2018 GMC Terrain Review

Soul Terrain

The GMC Terrain is all new for 2018 and it’s well equipped for battle in the cutthroat compact crossover segment.

To uncover its strengths and weaknesses, we put this vehicle through its paces on the circuitous roads around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, slogging through morning rush-hour, climbing mountains, and gliding along stretches of highway.

This upscale utility vehicle has been totally re-engineered from roof to rockers, riding on GM’s rigid D2XX architecture, which it shares with the more blue-collar Chevrolet Equinox.

This second-generation Terrain is available in four trim levels: SL, SLE, SLT, and Denali. Our ruby red Denali test model rolled on standard 19-inch wheels and featured a leather-lined interior. Dual-zone climate control and a heated steering wheel are also standard on Terrain Denalis.

Storage Wars

One of the most important attributes of a crossover vehicle is its ability to haul – both cargo and passengers. Accordingly, this new GMC keeps pace with rival models, offering just shy of 30 cubic feet (838 liters) behind the rear seats. Fold those backrests down and not only are you treated to a nearly flat surface but a hold that swells to more than 63 cubes (1,792 liters).

The Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, and even Chevy Equinox all offer slightly more storage than the 2018 GMC Terrain, but tape-measure differences are minor. The one competitor that’s significantly more capacious is the Honda CR-V, which has around 39 cubic feet behind the back seats and nearly 76 with them folded.

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Allowing it to carry longer cargo without issue, the front passenger seat folds flat. Tip that backrest down and the Terrain can handle items up to eight feet in length.

Not only does this vehicle excel at hauling cargo, it’s also great at carrying passengers. While the back seat no longer slides fore and aft like its predecessor’s, a feature one GMC spokesman said most owners never knew existed, there’s tons of room for both knees and noggins. Gangly riders will have no issues fitting inside.

Engine Options

Three turbocharged engines are available in the new Terrain: two gasoline-burning models and a diesel. In-step with current industry trends, all are of the four-cylinder persuasion.

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Serving base duty is a 1.5-liter spark-ignition unit that’s good for 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque, more than enough pork and beans for everyday driving. Stepping up from there is the most muscular offering, a gas-fired 2.0-liter cranking out 252 ponies and 260 torques. Both these engines are matched to a brand-new nine-speed automatic transmission.

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As for the diesel, it has a lung capacity of 1.6-liters and is rated at 137 horses and a whopping 240 lb-ft of twist, which peaks at a scant 2,000 rpm. This engine is only offered with a six-speed automatic transmission. GM says this is because the added cost of the new-niner wouldn’t pay any significant efficiency dividends.

On the subject of fuel consumption, when equipped with all-wheel drive and that compression-ignition engine, the Terrain is rated at 28 miles per gallon city (8.5 L/100 km), 38 highway (6.1 L/100 km), and 32 mpg combined (7.4 L/100 km). Also brandishing four-corner traction, the smaller gasoline engine should be good for 24 in the city (9.6 L/100 km), 28 highway (8.3 L/100 km), and 26 mpg combined (9.0 L/100 km), while the “big-block” four-cylinder is rated at 21 city (11.2 L/100 km) and 26 highway (9.0 L/100 km), with an average of 23 mph (10.2 L/100 km). All three engines are equipped with stop-start, which helps enable these impressive figures.

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Bits and Bytes

Keeping up with the Joneses, or rather, the Hondas, Fords, Volkswagens and Toyotas, GMC’s brand-new Terrain is available with many of the latest electronic bells and whistles, buzzers and klaxons, though there is one glaring omission (more on that later). Like other GM models, 4G LTE data service is offered along with in-vehicle Wi-Fi.

As for infotainment tech, systems with either a seven- or eight-inch screen are available. The latter, which is unimaginatively called “GMC Infotainment System 8-Inch,” is standard in Denali models. Luckily for this automaker, a clunky name can’t sink a good product as this is one of the best infotainment systems available today. Fast and fluid, it responds instantly to finger inputs. The user interface is elegant and easy to use, plus it supports multitouch gestures, like pinch-to-zoom, so it’s incredibly intuitive.

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Wireless charging is optional in Denali-level Terrains, while blind-spot monitoring, rear-park assist, automatic emergency braking and plenty of other advanced technologies are available in several options packages. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is standard.

Curiously, no adaptive cruise is available in the new Terrain, which is a rather glaring omission. This increasingly popular feature will be available, though we’re not sure when. GM engineers are currently developing a version of this technology that uses an optical camera instead of forward-facing radar, a more cost-effective solution. Development work was not complete for the 2018 model year.

The Drive

The Terrain’s 2.0-liter turbo provides gutsy acceleration, with its nine-speed automatic clicking off nearly imperceptible gearchanges. Co-developed with Ford, this transmission behaved flawlessly, even in pre-production vehicles, far better than ZF’s similar front-drive unit with the same number of ratios.

But back to that engine for a moment. It’s remarkably smooth, transmitting almost no vibration to the cabin; all you notice is a hollow-sounding though heavily muffled thrum. Keep your foot out of the accelerator and it’s as quiet as anything else in the mass-market.

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As for the one-six oil-burner, it’s also an exemplar of refinement. A quick trip around the block is all it takes to see why this powerplant has been nicknamed the “whisper diesel.” Vibration and clatter have been reduced to near gasoline-engine levels. Sure, there’s still a hint of diesel choppiness, but most buyers would never notice, it’s that good.

ALSO SEE: 2017 Honda CR-V vs 2017 Ford Escape

This diesel provides more-than-adequate acceleration, though it’s nothing in comparison to the 2.0-liter turbo. It pulls strongly at lower revs, running out of breath as the tachometer needle sweeps toward the limit of its travel.

Road and tire noise are both noticeable inside the new Terrain but hardly intrusive. It’s quiet enough, even while traversing weather-beaten pavement, though it’s perhaps not the most silent vehicle in this crowded segment.

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One particularly impressive attribute of this little GMC’s on-road character is how stiff it feels. Contrasted with its predecessor, there’s no comparison, the 2018’s structure is some 34 percent more rigid and it feels every bit of that and more. Unexpectedly nail a pothole and the Terrain just shrugs like it ain’t no thang. Head down a gnarly dirt road at inadvisable speed and there’s neither flex nor flop; squeaks and rattles are absent as well.

This vehicle’s ride is a touch on the firm side, which helps it handle with confidence. Nonchalantly toss the Terrain into a corner and there’s almost no body roll to speak of, something that urges you to push harder. Also absent is harshness. The spring-and-damper assemblies do a bang-up job filtering out the grittiness of impacts.

The Verdict: 2018 GMC Terrain Review

Excellent refinement, strong performance, a roomy and well-executed cabin plus an available diesel engine will help this “professional grade” compact SUV standout in a bustling segment. The 2018 GMC Terrain looks great, sips fuel and even drives well, which makes it more enjoyable than its platform-mates from Chevrolet and especially Buick.

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The new Terrain is currently on sale, with limited numbers at dealerships. Base price is an attractive $25,970 in the U.S., including $975 in delivery fees ($32,690 in Canada). A top-trim Denali version costs a less appealing though not totally unreasonable $38,495 ($43,590 in Canada), a figure that can easily be inflated by thousands of dollars in options, including the $1,495 ($1,685 in Canada) “Skyscape Sunroof.” With a broad range of models and options, there’s something for everyone including worry for competitors.

Discuss this story on our GM Forum

  • Kevin Wright

    The design looks like crap! It looks like someone hacked off someones nose. As for the adaptive cruise control…if you need it to drive because your too busy looking at your bloody phone, you should NOT be driving.