2016 GMC Terrain Review

Consumer Reviews
3 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 27, 2016

The 2016 GMC Terrain is a compact crossover with a little more room than some of its rivals, which pays off in big comfort and better hauling capabilities.

The GMC Terrain is an alternative to vehicles like the Honda CR-V or the Terrain's sibling the Chevy Equinox, it has boxy, intriguing styling, terrific gas mileage in four-cylinder form, and good interior space for people and cargo. The Terrain is one of two front-drive-based models offered in GMC's otherwise body-on-frame lineup. 

For 2016, the Terrain receives its first full update since it was launched in 2010. Changes include a refreshed exterior, an improved cabin, and some additional features and options.

The Terrain is a standout in the crossover world thanks to its crisply creased fenders. It's not as reserved or simply drawn as the Ford Edge or Honda CR-V—it's all blocky and masculine, with a nod to Hummer tossed into every corner. The military-grade details are no miscue—they're meant to distinguish the GMC from the mechanically similar Chevy Equinox, and they may also help the crossover appeal more to guys who play games like Halo but have to run the school carpool instead of running for cover. The changes for 2016 are concentrated on the front end, including new grille designs and a reshaped hood. Higher trim levels receive LED daytime running lights. The front and rear fascias have also been sculpted and look more modern.

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The interior boasts contemporary styling in contrast to the macho-look sheet metal. A shield-shaped set of controls is framed in low-gloss metallic trim, all capped by a hood over the 7.0-inch touchscreen that runs the standard infotainment system. The center stack design has been mildly revised, and GMC has changed some of the button graphics. It's all tastefully in tune with the rest of the GMC lineup, especially the Acadia—and especially as a Terrain Denali, where it wears a wood-grained steering wheel, a stitched dash pad, and leather.

The Terrain is just a five-seater, but it's a fairly big one. Because it lacks a third-row seat, the Terrain might strike some family shoppers as less useful, but we've found it to be quite comfortable, even for four adults. GM has carved out good space inside a tidy package, and fitted the Terrain with very comfortable front bucket seats and a rear bench with adequate support. The rear seat can slide fore and aft over an eight-inch span so passengers or cargo can get higher priority, and the seatbacks fold to boost storage up to 31.6 cubic feet. However, the Terrain's cargo floor is high for its class, and the seats don't fold completely flat. All versions have a big, deep glove box, a new shelf on the center stack set below the controls, and an armrest storage bin deep enough to hold a small laptop.

For performance, the Terrain challenges drivers to pick a direction. All versions sport a 2.4-liter inline-4 engine outfitted with direct injection. It turns in 180 horsepower and EPA fuel economy of 22 mpg city, 32 highway, 26 combined in front-drive models, a mile per gallon less on each side when all-wheel drive is fitted. Any Terrain can be upgraded to a new 301-hp, 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6 that earns 17/24/20 mpg (or 16/23/19 mpg with AWD). There are no mechanical changes for 2016.

Both engines are teamed to a 6-speed automatic, which is refined most of the time, with only an occasional judder under quick power changes. Dig deeply into the 4-cylinder's powerband, and you'll probably find it has plenty of urge for almost every need; the V-6 is necessary only if you're always filling all the Terrain's seats, or maxing out the V-6's 3,500-pound towing capacity. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is an option. Wind and powertrain noise are admirably low in the V-6 models, but the inline-4s have noticeable drivetrain whirs and ticks—one of the classic soundtracks to today's direct-injection engines is a ticking as fuel is delivered, and it's pretty evident here, though the 4-cylinder gets a noise-cancellation system that's meant to cut down on perceived cabin noise.

Excellent safety scores are part of the Terrain profile. The NHTSA gives it four stars overall, and the IIHS gives it a Top Safety Pick award. Along with curtain airbags and stability control, a rearview camera is standard and necessary, since the Terrain's styling creates big blind spots. Denali models have standard blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts, and for 2016 those items are also available as an option package for SLE and SLT models.

All Terrains come with standard climate control; AM/FM/CD/satellite sound with a USB port for media players; keyless entry; a power driver seat; and ambient lighting. Also standard is a touchscreen-driven Color Touch audio system. It can be optioned with IntelliLink, which connects smartphones to the car's audio system, enabling Bluetooth voice control and streaming music from sources like Pandora. Other options include remote start; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; and navigation with hard-drive map and music storage.

The Terrain continues to include GM's newest connectivity kit—in-car 4G LTE data that allows the Terrain to create its own private wireless network. That technology was added for the 2015 model year.

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2016 GMC Terrain

Styling

The Terrain may be a civilian inside, but the exterior would make a Hummer proud.

After many years of sales, GMC has finally brought a design update—albeit a relatively mild one—to its blocky compact crossover. The Terrain's new look is thoroughly modern, although it keeps the squared-edged faux-military look that it started with.

You won't find many curves in the Terrain's design—rather, it chooses bold, bluff, and upright lines without a bow in sight. While the design might be as polarizing as those of the Hummer H2s and H3s of yore, the Terrain has avoided all of the negative associations those utilities carried.

