2018 GMC Terrain Review

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2018
The Car Connection
Best Car to Buy Nominee

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
March 22, 2018

The 2018 GMC Terrain tucks into a jazzy new body, and boasts a great new turbo-4 drivetrain, but needs to spread its safety message farther, and wider.

The 2018 GMC Terrain isn't as butch and right-angled as it used to be, but it's still every bit as upmarket.

The new sport-utility vehicle from General Motors digs liberally into same parts bin as the Chevy Equinox, but adds creased metal, bigger fenders, and a tougher grille to stand apart.

The Terrain is offered in SL, SLE, SLT, and top Denali trims. It competes against a cadre of cars including the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, and new Mazda CX-5, as well as the Equinox.

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We rate it at 7.2 out of 10, thanks to strong features and performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

We’re into the Terrain’s new style. GMC’s ditched the Qbert cues, and smoothed so many boxes out into a sleek and comely shape. The roofline glimmers in metallic trim, while a blacked-out portion of the rear roof pillar appears to make it float. It’s a cue headed rapidly toward cliche, but it looks great, here and now. Inside, the Terrain’s cabin can wear warm-toned leather and aluminum trim, and it hangs together despite looking like three individual unrelated zones.

For performance, GMC offers a choice between three engines. We thought we’d be more smitten with the turbodiesel-4, but it’s light on tow capacity, produces noticeable vibration, and accelerates moderately. High EPA fuel economy notwithstanding, most drivers will be better off with the new 1.5-liter turbo-4 and 9-speed automatic in base and midrange Terrains. It’s good for 170 hp, and quick to respond to the throttle, though GMC’s console-mounted transmission switches make any driver involvement a remote possibility. The best choice is a 252-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 with vivid acceleration that doesn’t diminish even when all-wheel drive is on board. (It’s a rudimentary part-time system that requires a spin of a knob to spring into action.)

With the Terrain, GMC’s biased handling toward poise instead of prowess. The It can be hustled through mountain ridges and around trios of unexpected deer. Steering could be crisper, but ride quality is very good, thanks in part to hefty curb weights. Denali editions check in at about 3,800 pounds.

Interior space is down slightly. The Terrain is now a direct rival for todays’ Ford Escape, less spacious than a Honda CR-V. Driver and front passenger aren’t affected, but tall people will touch the headliner in the back seat, and GMC’s dropped the second-row sliding bench function. It does stuff the Terrain with more sound deadening than Chevy does the Equinox, and it’s good and quiet.

Complete crash-test scores aren’t in, and the Terrain makes forward-collision warnings an option available only on the top two trims. A rearview camera comes standard, and blind-spot monitors are pretty widely available. All Terrains have power features, a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and wi-fi hotspot capability. At peak Denali pricing—as high as $44,000—the Terrain has ventilated front seats, a power tailgate, LED headlights, and Bose audio.

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2018 GMC Terrain

Styling

The 2018 GMC Terrain steps back from ultra-macho sheet metal, and slips into something a little more sleek.

GMC and Chevy takes different routes to clothing their new compact crossover SUVs. To our eyes, the Terrain wins the battle of the eyeballs with a smart, sleek body that veers sharply away from its recent past.

We give it an 8, with an extra point for its interior and two for its body. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

When GM shut down the Hummer division, it seemed GMC would inherit the rock-’em, sock-’em styling language for good. The last Terrain bore witness to that. It never met a right angle or a flat plane it didn’t like.

The 2018 Terrain steers out of that loaded styling ditch. It’s a distinctive compact crossover, without the wan and vaguely crowdsourced look of the Chevy. Designers bookended the Terrain’s body with a large grille and a sculpted rear end much like those on the bigger Acadia, which somehow doesn’t come across as nicely. The Terrain’s curved underbite and boomerang-shaped running lights tame its softly squared-off grille into submission.

Whatever aggression they had gets subdued entirely by the Terrain’s blacked-out rear pillars—the rapidly spreading “floating canopy” treatment that threatens to become cliche. A thick band of metallic trim at the roofline that draws attention down the trim body to a tightly composed rear end. In lighter colors it can seem over-tall and slab-sided; darker tones pull it closer to the ground. We’re sure there’s a scientific word for the effect, but we just call it eyeball magic.

