New & Used GMC Terrain: In Depth
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The GMC Terrain shares its underpinnings with the Chevy Equinox; differentiation between the two comes mostly in the form of interior and exterior styling and trim. Equipment is largely mirrored through both lineups, although the Terrain's Denali trim is slightly more luxurious than the top Equinox, offering a few features the Chevy does not.
The Terrain straddles the compact and mid-size segments. It's the brand's smallest model, sharing showroom space with the big Acadia crossover and GMC's large Yukon SUV, and of those offerings it's the most carlike of those offerings.
Its size makes the Terrain a rival for a large group of crossover utility vehicles, including models such as the Toyota Venza, Subaru Outback, Ford Escape, and Hyundai Santa Fe. The Terrain gets its first real overall update for the 2016 model year, although it mostly deals with styling and equipment and this time leaves the mechanicals untouched.
MORE: Read our 2016 GMC Terrain review
The Terrain is GMC's smallest vehicle, and also its most fuel-efficient offering. The mid-size crossover seats five and features a useful sliding second-row seat that gives it a more flexible cargo and passenger arrangement than many other vehicles in its class.
The Terrain features the same hewn-from-stone styling that is seen on other GMC products, with big, squared-off fender flares and an upright front end. Terrains are offered with a choice of either a four- or six-cylinder engine, with front-wheel drive standard and all-wheel drive an option with either. Both engines feature direct injection to aid performance while reducing fuel use, and they're backed in all models by a six-speed automatic transmission.
The Terrain's base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, the first four-pot to be used in a GMC model since the '80s. It's rated at 182 horsepower and delivers claimed best-in-class fuel economy of 21 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway. An ECO mode, activated by a pushbutton, helps save fuel by instructing the transmission's torque converter to lock up at a lower speed—1,125 rpm—which reduces losses due to friction.
Through the 2012 model year, the upgrade engine in the Terrain was a 3.0-liter V-6 engine with 264 horsepower on tap. This particular engine was a downsized version of the 3.6-liter V-6 found in several other GM products and in the Terrain it returned fuel economy of 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. For 2013, GMC replaced the smaller-displacement V-6 with the full 3.6-liter version, good for 301 horsepower--but with identical fuel economy ratings (with a 16/23-mpg rating on all-wheel-drive models).
Standard and available features include a rearview camera, a power tailgate, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and MP3 playback, and a touchscreen-driven audio system with satellite radio and IntelliLink, a system that links smartphones to the audio system, enabling mobile apps like Pandora.
The 2013 model year brought a new Denali edition that added a soft-touch dash cap, a mesh grille, and a choice of either the four- or six-cylinder engine, and either 18- or 19-inch wheels with those engines, respectively. The Denali also gets a leather interior, wood trim on the steering wheel, and a power passenger seat. Denali Terrains also have some exclusive safety features such as blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts--while all Terrains get new dual-action shocks that soften its ride considerably.
Only minor changes have been applied since then. The 2015 GMC Terrain added GM's newest connectivity kit--in-car 4G LTE data that allows the Terrain to create its own private wireless network--and two new colors.
For the 2016 model year, the Terrain gets a mild face lift with restyled front and rear fascias and lighting elements, a reshaped hood, an upgraded interior, and additional equipment for some trim levels. The blind-spot and cross-traffic monitors that were previously only available on the Denali model now become optional within the other upper Terrain trims.
GM builds the GMC Terrain at its CAMI assembly plant in Ontario, Canada, alongside its platformmate, the Chevrolet Equinox. The Theta platform that underpins the two has also been used in the past on other crossovers, such as the retired Saturn Vue and Pontiac Torrent, while a modified version is also used on today's Cadillac SRX.