The Terrain is strictly a five-passenger vehicle, so if you need three-row, eight-passenger seating, you'll have to step up to the larger (yet less powerful) GMC Acadia, or look at some of GMC's competitors.
The GMC Terrain shows how a powerful engine and macho styling can inform your relationship with a vehicle. When you’re behind the wheel, you can’t see the Terrain’s huge fender flares and imposing grille, but you know they’re there, and they can make you feel like you’re piloting something brawnier than a small crossover SUV.
The brawn provided by the optional 3.6 liter V6 underscores that feeling. Floor the gas pedal at any speed below about 80 mph, and you’ll be treated to a thrilling rush of acceleration as the six speed automatic transmission kicks down a gear or two. Above 80 mph, the acceleration becomes more linear than abrupt, but you can thunder all the way up to 118 mph before the speed governor kicks in.
The Terrain has been around since 2010, but this wonderful 301 horsepower engine was added last year, replacing a 264 horsepower 3.0 liter V6. It transformed the vehicle, shaving two seconds off the previous V6 model’s 0 to 60 time. GMC’s website says 60 mph will arrive from a standing start in 6.7 seconds, while Car & Driver magazine recently got a loaded AWD Terrain Denali to hit 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds.
The EPA says the AWD V6 Terrain is good for 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. Opt for the FWD model and each figure increases by 1 mpg. Forgoing the $1,750 AWD option might seem out of step with the Terrain’s rugged image, but it’s worth noting that the system lacks a 4WD lock mode for use on soft surfaces, and the Terrain isn’t designed for heavy off-road use.
Fuel economy improves with the base 2.4 liter four cylinder engine, but this option should only be considered by motorists who absolutely do not care about acceleration. The Daily Journal didn’t have an opportunity to drive the four-cylinder model, but that same engine is a tepid performer in the Chevrolet Malibu, which weighs a lot less than the base Terrain’s 3,853 pounds. AWD four cylinder Terrains are rated at 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, while FWD four cylinder models earn EPA ratings of 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.
Some members of the unofficial “GMC Terrain Owners & Fans” Facebook group have raved about the four cylinder model’s fuel economy, but others have lamented its lack of power, especially on steep grades. Drivers needing four-cylinder frugality might be better served buying a Honda CR-V, which has more horsepower, yet weighs several hundred pounds less than the base Terrain.
Some members of the Terrain Facebook group have also complained about the need for various repairs that were unexpected, but covered under warranty. Examples include an owner of a 2013 V6 model with a leaking rear-end seal, and more than one owner whose air conditioning kept intermittently stopping and starting. However, based on extensive surveys of owners, J.D. Power and Associates give the Terrain a predicted reliability score of “about average.” Given that cars and trucks in general are far more reliable than they were in bygone decades, a merely average score probably translates into trouble-free motoring for most owners.
When it comes to avoiding trouble on the road, the Terrain’s behavior during high-speed, emergency lane-change maneuvers is commendable. You might expect a vehicle this tall and heavy to exhibit wallowing body-roll when you abruptly swerve from one lane to another, but you’d be wrong.
The Terrain also has lane-departure and collision-avoidance alarms, both of which are tied to a camera in front of the rear-view mirror. Drive the Terrain enough, and you’ll occasionally get a false positive from the collision alarm, but this doesn’t happen very often. The system is supposed to warn you when you’re following too closely behind another vehicle, but during the Daily Journal’s testing, triggering the tailgating warning proved difficult. The system has three distance settings, but even when set to require the maximum following distance, it usually refused to sound the alarm, even when the rear bumpers of other cars were approached with frightening speed.
GMC spokeswoman Kelly Wysocki said the system takes various factors into account, including the relative speeds of both vehicles, so it’s possible that under certain circumstances, the system is too “smart” to be fooled into thinking a rear-end collision is imminent.
Far more useful, and less puzzling, is the Terrain’s back-up camera. Shift into reverse, and the touch-screen on the standard infotainment system presents a fish-eyed view of what’s behind you. The system even recognizes other parked cars, and superimposes an on-screen warning icon over any car that it thinks you’re coming close to backing into. There’s also an audible warning that increases in frequency as you get closer to hitting something.
The Terrain is strictly a five-passenger vehicle, so if you need three-row, eight-passenger seating, you’ll have to step up to the larger (yet less powerful) GMC Acadia, or look at some of GMC’s competitors. The Terrain’s back seat does have the ability to slide forward to increase cargo capacity at the expense of rear passenger legroom. Naturally, the rear seat can also be folded flat for maximum hauling ability. So configured, the Terrain boasts 63.9 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
Wysocki said that although GMC is currently announcing changes to its various trucks and SUVs for the 2015 model year, it has yet to announce any major changes for the Terrain. Besides the more powerful V6, the other big news last year was the addition of a Denali trim package, which adds leather and faux-wood surfaces to the interior, as well as various chrome and electronic doo-dads.
Curiously, the build-and-price tool on GMC’s website doesn’t list a price for the Denali package. However, one Bay Area GMC dealer’s website shows an AWD V6 Denali as being in stock, with an MSRP of $41,020. Given that an AWD V6 Terrain with the SLT-2 trim package costs just $35,435, and comes with every conceivable comfort and convenience item, including a leather interior, it’s hard to justify the Denali package’s extra expense.
It’s not perfect, and it’s not for everybody, but if your idea of motoring pleasure is a tall, classy wagon that laughs at potholes and accelerates like a sports car, the V6 GMC Terrain is worth considering.