The 2016 update brings new front and rear fascia designs, which bear C-shaped highlights at the corners. The hood has been sculpted to include a power dome (although engine options haven't changed), and the upper trim levels receive LED running lights in the front bumper.

The box-car look is macho and wholly distinctive compared to its Chevrolet Equinox kin, but inside, the GMC Terrain defaults to corporate memes—and it's fine. It has a mildly reshaped center stack, housing audio and climate controls. The stack is flanked by large vertically oriented vents, and it's the centerpiece of the design. Below it now sits a shelf that's the perfect size for a cell phone, and a new shifter design is trimmed with chrome.

The upscale Denali trim sees the same updates. The grille is mesh; the metallic trim is satin in texture. The cabin wears a soft pad on the dash, stitched with thread, and the steering wheel has a section of dark wood grain implanted across its top arc. Denali badges and a unique color palette are the only other details that separate it from the rank and file.

SLT models get a new Saddle Up interior color scheme, while the Denali can now be had with a Light Titanium/Black look.

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2016 GMC Terrain

Performance

You'll want the V-6 for towing, but most drivers can make do with the efficient 4-cylinder Terrain.

While the looks got a solid revamp for 2016, the Terrain soldiers on with the same powertrains and other major mechanicals. You can still choose one of two flavors: there's an efficient inline-4 that does surprisingly well on the highway, or a throaty V-6 with extra power.

No matter which Terrain trim level is selected, the base drivetrain pairs a 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic. The 2.4-liter inline-4 has direct injection and produces 180 horsepower, good for a 0-60 mph time somewhere in the nine 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 4-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 engine can sound a bit coarse, but thankfully GMC installs an active noise cancellation system to keep things mostly quiet in the cabin.

The current 3.6-liter, 301-hp V-6 arrived on the scene as an option just three years ago, and it's shared with the much bigger, much heavier Acadia. The lighter Terrain lights into its tires with the V-6—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.

All Terrains recently received new dual-flow shocks; 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 2012 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.

Depending on which engine you choose, you'll end up with a completely different steering system; the 4-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 setup 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.

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2016 GMC Terrain

Comfort & Quality

Passengers and cargo have plenty of room—and the Terrain has a flexible second-row seat.

The GMC Terrain sits on the larger end of the compact crossover segment, giving it the space needed to be a little more comfortable than most of its competitors.

Slide into the driver seat and the plus-sized interior is obvious. The Terrain has wide seats with mild bolsters, and a power driver seat and tilt/telescoping steering so that most drivers will find a good position behind the wheel. It also scores with about a half-foot of head room, no matter if it's a metal roof overhead or the glass one found on most versions. The center console is wide but the Terrain doesn't stiff its passengers on knee or leg room.

The Terrain's sliding second-row seat flexes the space offered up to rear-seat passengers or cargo. It doesn't free up the space for a third row, but it makes the most of the available interior volume, allowing you to prioritize room for people or cargo. Moving on an eight-inch track, the Terrain's second-row seat can create almost 32 cubic feet of cargo space, or when it's folded forward entirely out of the way, nearly 64 cubic feet. If the load floor were a little lower, and the fold-down seats completely flat, we'd call it a complete victory.

All Terrains also come with an oversized glove box, a laptop-sized center armrest storage bin, and two-tier storage within the doors. The 2016 model adds a shelf below the center-stack controls.

Another upgrade concerns the fabric on entry-level models; it's now nicer than before. Whether you choose cloth or the quality-feeling leather, interior build quality and comfort is not an area for complaint in the Terrain, but some trim pieces disappoint with a hollow, hard plastic feel, at least on older models. GMC has replaced the former storage bin atop the dash with a plastic hood over the LCD touchscreen, which makes the screen difficult to control, at least along its top edge, but it does replace that former bin's brittle lid and dubious value. On Denali editions, the dash cap is trimmed in soft-touch plastic and stitched with thread.

Four-cylinder models get their own nifty touches. There's a special active noise cancellation system that works through both the built-in audio system and a few dedicated speakers. It lets the engine run at its most efficient rev range, while blocking what engineers call a "booming" resonance in the cabin.

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2016 GMC Terrain

Safety

Crash-test scores have been good, but the IIHS and the NHTSA score it differently.

It already looks the part, but the GMC Terrain acts rugged when it comes to protecting its occupants in a crash. Consistently good safety scores have been a strong GMC Terrain asset.

The NHTSA puts the Terrain at an overall score of four stars. In individual tests, it receives four stars for frontal impacts and five stars for side-impact protection.

The IIHS rates the Terrain as "Good" in all its completed tests, including the new small-overlap crash test, which has resulted in a Top Safety Pick award for the second year in a row.

The newest technology comes standard on the Denali, and for 2016 it is also available on other models: blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts, which sound the warning when cars or other obstacles move across lanes behind the driver into possible blind spots; a lane-departure warning system; and forward-collision alerts.

The Terrain also comes with six months of free basic OnStar service, which includes connectivity with the RemoteLink app—it has destination-to-car mapping ability and provides access to status reports on various vehicle functions. GM also now has FamilyLink, an opt-in service that lets parents track a vehicle when underage drivers are behind the wheel.

