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Road Warriors: GMC Acadia vs Kia Telluride

A black 2020 GMC Acadia, which wins when comparing the 2020 GMC Acadia vs 2020 Kia Telluride, is driving past a bay.

Destruction! Mayhem! Carnage! These things and more are what you can expect from this epic battle between two hard-hitting, low-punching, midsize SUVs. Okay, so maybe it will be more like a thoughtful comparison between these vehicles based on specs and statistical figures – but with colorful language about chassis-crushing battle. That’s right – it’s time for unrestrained combat between the 2020 GMC Acadia vs the 2020 Kia Telluride!

As these two glorious gladiators enter the ring, we’ll take a look at the kind of damage they can lay down on each other in some basic categories. First, we’ll see how their engines stack up to see which model can pack the biggest punch with their steely fists. Then, we’ll consider their drivetrains and fuel economy to get a sense of which will last longer in the fight. We’ll also take a gander at the interior space of each of these and call it… um… muscle? Sure, muscle! Finally, we’ll look at their safety features to see which one can take a better beating and stay on its wheely feet longer in this brutal combat.

Prepare yourself for SUV savagery in a knock-down battle, the likes of which you’ll seldom see again. Let us fight!

Powerful Blows – Engines and Performance

In this sort of motor-vehicle melee, I like to think of engines and the power they deliver as the crushing strikes and blows offered up by our mechanical gladiators. So let’s start off by looking at what kind of damage they can do to each other.

The 2020 Kia Telluride has just one engine to choose from, so we’ll start there—pretty simple, all things considered. The weapon of choice for the Telluride is a 3.8L V6 engine that delivers up to 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque to deal some pretty crushing blows to the Acadia. That’s some impressive power, but what will the Acadia answer with?

There are three engines to choose from with the 2020 GMC Acadia, so you can get exactly the level of power you need. The starting engine is a 2.5L 4-cylinder number that offers up to 193 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque – decent, but not amazing. You can also choose a 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder engine that delivers up to 230 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, which is a significantly better option. Finally, there is a 3.6L V6 engine that provides up to 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque for really great performance.

The Telluride gets a certain advantage when looking at starting models, but if you consider the potential of the GMC Acadia, then it clearly stands triumphant in this department.

A white 2020 GMC Acadia AT4 is parked next to a lake and mountains.

Stamina and Strength—Fuel Economy and Drivetrain

Delivering damage in this vehicular crucible is about more than just raw power: it’s about the ability to stay in the fight as long as possible. In terms of fuel economy, the 2020 GMC Acadia can get up to an estimated 21/27mpg in the city and on the highway, while the Kia Telluride tops out at an estimated 20/26mpg. While that’s not a huge difference, it still means the Acadia will keep on battling a bit longer.

Engine power is great, but it’s not the only aspect of the drivetrain that matters when our champions clash. The transmission, for example, can tell us which warrior can shift stances and adapt to the mercurial nature of combat more fluidly. The 2020 GMC Acadia comes with a 9-speed automatic transmission, no matter which engine you choose, while the Kia Telluride has an 8-speed automatic. Once again, that’s not a massive difference, but the smoother ride of the Acadia could certainly give it the edge in such a contentious conflict.

Muscle and Bone—Interior Features and Dimensions

What about what’s going on inside these two mechanical marauders? Let’s just look at the top trims here; otherwise, we’ll be looking at interior options all day. Well, the 2020 GMC Acadia Denali comes with 8-way power-adjustable front passenger and driver seating, which are heated and ventilated, and it has a Bose Premium sound system. The Denali features an 8-inch driver information center, tri-zone climate control, and a wireless charging pad.

By comparison, the 2020 Kia Telluride SX (its highest trim) has an 8-way power front passenger seat and a Harmon Kardon sound system, and the front seats are heated. The Telluride SX also features a 7-inch driver information display, dual-zone temperature controls, and available heated steering wheel, which is standard on the Acadia Denali, and a wireless phone charger.

Ultimately, both of these models have pretty comparable interior features—but the Telluride is significantly larger inside. The Kia Telluride has up to 21 cu.ft. of interior cargo space behind the third row, up to 46 cu.ft. behind the second row, and 87 cu.ft. in total cargo volume. By comparison, the 2020 GMC Acadia gives you about 13 cu.ft. behind the third row, about 42 cu.ft. behind the second, and up to 79 cu.ft. of total cargo space. That’s a pretty big difference, in part due to the Telluride being slightly longer and taller than the Acadia.

I think this area is a draw between these two fighters—the Denali has a nicer interior, but the Telluride gives you more space.

Armor Plating—Safety Features and Options

A light blue 2020 Kia Telluride is driving in the snow.

A strong defense is important in any battle like this, which comes down to the safety features these vehicles have to protect themselves in this conflict (and to protect you on the road).

The 2020 GMC Acadia Denali features StabiliTrak electronic stability and traction control, a full airbag suite, and automatic emergency braking. It has an HD rear vision camera, front and rear park assist, and an electronic parking brake. You also get lane keep assist with a lane departure warning, a forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, and a following distance indicator. Finally, every model of the Acadia includes a Teen Driver system that makes it a great choice if you have a young driver just starting to hit the road.

With the 2020 Kia Telluride SX, you get vehicle stability management with electronic stability control, numerous airbags, and auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection. It has a driver attention warning, a forward collision warning, and blind-spot detection. You also get a lane keeping assist system, with a lane departure warning, a driver attention warning, and other similar safety features. It lacks the Teen Driver system of the Acadia, so keep that in mind if you have a new driver in your household.

Who Wins the Day?

So, what’s the final verdict? I have to be honest; this is a close one. If you look at starting levels, the 2020 Kia Telluride probably gets the first few hits in thanks to its powerful engine and spacious interior. But at higher trims, the 2020 GMC Acadia comes out on top thanks to a more powerful available engine, a smoother transmission, nicer interior options, and great overall safety features—especially if you have a teen driver.

I have to give this win to the 2020 GMC Acadia, but the Kia Telluride definitely did its best to hang in there. The Acadia stands triumphant, though the Telluride took its shots and left the Acadia wounded and shaken. What does the future hold for these two gladiators? Will the Telluride come back for a rematch and prove itself victorious? Only time will tell.

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