GMC Terrain is a generously sized compact crossover sport-utility vehicle, best suited to young families or active couples. It seats five in a well-designed, nicely finished cabin, with state-of-the-art powertrains, advanced safety systems and convenience features, and class-leading fuel economy.
The 2014 Terrain represents its fifth year of production, having been introduced as a 2010 model. Except for one new color choice, little has changed for the 2014 model year, except for revised wheels. New 17-inch aluminum wheels are standard on SLE and SLT1 models. Chrome-clad 18-inch wheels are now standard on the SLT2, and available for the SLE2 and SLT1. Also new for 2014 are text message support and Siri Eyes Free connectivity.
Technically a compact SUV, the Terrain crossover is nearly large enough to be considered a mid-size sport-utility, with lots of space inside. Terrain competes against compacts such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, and midsize models such as the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano.
Terrain’s most obvious strength might be its spacious, well-equipped cabin. The interior is comfortable, quiet and well isolated from the noise and chop of the roadway. Design and workmanship are quite good.
The GMC Terrain shares its platform and mechanical components with the Chevrolet Equinox, but the two vehicles don’t look much alike. Terrain is geared toward GMC’s truck image, and its angular styling is polished and rugged at the same time.
Terrain comes standard with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available for improved all-weather capability, even with the standard four-cylinder engine. All models come with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The base 182-horspower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers good performance and great fuel economy, earning an EPA-estimated 22/32 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive (20/29 mpg with all-wheel drive). A 3.6-liter V6 is optional, rated at 301 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque, earning an estimate of 17/24 mpg with front-wheel drive (16/23 with AWD). The V6 increases towing capacity from 1,500 to 3,500 pounds, the latter sufficient to pull a light boat or a pair of personal watercraft or snowmobiles.
Terrain SLE comes well equipped, with a nice audio system, satellite radio hardware, GM’s OnStar emergency and communications system, and a rearview camera. The standard rear seat ranks among the best in class. Terrain’s seatbacks recline, and both sections slide fore and aft up to eight inches to maximize either passenger or cargo space, according to personal preference.
Terrain SLT trim levels (SLT1 and SLT2) offer the widest range of available premium features, including navigation, streaming audio, heated seats and memory, but they’re still available with the four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. Buyers don’t have to take the big engine or all-wheel drive to get the technology features.
The 2014 GMC Terrain comes standard with front-wheel drive and a 182-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. A 301-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 ($1,500) is available, except in SLE trim. In the Denali, the V6 option ($1,900) includes 19-inch wheels. Each model may be equipped full-time all-wheel-drive ($1,750 extra).
Terrain SLE ($25,465) comes with cloth upholstery, manual air conditioning, a full complement of power features, driver’s seat with power height adjustment and power lumbar, rearview camera, 17-inch alloy wheels and six-speaker audio with single CD, USB and Bluetooth connection, touch-screen controls and satellite radio hardware. The rear seats split, fold, recline and slide back and forth to maximize leg room or cargo space. Terrain SLE2 ($27,965) adds Pioneer eight-speaker audio, automatic temperature control, an eight-way power driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and roof rails. It also opens Terrain to the V6 engine and a handful of other options, including a sunroof ($900) and GPS Navigation ($795).
Terrain SLT ($29,515) upgrades with leather upholstery, heated front seats, and remote starting. The SLT2 ($32,760) adds a driver’s seat memory, sunroof, rear park assist, underbody skid plats, 18-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels, and a power/programmable liftgate. Also included for 2014 are forward collision and lane departure warnings.
Terrain Denali ($35,155) includes blind-spot assist, side blind-zone alert, cross-traffic alert, a ride/handling suspension, leather/wood steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, and a memory driver’s seat.
Options include 8-way power heated front seats; a power liftgate ($595); Cargo Package ($235) with rear cargo cover. cargo net and roof crossbars; tow package ($350) with hitch; 19-inch wheels ($1,300), and special paint.
Safety features on all Terrain variants start with dual-threshold front airbags, front-passenger side impact airbags and head-protection curtains for all outboard seats. Standard active safety features include antilock brakes (ABS), GM’s Stabilitrak stability system (ESC) with rollover mitigation, rearview camera, and OnStar telematics with a six-month Crash Response subscription. Terrain SLT is available with rear park assist as well as optional forward collision alert with lane departure warning. Side blind-zone alert and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on the Denali. Optional all-wheel drive can enhance safety in slippery conditions.
