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The GMC Terrain was all-new last year and slots into the brand's lineup as a little brother to the successful Acadia full-size crossover. It's closely related to the Chevrolet Equinox, which means there's a tidy exterior package with good room inside, and thoughtful features that maximize either cargo or passenger capacity. Front-wheel drive is standard, four-wheel drive an option, and the Terrain offers some of the best fuel economy figures in its class, with EPA highway numbers of up to 32 mpg.
The styling of the 2011 GMC Terrain definitely stands out. With big, chunky fenders, with almost ridiculously exaggerated wheel well flares, a decidedly upright stance, and a tall, broad grille, the Terrain is instantly recognizable, contrasting sharply with the related Chevrolet Equinox's rounded look. It's also a bit polarizing; people either love it or hate it, without much middle ground. Inside it's a lot more conventional, soft, and carlike, though it does include some of the chunky cues and clouded metallic trim of other GMC models, like the larger Acadia crossover.
Last year a pair of clean-sheet, new-think powertrains arrived, and they make the Terrain competitive with the best in the class for fuel economy and refinement, if not performance. The base four-cylinder engine is a 2.4-liter with direct injection, making 182 hp, while a 264-hp, 3.0-liter direct-injected V-6 is available. Both Terrain engines also feature variable-valve timing, and both are mated to six-speed automatic, but drivability with the transmission hasn't been the best, from our experience--especially with the four-cylinder engine, and possibly related to the four's lack of low-end torque. Push the accelerator harder and let the four rev and it actually has plenty of power for most needs; only those typically towing or carrying very heavy loads will need the V-6—which ups the tow rating from a measly 1,500 pounds up to 3,500 pounds.
The 2011 GMC Terrain doesn't have a third seating row as some vehicles this size do, but GM has made good use of the space for passengers with good seats, and the cabin is very comfortable and quiet. All Terrains also come with an oversized glove box, a covered storage binnacle above the center stack, a laptop-sized center armrest storage bin, and two-tier storage within the doors. The standard MultiFlex sliding rear seat can be moved up or back nearly eight inches, and the rear cargo area behind it offers up 31.6 cubic feet of storage (presumably with the seat fully forward). But the cargo floor is just a little high compared to rival vehicles, and the back seats don't fold to a completely flat cargo floor.
It's a tight, quiet interior. Unique to the four-cylinder model is a special active noise cancellation system that works through both the built-in audio system and a few dedicated speakers to allow the engine to run at its most efficient RPM range. It also prevents what engineers call a "booming" resonance in the cabin that would otherwise occur.
Top-notch safety features and some of the best crash-test ratings in this class complete the package. The 2011 GMC Terrain has earned very respectable ratings in tougher new federal tests and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Rear visibility is the only caveat.
A strong feature set for the entry price is one of the other major distinguishing characteristics of the 2011 Terrain. All models come standard with a rear-vision camera, USB connection, keyless entry, XM Radio with three-month trial subscription, two-way power driver's seat with lumbar control, and ambient lighting. Optional upgrades include a touchscreen navigation/infotainment system with 40GB of storage (and 10 GB for music), remote start, leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity, and a dual-screen 8-inch DVD rear-seat entertainment system. Altogether, a loaded V-6 Terrain can price at more than $35k—not far from the price of the larger, three-row Acadia crossover.