The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 31, 2013

GMC Terrain brings truck-sized power to mid-size SUV

By Len Ingrassia
CNHI News Service

— Score one for GM for creatively using its full line of car and truck parts to refine a top-selling mid-size crossover SUV. For 2013, the aggressive-looking Terrain gets a Cadillac-like engine for much-needed power and a fancy Denali trim package to reel in some new buyers.

It must be working, because Terrain sales figures are tops in the GMC lineup. Still, a number of auto writers have been less than complimentary about its boxy looks outside with large wheel well cladding, generous use of chrome and lackluster driving characteristics.  

One thing we all agree on, however, is its quiet ride and interior technological advances. Keep in mind that this is GM's truck division, so the soft, luxurious ride in some competing brands will not compare.

Introduced in 2010, the Terrain is the company's smallest SUV. It first replaced the Pontiac Torrent, which was a redo of the Chevrolet Equinox from 2005-2009.

Smallest in the GMC division does not translate into lightweight, however. At just under 3,800 pounds, the Terrain is now available with a 301 horsepower V6. The new power plant is practically the same as a new engine introduced this year by sibling Cadillac minus a few horsepower.

The base Terrain engine has been a four cylinder that was pokey on hills and in highway performance. The $1,750 option for the V6 seems to be worth the money if you are looking for more oomph with less engine noise.

Both engines are mated to a six speed automatic transmission that provides smooth transition between gears. If you stomp on the gas pedal, however, there is some high revving, noticeably loud as the transmission selects and engages into lower gears.

The Denali package on the test car, a loaded Terrain All Wheel Drive with navigation, tipped the scale at just over $40,000 including freight. At this level, the Terrain competes with the Acura RDX, upper-end Dodge Journey or Ford Explorer.

On the safety front, the Terrain received high marks from both national crash test agencies.

Inside the cabin, the Terrain offers generous room for four adults. Those looking for third-row seating will have to look elsewhere, since the Terrain does not offer this option.

Cargo space behind the rear seat comes up short of the competition at 31.6 cubic feet. With the rear seats folded down, the space improves to 63.9 cubic feet. A nifty sliding rear seat also improves legroom or cargo space as needed.

The Denali package on the test car includes a refined interior dashboard with red-stitching, generous leather seating, single climate control, rear vision camera, illuminated front sill plates and a seven-inch touch screen that serves as a multi-media interface. Denali trim also includes special wheels, blind spot and rear cross traffic warning system, power passenger seat, special trim and exterior badging.

The GMC Intellilink system integrates with Bluetooth audio streaming for app-like subscription icons featuring audio and concierge services as well as voice activated controls. The latter relies upon voice recognition software that has yet to be perfected across the auto industry, leaving many with high frustration levels.

On the highway, the Terrain provides a quiet and refined ride thanks in part to extra sound deadening material and an acoustic windshield.

The test car with its 6-cylinder engine traveled from zero to 60 miles per hour in a respectable 7.2 seconds.

Len Ingrassia is an automotive columnist for CNHI News Service. Contact him at editor@ptd.net.