A white 2023 GMC Acadia is shown parked off road after competing in a 2023 GMC Acadia vs 2023 Kia Sorento comparison.

A Battle of the Drive Modes: the 2023 GMC Acadia vs. the 2023 Kia Sorento

Three-row SUVs just beckon you to go on an adventure. You probably have memories as a kid riding in the back of your family’s or your friend’s family’s three-row SUV on a long road trip, sharing snacks, taking naps, and singing songs in the back seat between pit stops. Three-row SUVs have everything you need to get where you’re going and enjoy the journey. With spacious cabins usually designed to be quiet and comfortable, they’re the perfect environments for passengers to steal a little shuteye between sightseeing destinations. Modern models are loaded with enhancements like USB ports and Wi-Fi so everyone can keep their smartphones, laptops, and iPads charged while staying connected to stream movies and shows.

However, what really makes an SUV great is its ability to traverse a variety of terrain. Today, many of these three-row SUVs have selectable drive modes. These let you tell your vehicle what sort of terrain you’re over or what sort of driving you hope to do next. They’re intuitive systems that rapidly adjust components of your vehicle, like throttle response, traction, torque delivery, and more, to help the vehicle perform perfectly for its given environment. Both the 2023 GMC Acadia and 2023 Kia Sorento boast such modes. That being said, there is a variance in their systems. Let’s take a look at the selectable drive mode options of the 2023 GMC Acadia vs 2023 Kia Sorento and see which model might best suit your driving needs.

A green 2023 Kia Sorento is shown off-roading.

The Drive Modes of the 2023 Kia Sorento

We’ll kick things off with the Kia Sorento, which has four drive modes: normal, eco, sport, and snow.

Normal Mode

You’ll likely spend most of your time in normal mode, and it’s the default unless you tell your vehicle otherwise. Normal mode is good for freeway and city driving, offering a good combination of fuel economy and a smooth, comfortable ride with just enough power to keep up with your busy lifestyle.

Sport Mode

If you’re going to find yourself on wide open stretches of highway with higher-than-usual speed limits or controlled track environments where normal traffic rules go out the window, you’ll use Sport mode. It increases throttle response, fulfilling your request for faster acceleration rapidly. It also raises the transmission shift point to help you draw more power from the engine.

Finally, Sport mode tightens the steering, which provides you with highly precise feedback from your wheels so you know exactly what they’re doing at all times. In general, Sport mode gives you more control at high speeds, but it will come at the cost of reduced fuel economy. That’s why you probably won’t spend too much time in Sport mode on a regular basis.

Eco Mode

When you move to Eco mode, your vehicle’s transmission shifts to lower RPMS, resulting in better fuel economy. It also adjusts throttle response and generally makes changes that reduce fuel consumption. Eco mode is ideal for slower speeds, like under 45 mph. It’s ideal for day-to-day driving, like running errands around town.

Snow Mode

Snow mode is for, you guessed it, snow. It’s also good in icy conditions. It’s going to boost traction control and make sure your vehicle is sending power evenly to all wheels for the best possible grip on slippery roads.

Between these four modes of the Sorento, the 2023 model is a really good road trip car. It will let you go faster when you find those rare and beloved freeways with increased speed limits, keep you safe when you journey through snow-covered towns, and save you money on gas when efficiency counts.

The black interior and dash of a 2023 GMC Acadia is shown.

The Drive Modes Of The 2023 GMC Acadia

The GMC Acadia has a reputation for being a beefier, sturdier three-row SUV than the Kia. GMC, as a brand, is known for making tough, long-lasting vehicles. They’ve lived up to this reputation with the selectable drive modes offered in the 2023 GMC Acadia. Like the Sorento, the Acadia will offer Normal, Sport, and Snow modes. However, it does not have Eco mode.

You do, however, have a four-wheel drive or two-wheel drive option, allowing you to go into a fuel-saving two-wheel drive mode. What The GMC Acadia has that the Kia Sorento doesn’t have are these two modes: Off-Road and Tow/Haul. The Acadia can tow 500 more pounds than the Sorento, so it’s unsurprising that GMC incorporated a mode specifically for towing and hauling in this vehicle.


In Tow/Haul mode, the GMC Acadia will transition to a lower gear to gain more torque. This will improve driving conditions when towing or trailering large items.


In Off-Road mode, you’re going to get improved traction and better maneuverability on uneven and unpredictable terrain like gravel, sand, mud, and dirt.

How to Use Selectable Drive Mode

In the GMC Acadia, there will be a round control between the driver and front passenger seat near the cupholders. You will have the option to switch between two-wheel and all-wheel drive, as well as Sport mode, Off-Road mode, and Tow/Haul mode. You simply turn it clockwise and counterclockwise to select your desired mode.

Depending on the trim, the knob might look slightly different in the Sorento. It will be near the gear shift and will also be a round knob that you turn clockwise and counterclockwise. The mode you have selected will appear on your driver information screen.

A green 2023 Kia Acadia is shown driving on a dirt road.

Which Group of Selectable Drive Modes Do You Need?

Because the 2023 GMC Acadia and 2023 Kia Sorento have slightly different drive mode options, it is important to consider where you plan to spend most of your time in your three-row SUV when choosing your vehicle. The 2023 Kia Sorento has drive modes that make it more appropriate for the roads people travel more commonly. It can get excellent fuel economy, making it great for long trips and city driving. It does have that Sport mode that can kick things up a notch when you’re in an environment that allows that. The Snow mode will definitely come in handy for those who live in a region that sees regular snow or for adventurers who plan on road-tripping to snow-covered terrain on a regular basis.

Drivers who plan on adventuring off-beaten paths a bit more will need the GMC Acadia because of the Off-Road mode that is not offered by the Sorento. If you know you will be venturing off paved roads and onto more rough terrain, you will need the off-roading abilities of the GMC Acadia. Attempting to go off-road in a vehicle that doesn’t have a mode specifically for that is dangerous.

Additionally, if you plan on utilizing the towing capacities of your SUV, then you will likely want the Tow/Haul mode that is offered only by the GMC Acadia. It will improve power and handling when trailering and towing. Because the Sorento lacks this mode, you might suffer power loss and delays when towing in that vehicle. Consider what you intend to use your three-row SUV for before making your choice.

You want to ensure you’re getting a vehicle that can handle the regular driving conditions you intend to use it for. On the other end, you want to avoid paying for additional features you won’t be using frequently. If you still need help narrowing down the ideal model for your needs, be sure to speak to your local dealership and go on a few test drives to get a feel for these two standout SUVs.