Review: Three-row crossover SUV head-to-head: GMC Acadia costs less, but Honda Pilot offers more space, capability
Here we have two stereotypical three-row crossover SUVs, albeit a bit smaller on the outside than most of their mid-size counterparts. Their designs have been around for a while, but both recently added new trim levels, designated AT4 and Trailsport, that amp up the off-road side of their SUV identities — or at least the looks of them.
Both the GMC Acadia AT4 and Honda Pilot Trailsport are powered by powerful naturally aspirated V6 engines mated to nine-speed transmissions (on other Acadias, a turbo four-cylinder is standard and the V6 is optional). Neither is a sales leader in their midsize three-row SUV segment, but they’re in the game. Last year, Pilot sales ranked fourth out of 12 brands, Acadia ninth.
The GMC is a little bigger than the Honda, but is priced a little lower, with its suggested price ranging from $41,398 for the SLE trim to $53,703 for the top-line Denali. Five levels of Pilot range from $46,120 to $57,602. As for those bushbashing models, the Acadia AT4 is asking for $48,698 and the Pilot Trailsport is asking for $51,620.
Don’t go thinking either is an under-the-radar alternative to a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. The formula for both starts with a light dusting of off-road styling cues and off-road tires wrapped around gloss black rims.
The AT4 gets a more advanced all-wheel-drive system that can vary the ride side-to-side in the rear, as well as front-to-rear (already standard on all Riders) and adds off-road traction select mode. The Pilot has 15 millimeters more ground clearance than its siblings.
Noticeably absent are Low Range transfer cases (an extra set of very low gears for extreme off-road use), additional underbody protection, locking center differentials (to prevent individual wheels from spinning), special shock absorbers or any other serious off-road indicator. intention. Honda Canada told us, however, that increased off-road capability is in the works for future model years.
2022 GMC Acadia AT4
- Base Price/Tested: $48,698/$54,473
- Engine: 3.6-liter V6, 310 horsepower
- Gearbox/drive: Nine-speed automatic/all-wheel drive
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 kilometres): 12.6 city/9.2 highway
2022 Honda Pilot Trailsport
- Base Price/Tested: $51,620/$52,557
- Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 280 horsepower
- Gearbox/drive: Nine-speed automatic/all-wheel drive
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 kilometres): 12.4 city/9.3 highway
The Acadia’s chunky profile is inherently more off-road-like, while the Pilot’s bland shape seems to channel the Odyssey minivan that shares its genes. On both, the cosmetic treatment is little more than black instead of shiny accents, for example, the roof rails. In the US, the Trailsport offers bold black fender flares, but they aren’t offered in Canada.
All crossovers position the driver higher off the ground than sedans, but if you like or need to sit high in the vehicle, the Pilot’s 10-way seat allows for that to a rare degree, the commanding view still enhanced by slender A-pillars and a lowered mirror. The Acadia’s seat adjustment range offers a more conventional posture, and its thicker A-pillars and exterior mirrors are more likely to obstruct sightlines in the front three-quarters.
Their eight-inch touchscreens are on the small side by today’s standards, but if you prefer actual knobs and buttons for basic audio and climate functions, you’ll feel more at home in the Acadia. . Likewise, the Acadia’s well-stocked analog gauge cluster versus the Pilot’s digital speedometer and linear tachometer combination.
Both have push-button shift controls – low on the Acadia’s dash and on the Pilot’s center console. The result is side-by-side cupholders in the Acadia but, perhaps surprisingly, the Pilot has more center console storage.
The Pilot also wins the space race for passengers. Its passenger volume of 171.7 cubic feet beats that of the Acadia by 10 percent, thanks in large part to a much wider cabin that allows for a third-row bench seat for three; since the second row is also a bench seat for three people, that makes a total of eight. (Captain’s chairs are not available on the Trailsport, but are standard on some top-trim riders).
The Acadia’s two-person third-row and second-row captain’s seats total six, though a three-person second-row bench seat is available. The spec gives the Pilot a small legroom advantage, although our butt-in-the-seats assessment couldn’t feel it. In both, I could barely cram my 5-foot-8 frame into the third row with the second row all the way back.
At 310 horsepower, the Acadia’s 3.6-litre V6 is more powerful than the Pilot’s 3.5-litre, which produces 280. It also offers more torque (271 lb-ft versus 262).
But the Pilot is nearly 100 kilograms lighter and has a faster first gear, giving it an off-line advantage you can really feel. Once in third gear, the Acadia begins to take flight, but the Pilot’s lead still allows it to go from zero to 100 kilometers per hour in first: seven seconds against 7.3.
Both engines are smooth and pleasant to hear in routine driving (although the Honda gets frantic at maximum effort) and both rev at a relaxed 1,800 rpm to 120 kilometers per hour. The choice of chassis dynamics comes down to personal priorities – the quieter ride of the Acadia versus the (relatively) more athletic handling of the Pilot.
We haven’t gone off the road, nor do we expect the owners to. Based on their spec, the Pilot has 18 millimeters more ground clearance and its first gear is better suited for steep, creeper grades, although only the Acadia has hill descent control. As in all Riders, the Trailsport’s permanent all-wheel drive has sand, mud, and snow modes; the Acadia has two- and four-wheel drive as well as off-road modes.
Both include most of the digital technologies expected today, so it’s easier to list the notable exceptions. On the driver assistance side, only the Pilot has adaptive cruise control, while only the Acadia has rear cross-traffic alert and front/rear park assist. On the infotainment side, only the Pilot has wireless charging, and only the Acadia has a Wi-Fi hotspot or 120-volt outlet (although higher-trim Pilots have both).
Whichever way you fold the seats, the Pilot has noticeably more space for cargo, and the numbers back it up – 467 liters versus 362 behind the third row; 1,324 liters compared to 1,181 behind the second row when the third row is folded down; and 2,374 liters versus 2,237 with all seats folded down. The Pilot’s below-deck storage compartment is also larger, and its 5,000-pound towing capacity beats the Acadia’s 4,000.
The Acadia has a lower entry price than the Pilot and is more SUV-like while, paradoxically, offering a more car-like cockpit environment and a smoother ride. In exchange for its higher suggested price, the Pilot is better equipped (including leather upholstery and a sunroof) and offers more space, more capability and a more engaging driving experience. But don’t expect to take either one too far off the beaten path.
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