Performance » 7
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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
It handled surprisingly well — so well, in fact, that we're not laughing anymore at the GMC ads that target the BMW X3.
Edmunds’ Inside Line
The Terrain doesn’t even try to be sporty.
Car and Driver
The smaller engine is adequate for any use short of heavy trailer towing.
the new V6 feels and sounds powerful, with a refined roar under acceleration.
the 2.4 liter can squeal the tires off the line but loses pep through the mid range, though it's adequate for the vast majority of appliance drivers
The GMC Terrain gives buyers a choice of two very different driving missions: one tipped toward highway fuel economy, the other geared toward throaty V-6 oomph.
No matter which Terrain trim level is selected, the base drivetrain pairs a four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic. The 2.4-liter four has direct injection and active noise cancellation, for a net of 180 horsepower and a 0-60 mph time somewhere in the 9-second range, unladen. Blazing performance? Well, no, but the slick-shifting gearbox has a sport mode--which you'll have to activate on the shift lever, not from a cool set of paddles. You'll be doing it a lot, as you forage through the four-cylinder's low end in search of torque. Leave it alone to shift for itself, and it performs ably enough, smoothly enough--but don't engage Eco mode unless you want the torque converter to lock up sooner and shifts to come later, slipping a mickey into the Terrain's responses.The current 3.6-liter, 301-hp V-6 arrived on the scene as an option just last year, and it's shared with the much bigger, much heavier Acadia. The lighter Terrain lights into its tires with the six--it's a terrific engine that raps out a muscular burble, and drops 0-60 mph times in the 6.5-second range. It's right there in BMW X3 range, and so is the top tow rating of 3,500 pounds (or 1,500 pounds with the four-cylinder). Here, though, gas mileage doesn't hit 32 mpg highway, and shift responses aren't quite as slick, possibly a consequence of the transmission's early-lockup converter, or of its relatively simple, optional all-wheel-drive system.
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.
All Terrains received new dual-flow shocks last year; the dampers use oil under pressure to mute road impacts, and promise better firmness on smooth pavement and more supple behavior on awful stretches of road. We drove the 2012 Terrain just prior to the newer version, and can attest to the improvement, at least over the bad roads: the fractured feel and harsh bottoming-out of the '12 Terrain in some circumstances was nicely rounded off by the new model. It's now much more competitive with vehicles like the Ford Edge, where ride quality has been less of a concern. It's worth noting, for bargain shoppers, that only the Chevy Equinox LTZ V-6 gets those uprated shocks.
Better ride and handling arrived with last year's Terrain; drivetrains diverge at the junction of economy and towing.