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New in 2011, the GMC Terrain comes back for the 2012 model year with minor changes, mostly to its infotainment systems.
The Terrain is the junior member of the GMC family, the smaller of its two crossovers (the Acadia is the other). A close relative of the Chevrolet Equinox, the Terrain shares most of the Chevy's good points, including tidy proportions, a relatively roomy interior, and a list of thoughtful features for people and cargo. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive an option, and the Terrain gets up to 32 mpg on the EPA highway cycle, making it a great choice in a field that includes the Ford Edge, the Honda CR-V and the Toyota Venza.
The Terrain's a standout in styling, but it could dial down its extremely aggressive look. Chunky, large fenders flare out in an overly exaggerated way around the wheel wells, and they give the Terrain a look that's part Tonka, part novelty. The upright stance and the tall, broad grille are more traditionally GMC, and probably enough of a distinction by themselves, from the softer-looking Equinox. The Terrain's cabin is much more conventionally styled--it's more soft and carlike, with just the right amount of blocky detail and metallic trim, more in tune with the tasteful cabin of the larger Acadia.
Both powertrains available in the Terrain are shared with the Equinox, right down to their great gas-mileage ratings. On base vehicles, there's a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection, making 182 hp. Upscale versions have a 264-hp, 3.0-liter direct-injected V-6. Both are teamed to six-speed automatic, which in our experience could use some more refinement in its shift points and in the gear swaps themselves. Dig deep into the four-cylinder, and you'll probably find it has plenty of power for almost every need; we think the V-6 is only necessary if you're always filling all the Terrain's seats, or maxing out the six-cylinder's 3500-pound towing capacity.
Without a third-row seat, the Terrain might strike some family shoppers as less useful, but we've found the Terrain quite comfortable, even for four adults. GM has carved out good space inside a tidy package, and fitted the Terrain with very comfortable front bucket seats and a rear bench with enough support.The rear seat slides over an eight-inch span so passengers or cargo can get higher priority, and the seats fold to boost storage up to 31.6 cubic feet. However, the Terrain's cargo floor is high for its class, and the seats don't fold completely flat. All versions have a big, deep glove box, a storage bin over the center stack of controls, and an armrest storage bin deep enough to hold a small laptop. Wind and powertrain noise are admirably low in the six-cylinder models, but four-cylinders have noticeable drivetrain whirs and ticks--one of the classic soundtracks to today's direct-injection engines is a ticking as fuel is delivered, and it's pretty evident here, though the four-cylinder gets a noise-cancellation system that's meant to cut down on perceived cabin noise.
Excellent safety scores are part of the Terrain profile. The NHTSA gives it four stars overall, while the IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick. Along with curtain airbags and stability control, a rearview camera is standard--and necessary, since the Terrain's styling creates big blind spots.
All Terrains come with standard climate control; AM/FM/XM/CD sound with a USB port for media players; keyless entry; a power driver seat; and ambient lighting. Newly standard is a touchscreen-driven audio system that will also be able to connect music apps on smartphones to the car's audio system, enabling Bluetooth voice control and streaming music from sources like Pandora. Options include remote start; Bluetooth; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; and a navigation system with hard-drive map and music storage.