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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Though long in the tooth, GMC Terrain Denali continues to please

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

Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.