acadia is a bit more powerful than one in the Highlander.

So if you are interested in getting the most horsepower and torque in your SUV, then the offering from GMC is certainly the way to go.

Cargo and Towing Capacity

Most people want an SUV, especially a mid-size model, for the cargo capacity that such large vehicles offer. The 2019 GMC Acadia and 2019 Toyota Highlander are both great choices in this department since they offer a lot of room inside. The Acadia has up to 79 cu.ft. of interior cargo space, while the Highlander provides up to about 83 cu.ft. of cargo volume. Clearly, the Highlander provides more, but it comes down to about 4 cu.ft. of space, which you will probably never notice – unless you routinely pack your SUV to the absolute limit.

Both of these models are also great choices if you want to tow some weight behind your vehicle, such as a small trailer or camper. With the more powerful engine options and proper configurations on these vehicles, they can both pull a lot of weight. The 2019 GMC Acadia has a maximum towing capacity of up to 4,000 lbs. while the 2019 Toyota Highlander can haul up to 5,000 lbs of weight behind it.

You might notice the Highlander can pull 1,000 lbs more behind it than the Acadia can, which is interesting since its engine offers less torque. Ultimately you will need to decide if that really makes a difference for you. If your camper when fully loaded up only weighs about 3,200 lbs then both of these SUVs are perfect options – but if you need to pull between 4,000 and 5,000 lbs then the Highlander is a better choice.

Interior Options and Luxury

The tan interior of the 2019 GMC Acadia Denali shows why it wins in luxury when comparing the 2019 GMC Acadia vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander.

To get a sense of what kind of interior options and luxury features these two SUVs have to offer, let’s look at their highest trim levels. These are the features you get with the 2019 GMC Acadia Denali and the 2019 Toyota Highlander Limited. Starting trim levels will have less to offer.

The Acadia Denali has an 8-inch Infotainment system with Navigation, a Bose premium 8-speaker sound system, and 8-way power adjustable driver and front passenger seats. All seats are heated, with a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel that features controls on it. There is also an 8-inch driver information screen, memory settings for the driver seat and outside mirrors, and tri-zone automatic climate control.

By comparison, the Highlander Limited has an 8-inch touchscreen display with Navigation, a JBL speaker system, and while the driver seat is 12-way power adjustable the front passenger seat is only 4-way power adjustable. It has a leather-trimmed steering wheel with built-in controls and a leather-trimmed shift lever. There is a 4-inch driver information display, rather than the Acadia’s 8-inch display, memory for the driver’s seat, and three-zone automatic climate control.

Ultimately both of these SUVs can be decked out with a ton of luxury features. The 2019 GMC Acadia has a bit more to offer on this front, however, which you would expect from a Denali.

Safety Features

First things first: both of these SUVs have a ton of safety features and perform excellently in this regard. That being said, let’s look at what they have to offer at the highest trim levels, where you expect to see their best safety features included.

The 2019 GMC Acadia Denali has low-speed forward automatic braking, a robust airbag system, and C-shaped LED signature lighting. The Acadia Denali also features front and rear park assist, a following distance indicator, lane keep assist with lane departure warning and forward collision alert. It features front pedestrian braking, lane change alert with side blind zone alert, and rear cross traffic alert when you’re in reverse. There’s even a safety alert seat for the driver that vibrates to indicate a warning rather than only having an audible alert signal.

By comparison, the 2019 Toyota Highlander Limited has pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, and automatic high beams. There is a full suite of airbags, a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and hill start assist to help when starting the vehicle on an incline. While these features are certainly good, there are some notable ones missing, including the impressive safety alert seat found in the GMC Acadia Denali.

The Last Word

So, in the end, how does the 2019 GMC Acadia stack up to the 2019 Toyota Highlander? Pretty well – and in most cases the Acadia comes out on top. Both of its engines are more powerful than the two offerings from Toyota. While the Toyota can pull more weight behind it and has slightly more interior cargo space, these differences are pretty minimal.

The 2019 GMC Acadia Denali has more impressive luxury interior features at the highest trim level, and there are some safety features the Denali has that the Highlander Limited lacks. As I said from the beginning, these are both solid vehicles, but all things being equal: the Acadia is a slightly better option.

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