GMC Terrain is built at the same plant as the Chevrolet Equinox, and it’s on the same platform with the same mechanical components. Yet the Terrain is intended to appeal to a different buyer. Technically a compact, the Terrain looks bigger. Its dimensions (and those of the Equinox) come close to some mid-size SUVs and crossovers.
Terrain measures 15 feet, 5 inches bumper-to-bumper, on a 112.5-inch wheel base. The distance between its wheel hubs is slightly longer than the wheelbase of the big Ford Explorer, and the Terrain is slightly larger than a Ford Edge in most dimensions. GMC engineers have used acoustic blankets between the engine and dashboard to minimize engine noise streaming into Terrain’s cabin. Acoustic laminated glass helps manage wind noise, while the doors are triple-sealed for further quieting and efficient climate control.
GMC is a truck brand, so the Terrain has bolder styling with a larger, more distinctive grille than the one on the Equinox. Especially when viewed from the front, the Terrain’s wide stance and high beltline leave a substantial, well-planted impression.
Terrain’s body makes use of broad, sheer surfaces with a rectangular shape to the wheel wells. The side surfaces are clean, with chrome accents on the door handles and windows. Along the bottom of the exterior panels is a textured anti-chip layer of paint, conveying the message that the Terrain could be functional in harsher environments, both urban and rural. A sleek roof rack provides additional cargo capacity. =
Three wheel sizes and styles are available, including 17-inch aluminum wheels, and 18- and 19-inch chrome-clad wheels.
GMC Terrain makes a comfortable, versatile, flexible vehicle for families with two kids, or for couples with active lifestyles. Such details as a standard touch-screen interface make Terrain even easier to live with, but a third-row seat is not available. Buyers who occasionally need space for seven or eight will have to look at something larger, like GMC Acadia.
The Terrain cabin features curving lines and close-fitting panels. All surfaces are soft and nicely grained. Interior space is open and relaxed, with lots of room to stretch in back. Seats are styled using a contrasting inset with exact red stitching. The dashboard is low and leans away from the front occupants, creating a generously spacious feel.
The driver gets a high seating position, offering the same kind of vision and command of the road as traditional body-on-frame SUVs. Terrain’s step-in height, however, is relatively low, making entry, exit and rear-seat loading a bit easier than with the truck-based SUVs.
Seats are comfortable and adjustable enough to prevent squirming as the hours wear on. We found the Terrain has more than enough legroom for an average-size person, and it was easy to position the seat comfortably in relation to the steering wheel. GMC says special attention was paid to accommodating shorter drivers. Interior designers worked extensively to optimize the accelerator pedal so the driving position could be close to ideal for a wider range of body types.
The dashboard and controls are lighted in orange, with bright white instrument numerals. The interior lighting creates a well-lit, but not overly bright, nighttime environment.
The floating center stack is positioned so that the most-used controls are within easy reach. It looks high-tech, but isn’t overly complicated, and there’s enough space for a center storage bin that’s big enough for a laptop computer. The center console also has a tall, deep box, which has two advantages: It makes a great armrest, and there’s plenty of room to put things inside. Four power outlets are spread through the cabin for phone chargers, laptops and other portable devices.
A seven-inch touch screen mates with the standard audio system. Essentially, GMC has been building all Terrains with the HD screen for the navigation system, even if they’re not equipped with navigation. For customers, this brings the added benefit of making the optional GPS system much less expensive. The touch graphics look something like a cell phone, and they allow more functions to be integrated into the system. OnStar and SiriusXM satellite radio hardware are standard, with a six-month subscription to OnStar and a three-month subscription to SiriusXM included. If a Terrain buyer likes either, there will be an ongoing cost.
Bluetooth comes standard on all Terrains, allowing the driver to operate cellular telephones hands-free using the Terrain’s speakers, a hidden microphone, and the touch screen. In the SLT2, occupants can also stream audio from hand-held devices and control them with the touch screen. With navigation, there’s an SD card slot to transfer music to the system’s hard drive.
All Terrains comes standard with a rearview camera. It’s a great safety feature, as it can help the driver spot anything, including children, behind the vehicle when backing up. The standard touch screen helps considerably here.
The Terrain’s rear seat is one of its best features. It’s split 60/40, as is typical, but each seatback reclines individually, like those in front. Better still, each portion slides forward or rearward up to eight inches, favoring either cargo room or passenger room as the situation dictates.
