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The 2013 GMC Terrain has gone from a quiet addition to legitimately popular choice in the GMC lineup, which isn't surprising as demand for fuel-efficient crossovers climbs across the industry. The very nearly mid-size Terrain utility vehicle is a good reason why--it's a chunky piece of work that gives up nothing in refinement, gas mileage, or features to crossovers like the Edge, Venza, and CR-V.The five-passenger GMC Terrain is a close relative of the Chevy Equinox, and the two have some great attributes in common--very good fuel economy in some versions, a spacious interior, and thoughtful touches and features. The Terrain doesn't look a bit like its companion piece, though--it's more a latter-day HUMMER than even its own brand's trucks and other sport-utes. It's a hard-nosed look, striking from some angles, and more a Tonka novelty from others, especially at its overly boxy fenders.
The cockpit is styled much more in the contemporary GM vein. There's a shield-shaped set of controls to the right of the driver, a grouping that looks like the same unit in the Chevy Cruze sedan. It's framed in low-gloss metallic trim, and capped by a hood that protects the standard 7-inch touchscreen from direct sunlight. With just the right amount of blocky detailing, the Terrain's cabin is more in tune with the tasteful looks of the larger Acadia, especially in Denali trim, which wears some woodgrain on the steering wheel, red stitching and soft padding on the dash, and standard leather on the seats.
The Terrain has more in common with the Equinox under its sheetmetal--namely, its drivetrains and most of its other driving hardware. The base Terrain sports a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine outfitted with direct injection. It turns in 180 horsepower and EPA fuel economy of 22/32 mpg in front-drive models, a mile per gallon less on each side when all-wheel drive is fitted. Any Terrain can be upgraded to a new 301-hp, 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6 that replaces the old 3.0-liter six, but earns the same 17/24-mpg gas mileage (or 16/23 mpg iwth AWD).
Both engines are teamed to a six-speed automatic, which is refined most of the time, with only an occasional judder under quick power changes. Dig deeply into the four-cylinder's powerband, and you'll probably find it has plenty of urge for almost every need; the V-6 is necessary only if you're always filling all the Terrain's seats, or maxing out the six-cylinder's 3500-pound towing capacity. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive an option.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. Denali models have standard blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts.
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.