Everyone knows compact crossovers are the hottest segment in the auto industry.
Fresh competition appears every year, whether all-new or seriously updated. It’s a class where technology advances every year and creature comforts can make the difference between winners and losers.
In this category, you need to bring your A game and bring it every year.
How then to explain the continued success of GMC’s Terrain? It’s been seven years since the two-row crossover debuted, and seven years have passed without a substantial makeover.
Yet Terrain remains GMC’s second-best selling vehicle, after only the Sierra pickup. GMC reportedly sells every Terrain it can build.
This year, Terrain is updated with a taller grille, LED daytime running lights and new bumpers on both ends. A bulging power dome tops a redesigned hood. Inside, the instrument-control panel is reconfigured, and all Terrains get the latest version of OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity that turns it into a rolling WiFi hotspot. Apple’s Siri Eyes Free connectivity app is also standard.
In a sense, the Terrain is an old-school crossover. It’s larger than the current crop of compact CUVs (for crossover utility vehicle) and has a substantially longer wheelbase. On the road, it feels like “more-of-a-car” than lighter and more compact competitors, a quality many buyers respond to.
That sense of security presented itself on a recent Portland drive, the return half of which took place in relentless rain. Weather like that can get on your nerves after a few hours, but my tester had a reassuring composure. The seats are large and supportive, the driving position is comfortable and the long wheelbase produces a planted and stable feel.
A quiet cabin is a serene cabin, especially when the 18-wheelers you pass bury you in a blinding curtain of spray. In those moments, I wanted a steering system that felt more connected with the experience, but the Terrain was not squirrelly in the least.
The Terrain’s suspension is tuned for a comfortable ride, as opposed to a stiffer and “sportier” one. The top-level Denali employs dual-damped shocks for an even gentler ride and greater body-control. My Denali tester stayed steady on the road, in the rain, through the tunnels and past the trucks.
I would have welcomed a friendlier infotainment interface, though. Terrain’s touchscreen system is poorly organized and a too-long reach from the driver’s seat.
Other signs of its age include subpar and an abundance of hard plastics. Even the top-level Denali lacks expected features like keyless ignition, dual-zone climate control and a one-touch window.
Engine choices include a direct-injected, 180-horsepower four and a 301-hp six (18 mpg combined/16 city/23 highway), both paired with a six-speed automatic. The six moves the Terrain with vigor and can tow up to 3,500-pounds. The four (23/20/29) will tow 1,500 pounds and should provide enough oomph for most drivers in most conditions.
An updated Terrain is expected in 2017 and is likely to go six-less, instead offering a choice of fours, one naturally aspirated the other turbocharged.
For now, Terrain soldiers on, a bit dated, but still finding new homes and pleasing happy owners.
2016 GMC Terrain AWD Denali
Vehicle base price: $23,975
Trim level base price: $35,725
As tested: $41,315
Options included 3.6L V-6 engine; sunroof; Crimson Red Tintcoat paint; navigation with Intellilink; 19-inch wheels; trailering package; cargo close-out panel; cargo cover; roof-rack cross rails; security net.
Maximum tow rating: 3,500 pounds
EPA ratings: 18 combined/16 city/23 highway