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The GMC Terrain is the rugged-looking crossover companion to vehicles like the Acadia, Sierra, and Yukon. It's back for the new model year with virtually no changes, which means the proto-military look, the good four-cylinder fuel economy, and the nicely arranged interior accommodations are still intact. With changes to one of the major safety testing regimens, though, its previous top scores have sagged a bit this year.Related to the Chevy Equinox under its skin, the Terrain is a standout in the crossover world thanks to those very crisply creased fenders. It's not as reserved or simply drawn as the Ford Edge, Toyota Venza, or Honda CR-V--it's all blocky and masculine, with a nod to HUMMER tossed into every corner. The military-grade details are no miscue--they're meant to distinguish the GMC from the mechanically similar Chevy Equinox, and they're meant to make a visual plea for guys who play games like Halo and have to run the school carpool instead of running for cover.
That army of newly minted dads (and moms) needs comfort, too, so the Terrain's interior is correctly mismatched with the sheetmetal. It's a contemporary hangout, with a shield-shaped set of controls framed in low-gloss metallic trim, all capped by a hood over the 7-inch touchscreen that runs the standard Color Touch infotainment system. It's all tastefully in tune with the rest of the GMC lineup, especially the Acadia--and especially as a Terrain Denali, where it wears a woodgrained steering wheel, a red-stitched dash pad, and leather.
The Terrain is a five-seater, but it's a fairly big one. 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.For performance, the Terrain challenges drivers to pick a direction. All versions sport 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 earns 17/24-mpg gas mileage (or 16/23 mpg with 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. 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, though the IIHS no longer calls it a Top Safety Pick despite "good" ratings in all completed tests. 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. Also standard is a touchscreen-driven Color Touch audio system with IntelliLink, which connect smartphones to the car's audio system, enabling Bluetooth voice control and streaming music from sources like Pandora. Options include remote start; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; and a navigation system with hard-drive map and music storage.
- HUMMER-like styling
- Very good gas mileage (four-cylinder)
- Improved ride and handling
- Interior room and seat comfort
- Performs well in crash tests
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- Looks intense, doesn't it?
- A leftover plastic trim bit or two
- Easy to spend $40,000
- Poor rear visibility