The Terrain Denali gets its own unique treatment with body-colored bumpers, chrome door handles and side mirror caps. The Terrain Denali also rides on unique 19-inch aluminum wheels—standard Terrains make do with 17-inchers or available 18-inch wheels.

Inside, the Terrain carries forward a more car-like theme. The lines are a little sharper and more pronounced than in the Chevy Equinox, but controls lie in similar locations. With woodgrain and aluminum trim, the cockpit’s more interesting and richer than in the Chevy. The shapes are chunky and seem to modulate in unrelated ways across the dash. As a result, even in Denali trim, with soft-touch trim and contrast stitching, the cabin can seem cluttered and overdrawn.

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2018 GMC Terrain

Performance

The 2018 GMC Terrain sports turbo-4s and 9-speed automatics that give it smart acceleration to go with its sound handling.

The new Terrain vaults into the present day, ditching its V-6 and naturally aspirated 4-cylinder for an all-turbo lineup. It’s more energetic to drive in gas form, a miser in turbodiesel trim, and entertaining in a grown-up, economy-car way.

We give it extra points for its powertrains and one for a well-tuned ride, for a 7 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2018 Terrain introduces a new base engine to GMC. It’s a 1.5-liter turbo-4 that powers either the front or all four wheels on select models. With 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque. Down on horsepower versus its old inline-4 but up on torque, the 1.5-liter puts its power into action much lower in the rev range, with peak torque arriving down near 2,000 rpm. It’s gutsy at lower engine speeds, refined and relatively quiet, and pushes the 3,449-pound base Terrain around with reasonable authority.

While the similar Chevy Equinox pairs this engine with a 6-speed automatic, GMC gets a fancy 9-speed with lots of gears. The juddery shifts of other brands’ 9-speeds isn’t really obvious here. What’s obvious and annoying is the lack of manual control. The Terrain’s transmissions are actuated by console-mounted switches, even its low-gear mode. Where shift paddles would normally live, GMC places paddles for volume and seek. It’s a silly omission that compounds into a flaw when the Terrain hits interesting roads. To engage or hold lower gears, you have to toggle switches almost out of reach.

The same 9-speed pairs brilliantly with the new 252-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4. Strong down low, the bigger turbo-4 feels capable of 0-60 mph runs in the mid-7-second range, and gets especially strong marks when hustling the Terrain through tight Appalachian passes. With 260 lb-ft. of torque, this Terrain spools out a steady stream of usable power and a whistly turbo note as it clips off gears. You’ll have to use the right pedal as the sole cue to downshift here too; if GMC had paddle shift controls, we’d be talking about its zesty performance in the league of the 2.0-liter turbo-4 Ford Escape, still the benchmark for thrust and eagerness.

While the 2.0-liter turbo-4 can tow up to 3,500 pounds, the new 137-hp 1.6-liter turbodiesel-4 posts only a 1,500-pound tow rating, just like the base 1.5-liter turbo-4. What sounds like an intriguing drivetrain option thus cancels out one of the big reasons you’d associate with a turbodiesel. It has to come down to heft: an AWD turbodiesel Terrain checks in at 3,815 pounds at minimum, almost 60 pounds heavier than the stronger gas turbo-4. It does post much higher fuel economy scores, but it’s not quiet, vibrates the pedals and the rearview mirror at low engine speeds, and steps off more slowly than either gas engine. It comes only with a 6-speed automatic, cannot be ordered in hefty Denali trim, and carries a substantial price boost over gas models. We remain unconvinced of its merits, unless long uninterrupted highway drives hold some inordinate appeal.

The Terrain’s available all-wheel-drive system is a part-time unit. It must be switched into all-wheel drive by rotating a knob on the console through different traction modes. It’s an even more fuel-efficient way to deliver better traction, though it’s not immediately engaged when wheels slip, as is more common. It’s mechanically simpler than a system that decouples a pair of wheels to conserve fuel when traction is otherwise good. From one perspective, it’s rudimentary; from another, it requires more driver attention to driving conditions.