Some of the Terrain's safety is due to the requisite equipment—six airbags, stability control, and anti-lock brakes. GMC also fits a standard rearview camera to the Terrain, which helps overcome its many blind spots—some of which are created by its fixed rear-seat headrests, which can't be removed or folded down to free up more rearward visibility. We'd also recommend adding on the available rear parking sensors.

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8

2016 GMC Terrain

Features

The Terrain comes in a lavishly equipped Denali version; even base models get a colorful touchscreen interface.

For 2016, GMC has made some slight modifications to the trim levels and equipment of the Terrain along with the visual changes. The crossover is now available in SL, SLE-1, SLE-2, SLT, and Denali trim levels. (GMC previously offered SLT-1 and SLT-2 levels.)

All GMC Terrain crossovers come with a respectable set of features, including air conditioning; cruise control; power windows, locks, and mirrors; fog lamps; a rearview camera; a power driver seat; ambient lighting; and an AM/FM/CD/satellite audio system with three months of service and a USB port for media players; and tilt/telescoping steering.

Choosing the higher trim levels on the Terrain brings more features, such as automatic climate control; a premium Pioneer sound system; heated front seats; and a sunroof. On the options list, GMC also offers remote start; leather upholstery; the GMC IntelliLink infotainment system; navigation; and a headrest-mounted rear-seat DVD entertainment system.

At the very top, most features are standard on the Denali version, which adds a power passenger seat along with a soft-touch dash cap, wood steering-wheel trim, and satin-metallic trim on the mirrors, sill plates, and taillight surrounds. Denali buyers still have a choice of 4- or 6-cylinder engines. Eighteen-inch wheels come with the inline-4s, while V-6s get 19-inch wheels, and there are new wheel designs for 2016. All told, a loaded Terrain Denali V-6 passes the $40,000 mark which overlaps the price tag on GMC's larger, seven-seat Acadia crossover.

GMC IntelliLink is available on base models and standard on the upper trims. It's the connectivity kit that mates the Terrain's touchscreen and Bluetooth to most smartphones, enabling voice commands or control of car functions through steering-wheel controls or touch commands. Intellilink has control of the Terrain's phone and audio systems, and the optional $795 navigation system too. It's not quite as adept with voice commands as some other systems, but it has its own nice touches: IntelliLink will import addresses from phone contacts along with the corresponding telephone numbers, and it can tap that data for navigation. This can streamline the address-entry process considerably.

We'll remind you here to test your smartphone for compatibility before you buy. IntelliLink mates up with most, not all, smartphones. It works with the Apple iPhone—and still, we've experienced glitches with its standard Bluetooth audio streaming. We've seen lag in the detection of music titles and album cover art, which lingers through several songs. On occasion, the forwarding controls stopped working until we switched to another media and back into Bluetooth streaming again.

New for 2015, the GMC Terrain's OnStar system included a 4G LTE data connection when IntelliLink is ordered. It can create a wi-fi hotspot with participating monthly data subscription.

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2016 GMC Terrain

Fuel Economy

Four-cylinder Terrains get excellent fuel-economy ratings; V-6s aren't bad considering their prodigious acceleration.

Available in any trim level of the Terrain—from SLE to Denali—the base 2.4-liter inline-4 is designed with all kinds of fuel-saving technologies that stretch its highway mileage to more than 30 mpg. The engine features direct fuel injection, and drivers can make use of an "Eco" button which, when engaged, causes accessories like the air conditioning compressor to be a little more conservative, has the torque converter lock up a little earlier, and makes the transmission a little more reluctant to downshift. The net result is a crossover that's at least part miser, especially in its size class.

The 4-cylinder Terrain earns an EPA-rated 22 mpg city, 32 highway, 26 combined, a figure better than all the other mid-size crossovers except its corporate cousin, the Chevy Equinox. Adding the Terrain's available all-wheel-drive system doesn't ding fuel economy too badly: it still is rated at 20/29/23 mpg.

The available V-6 is the choice for those who want power and don't mind paying a bit for it at the pump. The 3.6-liter V-6 makes 301 horsepower, but that leads to gas mileage that tops out at 17/24/20 mpg—or 16/23/18 mpg when all-wheel drive is fitted. Those figures are more in line with the seven-seat Acadia crossover—not a surprise, since the drivetrains have so much in common.

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January 29, 2017
2016 GMC Terrain AWD 4-Door Denali

Everything you would want in a mid size SUV. MPG could be better.

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Everything you would want in a mid size SUV. MPG could be better.
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November 27, 2016
2016 GMC Terrain AWD 4-Door SLE w/SLE-2

Impressive looking but disappointing.

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I traded in a Saturn Vue that I had for 7 years and loved, thinking this would be the same but a nice upgrade. The 2 vehicles are basically the same underneath and made by the same manufacturer (RIP, Saturn)... + More »
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March 29, 2016
For 2016 GMC Terrain

Needs a hybrid system, same as Equinox....com'on GM, get it done!

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Great sized compact SUV, but needs a Volt hybrid system!
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