Launched as a 2010 model, the GMC Terrain compact crossover SUV has not been redesigned since. Mechanically identical to the Chevrolet Equinox, 2017 GMC Terrain has adopted an even more masculine demeanor with the addition of a Nightfall edition.
Sharp body lines and creased features make the boldly square-jawed Terrain stand out. Not everyone favors the rough-and-ready look, but its brash design definitely makes an impression, whereas many crossovers blend into each other.
GMC Terrain offers a choice between a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine that makes 180 horsepower, or a throaty 301-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6. Both engines mate with an adroit-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission, and both can have either front-drive or optional all-wheel drive.
The direct-injected, 2.4-liter four-cylinder is a familiar GM workhorse of an engine, while the V6 is found in the far bigger GMC Acadia. With the abundant go-power of the V6, a Terrain can tow as much as 3,500 pounds, meaning light boats, snowmobiles, motorcycles.
Earning good marks in both ride and handling, GMC Terrain competes against a host of compact crossovers, including the top-ranked, strong-selling Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Apart from poor rearward visibility, the Terrain comes across as a viable contender, and the rearview camera that comes standard helps alleviate those obstacles to clear vision. Some blind spots are caused by the Terrain’s fixed back-seat headrests, which cannot be folded down or removed. We recommend opting for rear parking sensors.
On the safety front, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Terrain Good scores in all crash-tests, including the difficult frontal small-overlap collision. As a result, it was named a Top Safety Pick. Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Terrain a four-star overall crash-test rating, including four stars for frontal-impact protection and five stars for side-impact.
Terrains can be equipped with some of the latest safety technology, including blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and forward collision alert.
The 2017 GMC Terrain comes in SL, SLE-1, SLE-2, SLT, and Denali trim levels. Terrain SL ($24,995) has front-wheel drive, four-cylinder engine, fabric upholstery, remote keyless entry, tilt/telescoping steering column, rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, six-speaker audio, and 18-inch wheels. The 6-speaker touchscreen audio system has a CD player and USB port. Also standard is OnStar 4G LTE with a wi-fi hotspot. Terrain SLE-1 ($28,225) adds body-color heated power mirrors and satellite radio. Terrain SLE-2 ($29,725) adds automatic climate control, a power driver’s seat, chrome luggage rails, GMC’s IntelliLink 7.0-inch touchscreen, and Pioneer 8-speaker audio.
GMC Terrain SLT ($31,845) gets perforated leather-appointed seating, heated front seats, remote start, and a chrome exterior appearance package. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.
The GMC Terrain Nightfall edition package ($795) adds a charcoal grille with black accents and surround, black 18-inch wheels, black front/rear fascia accents, including black luggage rails. The Nightfall package is offered on Terrain SLE-2 and Terrain SLT models, with four body-color choices.
GMC Terrain Denali ($35,200) features perforated leather-upholstered seats, softer-touch dashboard, woodgrain-trimmed steering wheel, chrome door handles and skid plates, and satin-metallic trim. Active-safety features include blind-zone monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert, lane-departure warning, and rear park assist.
All-wheel drive ($1,750) and V6 engine ($1,500) are available for most trim levels. Navigation and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system also are optional, as is the Open Road package.
In recent years, GMC has been progressing toward crisper lines and sharper looks, and the Terrain reflects that. More squared-edged in its blockiness than the related Chevrolet Equinox, it features a power-dome hood with C-shaped headlights.
Upper trim levels add LED running lights. As usual, the top-rung Denali stands out, led by a mesh grille and satin metallic trim. The new Nightfall option adds a blacked-out grille, black wheels, and black front/rear fascias.
Inside, however, the cabin is strictly contemporary. Every interior design element is tasteful, in accord with other GMC models, including the larger Acadia. The look is especially notable within the Denali edition, which gets a dark woodgrain-trimmed steering wheel and stitched dashboard pad, along with premium leather.
On the dashboard, low-gloss metallic trim surrounds a shield-shaped set of controls. A hooded 7-inch touchscreen controls the infotainment system. The center console is wide, while the large glovebox is deep.
Four adults can fit quite comfortably, not only up front but on the rear bench, which provides sufficient support and isn’t short on leg or knee space. Front seats are wide and mildly bolstered, with some 6 inches of head clearance for a taller driver. The back seat can slide 8 inches fore/aft, giving greater priority to either passengers or cargo.
Seatbacks fold to expand rear storage volume to 31.6 cubic feet. However, they don’t fold entirely flat, and the cargo floor is somewhat high. Cargo space doubles if second-row seats are folded to their limit.
If you want substantial vigor in everyday driving, the V6 stands ready to supply it. Most buyers are content with the more thrifty four-cylinder engine, which works with the same capably shifting 6-speed automatic transmission. Four-cylinder models include active noise cancellation.
Acceleration to 60 mph takes a leisurely nine seconds, but the four-cylinder is fine for families that need urban transportation or lean toward long-distance cruising. It’s not recommended for towing, however. Picking a V6 drops the 0-60 mph figure to about six seconds, a substantially quicker performance.
Four-cylinder models use electric power steering, while V6 versions have employed a traditional hydraulic setup. GMC’s electric system does fine, yielding a pleasantly settled feel on the highway. Before long, all Terrains might have electric steering.
If you select Eco mode, shifts will be delayed, as the transmission’s torque converter locks up sooner than usual. Otherwise, the 6-speed automatic performs capably.
With front-wheel drive, the 2.4-liter Terrain is EPA-rated at 21/31 mpg City/Highway, or 25 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive lowers the EPA estimate to 20/28 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined. Gas mileage in the V6 is considerably less appealing, EPA-rated at 17/24 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined. AWD drops that estimate to 16/23 mpg City/Highway. To achieve these figures in real-world driving, a light foot on the gas pedal is mandatory.
The GMC Terrain is quite spacious inside for a compact crossover. Terrain’s distinctive square lines appeals to buyers who favor a traditional SUV look. The four-cylinder is the preferred choice for fuel economy, the V6 delivers strong acceleration performance and allows light towing capability.
Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.