When General Motors rolled out its first-generation of mid-size crossovers, it gave Chevrolet the Equinox and Pontiac the Torrent, believing a unibody utility was probably not quite up to GMC’s professional grade reputation.
With the demise of Pontiac, and Saturn for that matter, executives took a second look and realized most of GMC’s larger SUVs barely leave the Interstate anyway. The Terrain became the Equinox’ close sibling, but has moved considerably more upscale.
Like its older and larger sibling, the Acadia, Terrain is a car-based crossover that drives like a sport sedan, but leaps poor roads and brings its haul from the home store like an SUV.
Based on the German-engineered architecture that debuted with the Saturn VUE and also underpins the Cadillac SRX and Chevy Equinox, styling is based on recent GMC concept vehicles with deeply sculpted fender flares, chiseled front facia, and cheese grater grille with flashy chrome surround. More chrome covers the rear bumper and connects the high-mounted taillights.
Terrain looks like it could slog it out on backwoods trails then shower up for a night at the club.
Looking ready for the next decade, interior forms follow trends set by the full-size Acadia. Two-tone seats and door inserts add flair while large red-lit analog gauges, perfect-sized steering wheel, and center console gear selector add some sport. Everything has the feel of a concept car that was designed to be practical.
This is a vehicle, like the Acadia, that changes everything you think you know about GM SUVs.
Rearview cameras come standard. Bluetooth connectivity, USB audio inputs (that directly connect iPods to the car’s controls), touch-screen navigation, programmable power liftgate, XM Satellite Radio, and DVD-based rear entertainment system are all available.
Heated leather seats are like a warm hug on a cold winter’s night. To enhance safety, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind zone alert, and rear cross traffic alert systems are available.
As a response to customers, GMC offers the Terrain with a 182-hp 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that is rated 22/32-MPG city/hwy—enough to provide a 500-mile range on the Interstate.
For more oomph, drivers can choose the newly available direct-injected 3.6-litre V6 that generates 301 hp and achieves 17/24-MPG city/hwy. Four-cylinder owners will delight in GMC’s first use of Active Noise Cancellation technology, which detects sounds in the cabin and generates counteracting waves through the speakers for a nearly silent driving experience.
I’ve driven models with the four-cylinder engine, and it has plenty of guts to get on down the road, but the V6 is superb. You give up a little in fuel economy, but gain 120 ponies.
If you want to run with the big-lunged German crossovers from BMW and Mercedes, go for the V6. To conserve fossils, the four-cylinder is plenty powerful and uber-efficient. Either is a good choice, depending on what you desire.
Five-passenger AWD crossover
Powertrain: 301-HP 3.6-litre V6
6-spd. auto trans
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels: 18”/18” alloy f/r
Brakes: disc/disc fr/rr with ABS
Must-have features: style, performance
Fuel economy: 17/24-MPG city/hwy
Assembly: Ingersoll, ON
As-tested price: $35,000
Driving the Terrain is also impressive. Steering responses, thanks to rack-and-pinion and a four-wheel independent suspension system, are swift and sure. Step on the four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and the wagon hauls itself down from speed quickly. Optional all-wheel-drive (front-drive is standard) and electronic stability control loves slick roads.
Overall refinement is way above the Torrent, and much more than anybody will expect in a compact GMC crossover. This is a vehicle, like the Acadia, that changes everything you think you know about GM SUVs.
If regular Terrains do not quite meet your expectations of high style and comfort, check out the Denali edition. Exteriors are dressed up with a bolder chrome grille, body-color facias, satin-chrome accents, chrome exhaust outlets, and 19-inch wheels.
Interiors impress with French stitching on the instrument panel, mahogany wood steering wheel accents, illuminated front sill plates, and soft-touch jet-black leather on the seats and door inserts. Ride quality is improved with dual-flow dampers in the suspension.
“We wanted to carve the GMC Terrain away from the pack and establish its identity as a powerful, fresh crossover SUV with a confident and strong stance,” said John Cafaro Jr., director of exterior design, Global Crossover Vehicles.
“Everything about the Terrain communicates a sense of tailored toughness and passionate craftsmanship.”
Cafaro knows something about confident vehicles with passionate craftsmanship—he designed the C5 Corvette. From first glance, he and his team did a great job with GMC’s smallest crossover, which competes against the Ford Edge, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Murano, and Hyundai Santa Fe.
Terrain is universal in its capability to carry person and stuff great distances. Prices start at $25,560, but came to nearly $35,000 with all the goodies.
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