For my travel time to the 50th anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona, I was told that GM would provide a 2012 Chevrolet Volt. Three days before arrival, all that changed and suddenly there was a 2012 quicksilver metallic GMC Terrain AWD SLT-2 waiting for me at Orlando's airport. So my dog Leah and I went from driving an ecologically sound sedan to an SUV adventure without really meaning to make the change.
No worries on that regard. We weren't sure if we had a hotel for Saturday night or whether we'd be staying at the racetrack and I figured the Terrain might make a nice hotel room, all by itself. I wasn't terribly excited about the prospect of 16/23-mpg on the fuel side of the equation, but at least GMC specifies regular - or E85 - for the upgraded 3.0-liter SIDI engine.
Anne Proffit photo
Of course the direct injection probably helps fuel mileage and it certainly upgrades the power level of this mid-size SUV to 264 horsepower at 6950 rpm; for reference, the AWD Terrain with the 2.4-liter engine has 182 horsepower at 6700 rpm. I can't imagine the smaller engine getting out of its own way; even the 3.0-liter, with its curb weight of 3881 pounds wasn't all that peppy, but trying to make good mileage, I really didn't care about racing on the roadway.
The SLT-2 version of the GMC Terrain is the top of the line and this machine featured the full array of soup-to-nuts equipment to keep the two of us pampered throughout our five-day excursion. GMC charges $1500 for the engine upgrade, another $2190 for navigation (man, did it help) and rear entertainment unit (never had the chance to check it out), $350 for a trailering package that includes a heavier duty cooling system and trailer hitch. Finally there was a cargo package of cargo cover, rear security and luggage rack and center rails that tipped the price all the way to $38,015 from a start of $32,930.
Quite frankly, I fail to see why GMC puts an all-wheel-drive car into media service in the middle of Florida, but that was the case. There wasn't even any mud to wade through at Daytona International Speedway this year, and for that we were all very grateful.
We discovered that the number of standard features on this SUV had just about everything we needed, from leather interior, satellite radio, rear camera, a light dip to change lanes, single pass on the wiper (yeah, it rained once), express down windows (but not up and what's with that?), one-touch sunroof, an excellent trip computer that could be ratcheted either direction easily and was very informative. We certainly appreciated the power liftgate that made it easy to get items into and out of the hatch.
The list of features could go on and on, but let's focus on the driving and cohabitating experience. The 2012 GMC Terrain sits high - as you'd expect with 6.9 inches of ground clearannce - and is tough for a Chihuahua to jump into, but Leah managed quite nicely with a two-step maneuver. I was very comfortable in the driver's seat - no step-in issues here - and found the myriad seating adjustments work just fine. While the acceleration was a bit on the leisurely side, the Terrain does get out of its own way and makes it on the I-95 ramps without garnering glares or salutes from Florida's lovely drivers.
We liked the quietness of the engine and its six-speed transmission and the fact that the engine was only turning 2000 rpm when we were being passed by everyone on I-95… even though we were doing 80 mph. The Terrain handled any road imperfections like they were nonexistent with its McPherson front and multi-link rear suspensions, yet wasn't so vague that we felt like it was wallow central with this vehicle. Handling is pretty good for its size and the turning circle isn't bad at 40 feet; steering's a bit vague on-center but you get used to it after 15 minutes.
The looks of the GMC Terrain are very aggressive and even cartoon-like with burly wheel arches and fender flares. The interior is not quite as in-your-face as the outside of this SUV; all controls are easily identifiable with few, if any features for the sake of features.
Over our trip we averaged about 21 mpg and we made excellent time going to and from the Melbourne area and Daytona Beach; the cruise control is excellent and its settings can easily be changed. We certainly appreciated the XM satellite radio and, even more the high safety ratings in frontal, side and rollover incidents. Visibility is excellent all around on the Terrain.
Although the 2012 GMC Terrain doesn't quite live up to the aggressiveness it promises through its exterior visage - due to the power-to-weight issues so many of us have these days, it is still very pleasant to drive and luxurious enough to please anyone looking for a mid-size SUV that stands out from the crowd.