The Car Connection GMC Terrain Overview
The GMC Terrain is a compact crossover related to the Chevrolet Equinox.
The mid-size Terrain seats five and features a useful sliding second-row seat that gives it a more flexible cargo and passenger arrangement than many other vehicles in its class.
MORE: Read our 2021 GMC Terrain review
With the Terrain, GMC has a compact crossover to compete with rivals such as the Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Hyundai Santa Fe—even the mechanically related Chevy Equinox.
The new GMC Terrain
The latest Terrain shares little with its predecessor, but it continues to be closely related to the Chevrolet Equinox. Its styling is decidedly different, however, with a much more polarizing look up front and quirky, tiny side windows that look into the cargo bay. As a result, over the shoulder visibility is particularly bad—perhaps the worst we've encountered outside of a cargo van. But the Terrain's interior is a marked improvement, if not a little ergonomically curious.
Under the hood, the Terrain features the same duo of turbocharged 4-cylinder engines found in the Equinox; no V-6 is on offer any longer. A 1.5-liter turbo-4 powers base, front-drive models and is paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission. It's rated at 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque.
A 2.0-liter turbo-4 comes on Terrain models with all-wheel drive or higher-spec trim levels. The bigger turbo-4 makes 252 hp and 260 lb-ft. and is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds. Like Chevrolet, GMC pairs the 2.0-liter turbo-4 to a 9-speed automatic and direct injection to extract every mile from its 15.6-gallon gas tank.
A 1.6-liter turbodiesel shared with the Equinox and Cruze was offered in the Terrain for a short time, but has been dropped.
Inside, the Terrain's look is more conventional until you seek out its gear shifter. Here's a hint: there isn't one. Instead, GMC has placed some buttons below the model's climate control. This frees up some center console space, but it's not exactly ergonomic.
The Terrain is offered in SL, SLE, SLT, and top Denali trims, with the luxury quotient ranging from relatively spartan to downright plush in the Denali. The Terrain is loaded with advanced safety tech such as forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, a surround-view camera system, active lane control, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, and a safety alert seat that reminds parents of small children in the back seat.
For 2019, special edition trims were added to the lineup. GMC dropped the turbodiesel in 2020 and made automatic emergency braking standard; in 2021 blind-spot monitors became standard.
GMC Terrain history
New for the 2010 model year, the Terrain featured the same hewn-from-stone styling that is seen on other GMC products, with big, squared-off fender flares and an upright front end.
Terrains were offered with a choice of either a 4- or 6-cylinder engine, with front-wheel drive standard and all-wheel drive an option with either. Both engines feature direct injection to aid performance while reducing fuel use, and they're backed in all models by a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The Terrain's base engine was a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, the first four-pot to be used in a GMC model since the 1980s. It's rated at 182 hp and delivers claimed best-in-class (at the time) fuel economy of 21 mpg city, 32 highway. An ECO mode helps save fuel by instructing the transmission's torque converter to lock up at a lower speed—1,125 rpm—which reduces losses due to friction.
Through the 2012 model year, the upgrade engine in the Terrain was a 3.0-liter V-6 engine with 264 hp on tap. This particular engine was a downsized version of the 3.6-liter V-6 found in several other GM products and in the Terrain it returned fuel economy of 17 mpg city, 24 highway. For 2013, GMC replaced the smaller-displacement V-6 with the full 3.6-liter version, good for 301 hp—but with identical fuel economy ratings (with a 16 mpg city, 23 highway rating on all-wheel-drive models).
Standard and available features include a rearview camera, a power tailgate, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and MP3 playback, and a touchscreen audio system with satellite radio and IntelliLink, a system that links smartphones to the audio system, enabling mobile apps like Pandora.
The 2013 model year brought a new Denali edition that added a soft-touch dash cap, a mesh grille, and a choice of either the 4- or 6-cylinder engine, and either 18- or 19-inch wheels with those engines, respectively. The Denali also gets a leather interior, wood trim on the steering wheel, and a power passenger seat. Denali Terrains also have some exclusive safety features such as blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts—while all Terrains get new dual-action shocks that soften its ride considerably.
The 2015 GMC Terrain added GM's newest connectivity kit—in-car 4G LTE data that enables the Terrain to create its own private wireless network—and two new colors.
The Terrain received its first real overall update for the 2016 model year, although it mostly deals with styling and equipment and this time leaves the mechanicals untouched. For the 2016 model year, the Terrain gets a mild facelift with restyled front and rear fascias and lighting elements, a reshaped hood, an upgraded interior, and additional equipment for some trim levels. The blind-spot and cross-traffic monitors that were previously only available on the Denali model now become optional within the other upper Terrain trims.
The 2017 model was largely unchanged from the 2016 version, except for a Nightfall package that included blacked-out treatments for body and wheels.