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Which GMC SUV Reigns Supreme

The Black Editions of the 2019 Acadia and Terrain are part of the GMC SUVs lineup. They are shown with a city skyline in the background.

Being tasked with exploring the lineup of GMC SUVs is, in many ways, an exercise in giving credit where it’s due.

In 2019, it’s basically pointless to argue the enduring appeal of the SUV segment, be it directed at traditional full-size offerings or those of the modern crossover format. Even if (like me) you’re rarely enamored of the segment, the fact that most automakers are reshaping (or have already reshaped) their entire lineup around SUV offerings tells you everything you need to know. At the end of the day, most drivers are looking for a safe and versatile passenger vehicle, designed for comfort, rife with amenities, a healthy dose of utility (be it centered around cargo or towing) while offering competitive fuel economy. And if those are the boxes that need ticking, well, we know which segment is meeting the demand, telling drivers that they can (in fact) have it all.

But not all offerings are created equal, and the saturation of the marketplace compels automakers to do everything possible to distinguish themselves from competitors.  Some aim to infuse their offerings with a sense of sportiness, intended to downplay the sense of practicality. Others look to establish (or cash in on) color and design trends, hopeful of appealing to the sensibilities of younger drivers. Others cater to a sense of outdoor adventure, of the comfort of a fully connective driving experience. But it’s worth pointing out that GMC has opted to take a more timeless and neutral approach, and is all the better off for it.

So with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at one of the most quietly confident SUV lineups in the marketplace. One that makes zero attempts to be a ‘me too,’ and knows exactly what it brings to the proverbial party.

GMC Terrain

Priced to start around $25,000 the Terrain introduces the simplified architecture that resonates throughout the lineup. Not entirely dissimilar from GMC’s truck lineup, little stands out aside from badging and headlamp design and, you know what? It’s not a bad design philosophy. It’s the automotive equivalent of the familiar face that you wake up to time and time again, not the heavily made-up face that looked good when it took it home after a few drinks. Simple. Accessible. Easy to warm up to. And a welcoming interior enjoys all GM’s proven adeptness at the standardization of technology.

Seating five with comfort to spare, the Terrain comes in a total of six trim levels: (base) SL, SLE, SLT, SLE Diesel, SLT Diesel and (of course) the line-topping Denali. Available in either front or all-wheel-drive, the Terrain comes with power by three different powertrains depending on the trim configuration that you opt for. Starting with a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission, the Terrain offers 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque. This can be upgraded to a 2.0-liter variant offering a 252 hp and 260 lb-ft or a 1.6-liter Turbo-Diesel delivering 137 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque.

Finally, the Terrain (which comes in your choice of ten colors) introduces another distinction that helps the GMC lineup to stand apart from competitors. Easily interpreted as either a pro or con (depending on your point-of-view) there is a near-absence of bold or trendy color choices among the options. And while plenty of prospective buyers might want ‘electric green’ or ‘neon blue,’ GMC takes a more reserved approach. It serves to reinforce the quiet confidence of the lineup, uninterested in the pack (both in terms of leading and following).

GMC Acadia

The upsized Acadia seats seven and starts around $29,000 MSRP. Trading immediate accessibility for a sense of genuine luxury, the expansive Acadia displays a polished appearance devoid of embellishment or excess. A welcome change from the overzealous design philosophies that permeate the segment, the brilliance of the Acadia lies in its simplicity.

Also available in six trim levels: (base) SL, SLE-1, SLE-2, SLT-1, and SLT-2, and (yup, you guessed it) the Denali. As with the Terrain before it, the Acadia can be configured as either front or all-wheel-drive and comes with two powertrain configurations. The first is a direct-injected 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing. Capable of 193 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque, it gains a little bit of power right off the bat (compared to its smaller sibling).

But much like its exterior, the Acadia’s interior exudes a sense of ‘stepping up’ boasting superior material choices which, combined with the enhanced space of the cabin, makes it feel entirely different from the Terrain while maintaining the same architecture. Another testament to quiet confidence, and a lack of desire to be anything other than what it is.

GMC Yukon

A black 2019 GMC Denali is parked in front of a crumbling wall. It is in the lineup of GMC SUVs.

Last up is the Yukon. Commanding, with a more aggressive stance, it trades smooth refinement for a more angular edging. Luxury becomes opulence, and a more intimidating profile is cut. Priced to start around $49,600 the Yukon seats 8 but feels like a legitimate luxury SUV in comparison to the Terrain and Acadia. Whether you’re walking around it, or climbing inside of it, the ascension is tangible.

You can opt for the traditional Yukon, measuring 203.9-inches in total length with 15.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row; or you can opt for the XL, measuring 224.4-inches with 39.3 cubic feet in the rear.

With four trim levels available (SLE, SLT Standard Edition, SLT, and Denali) the Yukon can be configured for either two or four-wheel drive. A 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8 delivers 355 hp with 383 lb-ft of torque while its 6.2-liter sibling churns out 420 hp and 460 lb-ft. Such capable powertrain options only serve to improve upon the value proposition of the Yukon, showing you that it’s more than just a pretty face.

But looks matter and the cabin experience offered by the Yukon stands unchallenged by most anything else under the GM lineup. The perfect blend of truck and SUV feel there’s a genuine sense of both proportion and power to be enjoyed by driver and passenger alike. But setting aside any concern sparked by its substantial girth and aesthetic, the Yukon doesn’t ride anything like a truck. Its sense of refinement pours out across the road, offering smooth and assured handling which displays every ounce of confidence that inspired the lineup as a whole. Simply put, the Yukon is the ultimate realization of GMC’s approach and one that deserves consideration.

Is a GMC SUV Right For You?

Only you can say, for sure. But regardless of which one best suits the unique demands of your budget and lifestyle, there is a GMC SUV available to infuse your drive time with a bit of domestic refinement and confident capability. Sure, there are options that are less expensive, more relevant in terms of current trends, or indicative of aggressive styling. But when you’ve grown up and decided that you’re done being a ‘me too’ kind of SUV customer, you might want to take a closer look at either the Terrain, Acadia, or Yukon.

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