The Terrain keeps the same struts up front and four-link rear suspension setup, but swaps out the hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering setup from the last generation for an electric power assist rack in all cars this time around. In base trim with 17-inch tires, the Terrain has the composed, predictable, unenthusiastic grip of a mid-grade economy car. With Denali-specific suspension tuning for better ride comfort–offset perhaps by big 19-inch wheels wrapped in higher-performance all-season tires–the Terrain doesn’t offer a lot of steering feedback, but it weights up enough to track cleanly on interstates.

The Terrain’s bias is toward poise. It’s composed even when hustled through quick avoidance maneuvers–six deer and two washed-out roads to its credit. Ride comfort only reveals its small-car nature when confronted with abrupt, sheer-faced bumps, which smack against its big wheels and send a jolt through the front end. With its additional sound deadening and active noise cancellation, the Terrain sounds happier than the Chevy Equinox, even when it’s cooking along at above the posted limits.

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6

2018 GMC Terrain

Comfort & Quality

The newly downsized GMC Terrain lacks a sliding second-row seat, but still makes the utility grade.

GMC has downsized this year’s Terrain, as it readies a new crossover SUV to slot between it and the three-row Acadia.

The resulting 2018 Terrain lines up more neatly against crossovers like the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 in size and seating. It hits the utility mark, though the trimmed-down space is noticeable, especially behind the driver seat.

We give it a 6 for comfort and utility.  (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Terrain rides on a new platform for GMC this time around, one that’s shared with the Equinox. Despite having a shorter wheelbase and overall length, passengers don’t really bear the brunt of its smaller footprint.

By the numbers, the Terrain now rides on a 107.3-inch wheelbase, sits 182.3 inches long, and 72.4 inches wide. It’s been whittled down, but at least in front, the Terrain offers up reasonably commodious passenger space. Base vehicles come with cloth seats and manual adjustment; we’ve driven only those with more heavily bolstered leather seats, ventilation, and multi-way power adjustment. The driver seat lacks enough under-leg support for tall drivers, but the seats feel fresh after hours of driving. What’s most noticeable is the low seating position, more wagon-like than in the first-generation Terrain.

In-car storage is good, from a deep console to multi-pocketed door panels. A passenger-side dash slot will hold a cellphone safely in rubberized traction.

The second-row seat benefits from tall door cut-outs, but the flat bottom cushion doesn’t feel like an upgrade, even when it’s swaddled in leather. The Terrain of just last year had a sliding second-row seat we found useful; this smaller vehicle drops that feature, and drops a couple tenths of an inch of leg room as well (39.7 inches, down from 39.9 last year). Two adults will fit fine, though with the available panoramic sunroof, it’s a tighter fit than it should be. The glass roof trims 1.6 inches from head room, a little more even at the front seat positions.

The back seats fold down for more cargo space, but they don’t fold quite flat. Behind the second row, the Terrain sports 29.6 cubic feet of cargo room, which can expand to 63.3 cubic feet with the seats flipped down—both well below the numbers quoted for the Honda CR-V. New for 2018, the passenger’s seat can also fold flat to accommodate longer objects inside the cabin. New, small underfloor storage bins in the Terrain swallow small items to keep them from rumbling around the cargo area. A power tailgate can open at the wave of a foot.

The Terrain leans heavier on luxury items than the Equinox, which includes softer-touch materials, active noise cancellation, more dash and underfloor sound padding, and aluminum trim. It’s much quieter than the base-ish Equinox we drove earlier this year. On the down side, the door panels still have wide swaths of hard plastic and most of the buttons and switches are composed of the stuff, too—tougher to justify at nearly $40,000 than in the high-$20,000 sweet spot for crossover SUVs.

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2018 GMC Terrain

Safety

The 2018 GMC Terrain awaits crash tests; we’re waiting on GM to make more safety features more widely available.

Complete crash tests for the 2018 GMC Terrain aren't yet in, so we’re leaving its safety score in the TBD column. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Federal testers give the SUV a four-star overall score, unusually low for a new vehicle. The IIHS hasn't rated it at all.

All Terrains come with a rearview camera, Bluetooth, and a teen-driver feature that lets parents set limits when their child is behind the wheel.

