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2012 GMC Terrain Performance

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On Performance

The Terrain was new for the 2010 model year, and with it came a pair of new engines that give shoppers a clear choice between sometimes competing priorities.

The base engine in the Terrain is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder. With direct injection for better fuel economy, the engine develops 182 horsepower, channeled through a six-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. Though it's not exceedingly quick on its feet, and needs active noise cancellation to dull its effect on the cabin, this is the powertrain we'd choose. It's fine for the style of daily-commuter driving the Terrain will encounter most often, even okay once it's laden with the extra weight of all-wheel drive and extra passengers. Mostly, it's thin low-end torque that keeps it from being an even more convincing choice.

The 2012 GMC Terrain gives drivers a pretty clear choice: four-cylinder fuel economy or six-cylinder punch.

An "ECO" button on the dash in the four-cylinder model lowers the torque converter lockup speed to 1,125 rpm for enhanced efficiency, though then the engine feels a little less responsive.

For those who tow, there's the upgraded V-6 engine. With 264 hp, the 3.0-liter six helps itself to more gasoline, but puts it to good use. It's more refined in feel, and it can handle up to 3,500 pounds of towing weight, versus 1,500 pounds with the four-cylinder.

The Terrain's six-speed automatic isn't quite as adept at managing shifts as we'd like. Especially with the four-cylinder engine, it tends to lag when shifting, taking its time to lock up fully, in the name of fuel economy.

Depending on which engine you choose, you'll end up with a completely different steering system; the four-cylinder models have a new electric power steering system that helps save fuel, while V-6 models have a tried-and-true hydraulic one. We tend to like the hydraulic one a little bit more, but the electric system is now one of the better units, with a nice, settled feel at speed. Brakes are good, and overall the Terrain has an on-road poise that you might not expect for such a buff, trucky-looking vehicle.

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