- Very good gas mileage (4-cylinder)
- Hummer-like styling
- Improved ride and handling
- Little has changed
- Looks intense, doesn't it?
- Poor rear visibility
The 2016 GMC Terrain is a compact crossover with a little more room than some of its rivals, which pays off in big comfort and better hauling capabilities.
The GMC Terrain is an alternative to vehicles like the Honda CR-V or the Terrain's sibling the Chevy Equinox, it has boxy, intriguing styling, terrific gas mileage in four-cylinder form, and good interior space for people and cargo. The Terrain is one of two front-drive-based models offered in GMC's otherwise body-on-frame lineup.
For 2016, the Terrain receives its first full update since it was launched in 2010. Changes include a refreshed exterior, an improved cabin, and some additional features and options.
The Terrain is a standout in the crossover world thanks to its crisply creased fenders. It's not as reserved or simply drawn as the Ford Edge 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 may also help the crossover appeal more to guys who play games like Halo but have to run the school carpool instead of running for cover. The changes for 2016 are concentrated on the front end, including new grille designs and a reshaped hood. Higher trim levels receive LED daytime running lights. The front and rear fascias have also been sculpted and look more modern.
The interior boasts contemporary styling in contrast to the macho-look sheet metal. A shield-shaped set of controls is framed in low-gloss metallic trim, all capped by a hood over the 7.0-inch touchscreen that runs the standard infotainment system. The center stack design has been mildly revised, and GMC has changed some of the button graphics. 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 wood-grained steering wheel, a stitched dash pad, and leather.
The Terrain is just a five-seater, but it's a fairly big one. Because it lacks a third-row seat, the Terrain might strike some family shoppers as less useful, but we've found it to be 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 adequate support. The rear seat can slide fore and aft over an eight-inch span so passengers or cargo can get higher priority, and the seatbacks 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 new shelf on the center stack set below the 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 inline-4 engine outfitted with direct injection. It turns in 180 horsepower and EPA fuel economy of 22 mpg city, 32 highway, 26 combined 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 17/24/20 mpg (or 16/23/19 mpg with AWD). There are no mechanical changes for 2016.
Both engines are teamed to a 6-speed automatic, which is refined most of the time, with only an occasional judder under quick power changes. Dig deeply into the 4-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 V-6's 3,500-pound towing capacity. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is an option. Wind and powertrain noise are admirably low in the V-6 models, but the inline-4s 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 4-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, and the IIHS gives it a Top Safety Pick award. 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, and for 2016 those items are also available as an option package for SLE and SLT models.
All Terrains come with standard climate control; AM/FM/CD/satellite 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. It can be optioned with IntelliLink, which connects smartphones to the car's audio system, enabling Bluetooth voice control and streaming music from sources like Pandora. Other options include remote start; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; and navigation with hard-drive map and music storage.
The Terrain continues to include GM's newest connectivity kit—in-car 4G LTE data that allows the Terrain to create its own private wireless network. That technology was added for the 2015 model year.