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First Drive Review: 2020 GMC Acadia gets sophisticated, rides smoothly

GMC has introduced the new Acadia AT4 for 2020.

Photo Courtesy of GMC

The GMC Acadia is back and bolder for the 2020 model year with fascia changes, cabin refinements, tech upgrades, and a new trim level.

The model, a three-row SUV that's smaller than the GMC Yukon, is in line with the Chevrolet Traverse in the GM lineup. Its positioning makes it an attractive model for buyers looking for more space, but don't need the overt truckiness that the Yukon offers.

At its front the 2020 GMC Acadia comes with anew standard LED lighting, a new grille, and fresh front and rear fascia. Additional equipment upgrades include side mirrors with integrated turn signals (power-folding on Denali) and a hands-free power liftgate. There are also new 18- and 20-inch wheel designs.

2020 GMC Acadia AT4 The Acadia now comes in an AT4 trim. Photo Courtesy of GMC

The 2020 GMC Acadia also now comes in an AT4 grade, giving the model the darkened exterior accents and appearance of off-road readiness that is afforded other GMC models with AT4 trim levels. Its bold appearance works with the Acadia's refined design lines and fits well with current market trends. All-wheel drive is standard in this model. It rides on standard 17-inch wheels and 20-inchers are available.

Under its hood, buyers can get a new turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, which is standard on SLT and Denali models. It achieves 230 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder and available 3.6-liter V6 power plans still make the Acadia lineup for 2020. All engines are paired with a new nine-speed automatic transmission and have stop-start functionality.

An eBoost brake system is standard on turbo models. All Acadias have had suspension and handling upgrades for the new model year. On the winding rural roads of Jackson, Wyoming, the Acadia rode smoothly, absorbing most of the road's imperfections, and handled well, making it easy to park along the town square.

2020 GMC Acadia Denali GMC has retained the Acadia's plush seating for the 2020 model year.Photo Courtesy of GMC

The SUV is shifted via buttons and levers on the center stack, a move that frees up space traditionally taken up by a stick shifter. It's not terrible to use and will ultimately take some getting used to but should be easily adopted by drivers.

Most of the materials inside the cabin of the GMC Acadia are on-par with what you'll find inside other premium SUVs like the Infiniti QX60 and Acura MDX. That being said, there are some obvious cost-cutting design and materials choices, like the puzzling placement of the new open-pore wood decor in the Acadia Denali.

Every 2020 GMC Acadia come standard with GM's new 8-inch infotainment screen. The responsive screen has new a personal profile feature, refreshed navigation interface that allows for most functions to be reached via a single screen, and USB-C ports. There's a total of five charging ports in the Acadia, including a USB-A outlet in the third row.

There's a number of other new and enhanced features including the next-gen 15-watt wireless charging, a high-definition rear camera, and an available rear camera mirror (Denali only).

2020 GMC Acadia AT4 A new head up display is available. Photo Courtesy of GMC

The 2020 Acadia has the same list of standard and available safety technology as in the previous model year. None of the technologies proved too obstructive during testing.

The 2020 GMC Acadia will arrive on dealership lots this autumn It is made in America, at General Motors' Spring Hill, Tennessee plant.

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Production of the Volkswagen ID.4 will mark the automaker's first all-electric SUV launch. The ID.4 will have about 310 miles of range, depending on the drive package.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen is investing heavily into electric vehicles (EVs), even in the U.S. where the models make up a smidgeon of the sales each year. The company has already begun expanding its Chattanooga, Tennessee factory to build a North American center for the engineering and assembly of EVs.

That doesn't mean that they're just working on cars. They're working on the design of the "things" that go into cars as well. Much of this will happen at the Engineering and Planning Center (EPC) in Chattanooga. Breaking ground on the center is set to happen soon with the expectation of it being fully operational by spring 2021.

Volkswagen Chattanooga plant Volkswagen is investing $800 million and adding 1,000 jobs at its Tennessee plant. Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The EPC will feature a unique, state-of-the-art high-voltage laboratory that is designed to develop and test electric vehicle cells and battery packs. These cells and packs are slated to be assembled in the U.S. before being inserted into vehicles.

"There are two ways that auto companies approach the development of electric vehicle batteries," said Wolfgang Maluche, Vice President of Engineering at Volkswagen of America. "A lot of them will farm out the development and testing of batteries to another company, and some will actually do the work of developing and testing in-house. We are doing the latter."

The lab will include pressure testers, explosion-rated climate chambers and – perhaps the most unique – a custom multi-axis shaker table (MAST), which is designed to test the integrity of vehicle components in some of the roughest conditions they might face on the road.

According to Volkswagen, most automotive labs have MASTs, "but almost none were designed for electric vehicle batteries". EV batteries present their own set of testing challenges because of their size and weight. They typically weight hundreds of pounds each, making them the heaviest component in an EV.

"The battery is not only shaking; it is going through a series of harsh conditions to test its durability in a variety of possible environments, from the South Pole to the Sahara," said Jason Swager, the Director of Electrical Development. "We needed to build a MAST that could withstand the immense force and frequency that we need to test these batteries."

Volkswagen describes the process:

"To run a MAST at such high frequencies, Volkswagen had to design its own tool rather than using an outside supplier. The supports for the MAST will be buried 12 feet under the lab's floor and buttressed with concrete to help withstand the forces in use. Volkswagen's new lab will be only the second location in the country with a MAST of this size."

Volkswagen is building the lab to LEED standards. "This lab was planned to be as sustainable as possible," said Maluche.

The production version of the Volkswagen ID.4 EV is expected to be revealed soon. It will be produced at the factory. The company recently celebrated the 1 millionth vehicle to roll off the line at the plant.

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The Jeep Gladiator Farout pushes the boundaries of glad

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The new Jeep Gladiator Farout concept combines a passion for overlanding with the company's diesel engine. The model, originally intended to debut as part of this year's Moab Easter Jeep Safari (which was cancelled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic) is a step further than the Jeep Wayout concept from the 2019 Jeep Safari event.

"Although we didn't get to celebrate in Moab this year with our latest round of concept vehicles, we're pleased to introduce the Jeep Farout concept today as a vehicle that blends Gladiator EcoDiesel's fuel efficiency with an area of features fans of overlanding will love," said Jim Morrison, Head of Jeep Brand – FCA North America. "Building on the popularity of last year's Gladiator Wayout concept, and as overlanding continues to grow in popularity, this year's Farout concept is another opportunity to gather feedback from our passionate customer base."

Jeep Gladiator Farout The model has a large tent that sleeps four.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Farout concept is extreme, pushing the limits of how a Gladiator can be equipped. On top is a tent that measures 16-feet long by 7.5-feet tall. It can sleep up to four. At the back is a shell whose interior is wood-lined with soft ambient lighting, a refrigerator and stove, storage racks, built-in seats, and table space. The cab features dark smoke blue leather with orange stitching, and plaid flannel seat inserts.

At the heart of the model is Jeep's 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6, which achieves 260 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. Engine start-stop technology is standard. Jeep recently added the engine to its Gladiator lineup for the 2021 model year. It is already available in the Wrangler.

The exterior of the model is painted "Earl" with chartreuse accents on the hood, rear tailgate tow hooks, springs, badging, and shocks.

Jeep has boosted the Gladiator with a two-inch lift kit, 17-inch matte charcoal rims, 37-inch mud-terrain tires, and a modified Gladiator Rubicon steel bumper equipped with a 12,000-pound Warn winch. There's also custom front and rear rock rails and Fox performance shocks.

The truck's integrated roof rack allows for additional hauling space should the need to bring home a souvenir arise.

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