Every time new technology launches, older versions are quickly cast aside.
Engine: 3.6-liter V6
Power: 301 hp, 272 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 16 city, 23 hwy, 18 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100km): 11.5 city, 8.2 hwy
US Price: Base $23,975, Denali models start at $34,175
CAN Price: Base $28,690, Denali starts at $42,740
People get used to nice new things quickly. For example, once you’ve had a touchscreen, you expect every screen to respond to pokes of the finger.
The dashboard of the GMC Terrain is an example of old technology that has already been cast aside by GM in its new models. Just look at the Yukon SUV and Sierra pickup to see a truly great interior. The problem is, GM’s refresh cycle hasn’t hit the Terrain just yet, which leaves this midsize SUV feeling as stale as last month’s bread.
Dated Interior and Technology
Sitting in a Sierra half-ton, you are met with a clean layout with minimal buttons that are all rounded off, giving the whole truck a modern feel. Inside the Terrain, it’s the opposite. Tons of very small buttons litter the center stack, making controlling them tough while keeping your eyes on the road. Worse than poor layout and operation, the small square buttons make for an ugly design, not doing our Denali-edition Terrain any favors.
Because this is a top-of-the-line Denali model, it comes with embossed logos on the seatbacks, mahogany wood trim, illuminated sill plates, a set of eight-way power front seats and an available sunroof. And while the interior wood accents and the stitching is nice, it’s not nearly good enough to get over the cabin’s dull design.
The infotainment setup isn’t even GMC’s latest Intellilink setup, which works wonderfully. Instead, GMC leaves it last-generation infotainment system in place, which can be slow to respond and it also ugly to look at.
In a vacuum, this interior might be OK, but next to the products sitting in GMC’s own showroom, it feels totally outdated.
The Powertrain is Much Better. Fuel Economy? Not So Much.
Luckily, the driving dynamics of the Terrain aren’t nearly as bad as its interior. Our model was outfitted with a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 301 horsepower and 272 lb-ft of torque, which comes together to make this a fairly quick vehicle. It’s hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission that stays out of the way, doing its job quietly and effectively.
The car’s age also means that GM has done little about fuel economy advancements and it shows. Though the Terrain with all-wheel drive is rated at 18 mpg combined, our average sat closer to the 16 mpg city rating when our week was done with the GM crossover.
There is one set of advanced systems in the Terrain: safety systems. Our Denali model gets lane-keep warning along with front collision warning, blind sport monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. While blind spot monitoring works well, the GMC’s forward collision alert seemed too sensitive, going off when I knew that I was nowhere close to making contact with the vehicle ahead. That was one system that was quickly shut off.
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We tackled some late-season winter weather in our week with the SUV to see how it would handle the cold. The Terrain’s all-wheel drive setup felt slightly slow to respond when a wheel did slip, but it was quick enough to keep us out of trouble navigating northern, snow-covered roads. Steering in the Terrain is also confident, offering a connected feeling.
I took the Terrain north with my snowmobile hooked up to the back, giving us a chance to test this crossover with about 900 pounds in tow, and as can be expected, the Terrain didn’t bat an eye. Our model is rated to 3,500 pounds, so my single snowmobile did little to upset its character.
Besides being frustrated with the interior electronics nearly the whole time, the road trip told me one other thing: the Terrain is comfortable. The road ahead passes beneath the wheels of this crossover smoothly and easily, while the muted interior keeps things quiet and calm.
For road trip duty, the Terrain also offers 31.6 cubic feet of rear storage space, while still managing to give second-row passengers 39.9 inches of legroom. What’s more, the Terrain’s second row offers seats that can slid forward or backwards, allowing even tall passengers to find a comfortable position.
The Value Question
Pricing for the Terrain starts at $24,995, while our Denali model sells for at least $36,415. That puts the starting price of the crossover above many of its competitors including the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V, though the GMC packs more content at base levels. The Denali model also gets a little more expensive than some other luxury midsize crossovers, though in our eyes, it doesn’t offer enough luxury features to be worth the money.
The Verdict: 2016 GMC Terrain Review
I’ll say it again: once you’ve had the new, latest thing, it’s nearly impossible to go back. So moving from any modern GMC product into the Terrain makes the crossover feel like yesterday’s news.
It does offer good handling and a comfortable ride, but the value and style just aren’t there to make the Terrain a great pick in this segment.
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