On the options list, GMC offers blind-spot monitors, rear parking sensors, and lane-departure warnings on the Terrain SLE and SLT, and makes them standard on Terrain Denali, but they’re unavailable on the Terrain SL. Likewise, it limits a $495 advanced technology package with forward-collision warnings to only the SLT and Denali trims, while Honda and Toyota make the technology available or inexpensive on nearly every CR-V or RAV4.

Other safety options include a surround-view camera system, active lane control, and a safety alert seat but adaptive cruise control is not offered. LED headlights are standard on the Denali, but unavailable otherwise.

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8

2018 GMC Terrain

Features

The 2018 GMC Terrain ladles on premium features in Denali trim; some critical safety tech skips the affordable trims.

With the new Terrain, GMC finds room for all the usual mass-market features and applies some high-end technology in select models.

Good standard and optional equipment, and a lovely and simple infotainment system earn it an 8 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Every 2018 Terrain comes with at least the base 1.5-liter turbo-4 and a 9-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive can be optioned to all-wheel drive for $1,750 on all but the base SL. The turbodiesel is available in $33,540 SLE and $36,115 SLT trim, while the 2.0-liter is an option on the Terrain SLE and SLT, and standard on the Denali.

The $26,945 base Terrain SL gets power features, active noise cancellation, air conditioning, cruise control, keyless ignition, 17-inch wheels or larger, at least a 3.5-inch digital display between the gauges, and a rearview camera.

The base audio system bundles a 7.0-inch touchscreen, OnStar and in-car data hardware, two USB ports, an auxiliary jack, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The refreshed display is clean and legible, operates quickly, and in almost 750 miles of driving, only dropped its smartphone connection once. We tend to default to smartphone-driven infotainment for easier handsfree use, but GM’s icons are big, the screen bright and responsive, the system not overinformed or oversupplied with features.

The $29,970 Terrain SLE adds dual-zone automatic climate control, among other features. Its options include satellite radio, blind-spot monitors, a 110-volt power outlet, remote start, a power driver seat, heated front seats, and a panoramic sunroof. A trailer-tow package is also an option on SLE Terrains and above, but it requires the 2.0-liter turbo-4.

The $33,270 Terrain SLT gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, a 110-volt power outlet, remote start, a power driver seat, heated front seats, roof rails, 18-inch wheels, and leather seats. Options include a handsfree tailgate, a power passenger front seat, HD radio, seven-speaker audio, and an important bundle of safety technology with forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking.

At the top of the Terrain, the $39,470 Denali model has a standard power handsfree tailgate, memory seating, a power passenger front seat, a heated steering wheel, navigation, HD radio, seven-speaker audio, LED headlights, 19-inch wheels, blind-spot monitors, lane-departure warnings, and rear parking sensors. The forward-collision warning bundle is an option, as are surround-view cameras and automatic park assist. So are wireless smartphone charging, ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats.

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7

2018 GMC Terrain

Fuel Economy

With a frugal new turbodiesel on board, the GMC Terrain’s fuel economy has never been better.

With more models in the high-20s for EPA combined mileage, the 2018 GMC Terrain earns a 7 for fuel economy on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The base front-drive Terrain, fitted with a 1.5-liter turbo-4 and a 9-speed automatic, garners EPA ratings of 26 mpg city, 30 highway, 28 combined. With all-wheel drive, the same drivetrain slips to 24/28/26 mpg.

With the strong 2.0-liter turbo-4, the Terrain checks in at 22/28/24 mpg; with all-wheel drive, it’s 21/26/23 mpg.

The stingiest powertrain is the new turbodiesel-4. It scores the lineup’s best figures of 28/39/32 mpg with front-wheel drive, and 28/38/32 mpg with all-wheel drive.

Those numbers compare with the Honda CR-V’s 30-mpg combined rating, but fare better than the non-hybrid Toyota RAV4, at 24 mpg.

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October 8, 2017
2018 GMC Terrain AWD 4-Door SLE

Engine and power much better this year

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Really? If you need to have the seat raise you have a hand crank and no Sirius radio. A deal breaker for this girl
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$24,995
MSRP based on FWD 4-Door SL
 
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7.2
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Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety N/A
Features 8
Fuel Economy 7
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  • Redesigned 2018 Terrain widely available
  • Up to $3,500 in factory cash available
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