2010 GMC Terrain Review: Surf and Turf?

May 25, 2010

Know Your Terrain...The General offers two Theta-platform compact crossovers-the Chevrolet Equinox and the GMC Terrain.  They're built in GM's CAMI facility in Ontario.

This review's subject is the front-drive Terrain SLT-2.   With an optional 3.0L, 269-hp V6 mill upfront, an ‘infotainment' system between the axles and boxier tail section out back, it's a relatively heavy hauler.  Selecting the V6 also means you get hydraulic power steering and a firmer suspension.  GMC heritage sheet metal evokes a vintage step-side pickup's fenders.

This direct-injection V6 is a sudsy proposition.  It's smooth; it greets a heavy right foot with a pleasant snarl.  A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission.  It behaves like a seasoned politician who waits until the pollsters confirm public opinion before acting.  A manual mode stands by; it's intended to lock out top gear rather than pick-it-yourself cog chasing.

Fuel economy:  17 mpg city, 25 highway says the EPA.  I measured 20 overall.

While the Terrain's exterior evokes vintage metal, the interior is contemporary revealing further evidence that GM's designers went to finishing school.  Most naughty bits are neatly concealed.  For example, the dashboard's underside is enclosed.  Red thread shows off neat stitch work.   Nonetheless, the driver's left foot cannot find a good parking spot due to an intrusive cable.

The instruments and switchgear are nearly identical to the Equinox's.  One minor change is matte rather than chrome-finish on the main gauge escutcheon.  This is easier on the eyes.  An info screen, similar to VW's, resides in a handy spot between the speedometer and tachometer.  All instrument lighting and the seven-inch navigation screen brightness are modulated by one elegant dimmer knob.

A float-effect dash pad wraps into a twin-cockpit theme rakish center console.  Oodles of buttons cascade below the navigation screen's hooded binnacle.  You can tackle input chores like entering addresses using several methods: fiddle with a five-way rocker, twirl a knob, touch the screen or try voice commands.  I couldn't summon previous destinations by mouth.  GM's OnStar offers hands-free route guidance and phone dialing.

The entertainment system's buffer memory lets you to re-cue that Dylan tune you heard on satellite radio.  Fran Drescher is also onboard.  A weather alert nanny possessed the center dash display.  She blotted out maps forcing you to decline its invitation to check flood warnings for territory 100 miles south.

Drivers and passengers find padded surfaces that enhance highway cruising, which the Traverse does effortlessly.   A ‘Multi-Flex" sliding and reclining rear bench doesn't have a ski pass through, but it's a nifty place to check out the Pioneer surround-sound system with two rear seven-inch video screens that flip out of the front seat backs like an inverted airliner snack tray.  Add remote control, wireless headsets and auxiliary inputs and the Terrain becomes a duplex drive-in theater.

You pilot this rig via low-effort steering that lacks feedback.  Straight ahead tracking is good but when the helmsman changes direction the Terrain produces nautical sensations, as though it were floating atop the road.  Brakes are effective with firm pedal.

GM asks $30,300 for the 2LT.  Tack on another $6,500 for the V6 engine, 19-inch alloy wheels and other goodies.

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