Road Test: 2010 GMC Terrain

February 19, 2010
With the departure of Hummer as a GM brand, GMC is back to its dominant position as the Generals rough and ready truck and SUV brand. That dominance is boldly asserted in the new 2010 GMC Terrain.

The Terrain and the Chevy Equinox crossover utility vehicles share a chassis, engine options, drivetrain and suspension. Both the Equinox and Terrain are also related to the Cadillac SRX crossover by their common Theta chassis platform.

So whats different about the GMC? Mostly visual and touch factors. GMC gifts their vehicles with a more businesslike luxury feeling, as opposed to Cadillacs luxury with bling and Chevys economy styling. 

The most striking thing about the 2010 Terrain is the exterior styling. The first impression is that GMC is conserving some of the Hummer DNA with the large square box flares around the wheel wells and the defiant blocky front end. Not quite the Tonka truck look that defined Hummer, but definitely a family resemblance. Contrast that to the Cadillacs sporty CTS-derived lines and the Chevys friendlier traditional look, and you  have a true choice of styles within the GM crossover family.

Inside, the GMC looks nice. The surfaces are plastic, but nice plastic in black and grey and silver tones, with nicely executed controls that dont feel cheap. The Cadillac features more wood-tone and shiny accents, and the Chevy is definitely the economy version.

But heres the thing the GMC doesnt cost that much more than the Chevy. Base price on the Equinox is $22,615 and the Terrain starts at $24,250. Base price on the Cadillac is $33,330, by comparison.

The thing that makes the Terrain (and the Equinox) very cool is the new Ecotec engine. This is a 2.4-liter four cylinder engine with direct fuel injection. All automakers are going to direct injection because of its advantages in fuel economy and emissions control. Although the numbers arent striking at 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, the four cylinder Terrain moves out like a V6 and delivers 22/32 city/highway MPG. If you want the V6, theres an optional 3.0-liter engine with 264 horses and 222 pound-feet of torque, at 17/25 MPG.

The Terrain drives well. It has that heavy, planted feel, and offers the driver the command seating position that SUV drivers prize. The suspension is firm but compliant, and the seats are comfortable.

One feature to single out for special praise is the seat heat in the Terrain. Those seats get seriously hot when you crank up the dial. In the cold winter months, thats a key benefit. 

The bottom line on the GMC Terrain is just this: Take a look at it from the outside. Do you like it? If so, youre going to like driving it and youll probably like the way the interior is laid out.  With pricing from $24,000 to $31,000, its an inexpensive and fully-featured CUV.

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