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The Chevrolet Traverse vs. GMC Acadia: Which Is Better?

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Photo of a Chevrolet Traverse

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If you’re shopping for a three-row midsize SUV from a mainstream car brand, then the 2021 Chevrolet Traverse and 2021 GMC Acadia are definitely on your list. And while both vehicles are based on the same General Motors platform, there is enough difference between the two SUVs to examine features and differences closely. 

GM positions the Traverse to be more automotive appliance than head-turning ride. The Acadia’s blunt front end and flat body panels match GMC’s truck-oriented branding. Exteriors aside, let’s look at this Acadia vs. Traverse contest.

Pricing

$30,995 gets you the base Traverse L model, including a V-6 engine, front-wheel-drive (FWD), and seating for eight. Go for the top-trim High Country in all-wheel-drive (AWD) configuration, add a few accessories like a rear-seat entertainment system, and the bill will exceed an eye-popping $57,000.

You could almost buy two base Traverses for the price of one High Country model. And, all Traverse models use the same engine. The Traverse sweet spot is the all-wheel-drive LT Leather model, which includes an upgraded interior and some standard driver safety features. Add the Chevy Safety Assist upgrade (a $625 option), and this mid-tier version prices out at $42,920.

The base FWD Acadia SL costs the same as its Traverse equivalent, but you get an anemic 4-cylinder engine, and seating drops to seven positions. However, some extra safety equipment is standard.  Step up to the mid-level SLT (with a similar equipment level to the Traverse LT Leather mentioned above), and you’ll shell out $43,485. A tricked-out Acadia in top-level Denali trim will price out around $57,000 (about the same as the Traverse High Country).

Verdict: Thanks to standard V-6 power and better seating capacity, the Acadia vs. Traverse winner in the base-model category goes to the Chevy. The difference with mid-tier models gets closer to a toss-up, with the slightly more upscale Acadia adding a grand or so more than the Chevy.

While costs for the Denali and High Country counterparts are similar, go for the Denali version. This GMC sub-brand is well-known and may have some down-the-road benefits with resale value. Be sure to check manufacturer incentives which can differ between the Traverse and Acadia.


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Features

The Traverse offers a dizzying array of seven trim levels, so buyers should carefully consider necessary and preferred features. Depending on the trim level, equipment like navigation, automatic emergency braking, and heated seats are available as part of a specific options package or are included.

The Acadia somewhat simplifies things by offering “only” five trim levels, with each offering slightly more standard equipment than the comparable Traverse model. Yes, most Acadia models cost somewhat more than a similar Traverse. The Acadia AT4 is a unique AWD model that emphasizes more ruggedness with all-terrain tires, traction management, and hill control technology.

Like with the Traverse, Acadia shoppers can add packages to most mid-level trim levels to equip the SUV with preferred options.

Verdict: A slight edge goes to the Acadia for a higher level of standard equipment and a more simplified approach to equipment selection.

Interior

People buy SUVs for people and cargo space. Given the larger exterior size of the Traverse over the Acadia - about ten inches in length and three inches in width - the Chevy will be bigger on the inside.

This includes respectable accommodations for third-row passengers and good cargo storage behind the last row. The Traverse is the largest midsize SUV on the market. You’ll need to step up to a hulking full-size SUV if you want more space.

The Acadia is also a three-row SUV (the AT4 model offers two-row-only seating), but space in the far back is best suited for adults you don’t like or children. The rear cargo area is noticeably smaller than the Traverse as well. The only dimension where the Acadia wins is with a one-inch greater second-row legroom measurement. 

Verdict: For those seeking a spacious SUV interior, the Chevy wins big in this Acadia vs. Traverse contest.


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Powertrain

The Traverse keeps it simple; a 3.6L six-cylinder engine making 310 horsepower is the sole power plant on all models. A nine-speed automatic transfers power to either the front wheels or all four wheels.

For better or worse, the Acadia offers three engine choices. A 2.5L 4-cylinder that makes 193 horsepower is only available on the base L model. So equipped, the L will have a hard time getting out of its way especially loaded with seven people.

A zippier 230-horsepower 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder is available on the SLT and Denali trims. The identical 6-cylinder from the Traverse is another engine option. A nine-speed automatic is standard on all Acadia models.

Verdict: It’s a toss-up. If choices give you headaches, then go for the Traverse. If you enjoy analyzing the pros and cons of different engine types or want to eke out a few extra miles per gallon, pick the Acadia.

Safety

Both the Traverse and Acadia received an overall five-star safety rating in the government’s crash test from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Interestingly, the Acadia gets five out of five stars in NHTSA’s overall front safety rating, while the Traverse receives four out of five stars. 

Under testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Traverse and Acadia received mostly good ratings (the top ranking) that placed these vehicles in the middle among midsize SUVs (several competing crossovers received higher “top safety pick” designations). Under IIHS tests, the Traverse received adequate or poor scoring (depending on trim level) for its headlights.

Even the cheapest Acadia model receives blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking assist as standard equipment for safety equipment. The base Traverse doesn’t offer any of these driving aids.

You have to step up to the Traverse’s LT Cloth trim even to get these features as an option. For both vehicles, more advanced safety equipment either comes standard or is an available option once you reach mid-tier trim levels or above.

Verdict: With slightly better crash test results and some driver aid technology included as standard equipment, the Acadia wins in the safety category.


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Fuel Economy

Keep in mind that the Traverse relies on one power plant for all models, while there are three different engine options for the Acadia. Also, the slightly smaller six-cylinder Acadia offers modestly better fuel economy when compared to a Traverse with the same engine.

Traverse Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined)

3.6L 6-cyl                FWD  18 / 27 / 21  |  AWD  17 / 25 / 20

Acadia Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined)

2.5L 4-cyl                FWD  21 / 27 / 23

2.0L Turbo 4-cyl      FWD  22 / 29 / 25  |  AWD  22 / 27 / 24        

3.6L 6-cyl             FWD  19 / 27 / 22  |  AWD  19 / 26 / 21

Verdict: It’s hard to render a precise winner here due to the different vehicle sizes and engine options - a sort of apples-to-oranges comparison. From a pure efficiency standpoint, a slight edge goes to the Acadia because of its engine choices and lighter weight.

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It’s a challenge to declare a clear winner in this Acadia vs. Traverse showdown; each SUV has a distinct set of advantages. If preferences lean towards a robust standard engine and generous cabin space, then the Traverse is likely the winner for you.

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