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- Small engine, big fuel economy
- Styling makes an impression
- Quality ride and handling
- Plenty of interior room
- Polarizing looks
- Poor rear visibility
- Costs can climb quickly
- Dull 4-cylinder performance
The 2017 GMC Terrain is a square-jawed compact crossover SUV that can haul when equipped with the available V-6.
The GMC Terrain is half of General Motors' answer to booming sales of compact crossover SUVs such as the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4. The other half? That's the mechanically identical Chevy Equinox. The 2017 GMC Terrain is the boxy, bold, and brash part of the equation and one of just two front-drive-based models in GMC's lineup.
Interestingly, the Terrain only managed a 6.3 overall average, with room to improve in safety and styling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
The creased features and sharp lines read to us like a continuation of where the Hummer brand left off—it's up to you to decide if that's a good thing. For 2017, GMC went more "macho-er" with the Terrain: a Nightfall edition adds a blacked-out grille, black wheels, black front and rear fascia and black paint to boast to your "Halo"-playing pals that you've got the meanest compact crossover in the market. With the understanding that, yes, you need to go pick up the kids from school now.
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 8-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.
A fuel-efficient inline-4 and a throaty V-6 are available in the Terrain, both with optional all-wheel drive. Both engines are combined with a slick shifting 6-speed automatic.
The inline-4 is a GM workhorse that's learned a few new tricks. The 2.4-liter has direct injection and produces 180 horsepower, which is good enough to run the Terrain up to 60 mph in around nine seconds. That's not quick, and we don't recommend it for anyone looking to tow. The inline-4 is good for front-drive customers looking to use their Terrains as long-distance cruisers or urban runabouts. There is a sport button, but it has questionable results. Similarly, don't engage "Eco" mode unless you're looking for the torque converter to lock up sooner and shifts to come later, which slips a mickey into the Terrain's responses. Left to its own devices, the 6-speed makes the best with what little available low-end torque there is and performs ably enough.
The 301 hp, 3.6-liter V-6 arrived four years ago and it's the same mill found in the much larger Acadia. In the smaller, lighter Terrain, the V-6 lights into its tires with a muscular burble and dropkicks the compact crossover to 60 mph in around six seconds. That kind of performance is up there with the BMW X3, but it comes at a cost. Gas mileage in the V-6 isn't great, and its shift responses aren't all that slick. The transmission's languid shifts could be a consequence of the early lockup converter, or a relatively simple all-wheel-drive system, we suspect. The V-6 is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Comfort, safety, and features
The independent IIHS gave the Terrain "Good" scores in all of its completed tests, including the small-overlap crash test. The top scores, plus "Basic" front crash prevention earned the Terrain a Top Safety Pick award for 2016, but the lack of a headlight rating in 2017 kept it from the same honor. Federal safety authorities gave the Terrain a four-star overall rating, which included four stars in frontal impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection.
In addition to solid scores, the Terrain sports some of the latest safety technology including blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts, lane-departure warning, and forward-collision warnings.
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 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 most frugal Terrain, a front-drive 2.4-liter inline-4, manages 22 mpg city, 32 highway, 26 combined, according to the EPA. Adding all-wheel drive (AWD) doesn't carry much of a significant penalty either: the EPA rates the 2.4-liter and AWD at 20/29/23 mpg.
GMC's optional V-6 is rated at 17/24/20 mpg, or 16/23/18 mpg with AWD, which is within spitting distance to the much larger, seven-seat Acadia.