A power-operated, programmable rear hatch is available on all but the base Terrain. It can be set to open to three different heights, depending on the size of the operator and the overhead clearance available.
Cargo space is good, but not best in class. With the rear seat moved furthest forward but up to hold passengers, there is 31.6 cubic feet of volume behind it. That’s twice the space available in the typical compact sedan’s trunk.
With the rear seat folded, volume expands to 63.9 cubic feet. That approaches the cargo space available in some larger crossovers like the Toyota Venza or Ford Edge, but it’s less than what’s available in some smaller ones, including the Ford Escape. And there are no standard cargo helpers with the Terrain. If you want a net pouch for grocery bags or a cover to hide what’s in the cargo area, you’ll have to spring for the optional Cargo Package, which also adds cross rails for the roof rack.
The GMC Terrain delivers a nice balance of attributes on the road, getting along in a fashion that complements its interior features and all-purpose versatility.
The dynamic balance tilts toward comfort, but the Terrain is reasonably nimble around town, and very easy to manage. It accelerates nicely regardless of the engine, and fuel economy with the four-cylinder is outstanding. The optional all-wheel-drive is suitable for graded trails, and it’s valuable in wintry climes.
Many buyers will find the optional forward collision alert and lane departure warning to be worth the extra cost. For starters, the Safety Package (including rear park assist) is relatively inexpensive, and it works as well as others that cost a lot more, with less distraction. On the other hand, it’s a bit distracting itself, until the driver becomes familiar with it, because the warning device is front and center on the dashboard. The driver sets the warning distance to an appropriate length. Once that’s settled, if he or she happens to glance down at a phone or back at a toddler at an inappropriate instant, the warning system will beep loudly and flash if the Terrain is closing too quickly on another car or object. It gets the driver’s attention fast, and that’s really all there is to it. It’s a good idea.
Both Terrain engines are technically advanced, with direct gasoline injection and sophisticated control technology to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. The 3.6-liter V6 is rated at 301 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 17 mpg city, 24 highway with front-wheel drive, or 16/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. The Terrain V6 is rated to tow up to 3500 pounds.
Acceleration is pleasantly capable even with the 2.4-liter, 182-horsepower four-cylinder engine, making the V6 less essential. Towing capacity is reduced to 1500 pounds, but overall drivability is close to comparable, and mileage ratings increase significantly. The four-cylinder gets an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city, 32 highway with front drive, and 20/29 mpg with all-wheel drive. Both ratings are near the top of the class.
GMC’s 6-speed automatic transmission helps make either engine appealing for propelling the nearly 4,000-pound Terrain in satisfying style. With a gear for every situation and intelligent programming, the transmission can sense the difference between subtle variations of throttle input. Sixth gear is a very tall overdrive, so the V6 Terrain cruises at highway speeds easily and quietly, loafing along at low rpm.
With its own quick-shifting 6-speed automatic, the four-cylinder easily powers the Terrain around town. With just a little more effort, it supplies confident on-ramp acceleration and no-downshift passing power on the highway. Its transmission has slightly lower gearing than that used with the V6, but it shifts just as smoothly and follows throttle input just as well. Especially for those who feel fuel costs will become a significant factor over the next few years, the four-cylinder powertrain is worth considering.
Any GMC Terrain is commendably quiet in just about every respect. It feels substantial around town, not the least bit tinny; but it’s also reasonably agile, with a progressive turn-in and little side-to-side sway at normal speeds. The suspension delivers a smooth, isolated ride, as we discovered on some straight, fast and sometimes potholed Midwestern roads. Relatively little vibration leaks through the steering wheel or other touch points.
In other words, the suspension is on the soft side, but handling around town and on more demanding roads is not hugely affected by body roll or brake dive. Cornering is quite predictable and secure, enhanced by a relatively wide stance. All things considered, we think the Terrain offers a comfortable dynamic balance, appropriate for a multi-purpose SUV. It’s not going to win an autocross, but the Terrain is solidly planted and nicely balanced.
The compact GMC Terrain seats five. Its roomy, substantial cabin has enough rear legroom and interior volume for comfort on long trips. Terrain starts with front-wheel drive and car-like unit-body construction, so it’s comfortable and maneuverable on the road, and loaded with technology and safety features. The standard four-cylinder delivers good acceleration and great mileage; the upgrade V6 increases towing capacity to 3,500 pounds. Optional all-wheel drive, available with either engine, makes Terrain suited for just about any environment.
J.P. Vettraino and John Stewart contributed to this NewCarTestDrive.com report.