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


GMC resizes the Terrain compact crossover for improved efficiency, performance

For 2018, GMC rolls out a trim new, second-generation version of its Terrain compact crossover.

The previous Terrain was a hefty outlier. A compact by cabin volume, its plus-sized exterior occupied a no-mans land between compact and midsize.

Terrain sold well, but its weight took a toll on GM’s corporate fuel-efficiency ratings, so GM took Terrain back to the drawing board.

The rig that emerged is smaller and lighter than before and rides on a wheelbase that’s been trimmed by 5.2 inches. Yet its cabin and cargo capacities are largely undiminished.

Car-like ride and handling

Terrain ($25,990) is a front-wheel-drive CUV with available all-wheel-drive. Like all crossovers, it’s built on a unibody platform, rather than an SUV’s body-on-frame construction, and offers car-like ride and handling.

In its new iteration, the Terrain drops 400 pounds, working wonders for performance and efficiency. GMC aims to satisfy a wide range of buyers by offering three thrifty engine choices: a 170-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter four (28 combined/26 city/30 highway), a 137-hp four-cylinder turbo-diesel (32/28/39) and a 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four (24/22/28).

To be noted: These numbers apply to FWD models; the 2.0-liter four requires premium fuel; and the base LS trim can be had only with FWD and the 1.4-liter gas engine.

The smaller engines are tow-rated to 1500 pounds; the 2.0-liter can tow 3500 pounds

Three inches shorter than its predecessor, the Terrain is nimbler in city driving and less of a handful in crowded parking lots. 

Premium brand, premium price

It’s pricier than its prime competitors, reflecting GMC’s posture as a premium brand. Compensation comes in the form of a standard-features list that includes keyless ignition and entry, automatic climate control, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a rearview camera, two USB ports for the front seats, two charging-only USB ports for the rear and a pair of 110-volt power outlets.

In-dash navigation system is standard on the top Denali trim ($38,595) and available on SLE ($28,895) and SLT ($32,395) models. 

High-intensity-discharge headlamps are standard on lower trims; upper trims get LEDs.

Inside, a 7-inch color touchscreen is standard, with higher trims receiving an 8-incher. GMC’s infotainment system is marked by user-friendly menus and quick response times.

Silent and roomy cabin

Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as are a six-speaker sound system, GM’s Teen Driver system and OnStar. Satellite radio and WiFi are available by subscription. 

Terrain’s cabin easily accommodates four adults in large and supportive seats. Active noise-cancellation technology is standard and reduces wind and road noise to near-luxury levels.

Build quality and some cabin materials fall short of expectations and Terrain’s new push-button gear selector is better in concept than practice. Located below the instrument control panel, it frees up valuable casual storage space in the center console, but actuating its smallish buttons requires an awkward reach across the console. This becomes a special challenge when a war bottle or coffee cup occupies the forward cupholder.

I had no problem finding a comfortable driving position. But, while forward vision is excellent, thick rear pillows and a narrow rear window impede rearward vision.

Compliant ride, disengaged responses

Terrain’s suspension is tuned for a compliant and gentle ride, which it delivers. Steering responses are soggy and imprecise and steering feel is vague and uncommunicative. Consequently, the Terrain is at once comfy and remote. My Denali tester repeatedly reminded me that it was happiest when driven with a go-easy approach. 

No quick corners or sudden maneuvers at speed, please.

Depending on trim, Terrain is available with a nearly complete suite of safety and driver-assist features. For the most part, they are add-ons to the various trims and can be pricey. The Denali, for instance, includes standard lane-change alert, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, but low-speed automated emergency braking, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning and forward collision alert were options.

Curiously, adaptive cruise control is not available.

A handful of such imperfections take some shine off the new Terrain, but solid fundamentals and an easy-going personality will find it a home in many U.S. garages.

Contact Don at

2018 GMC Terrain Denali
Vehicle base price: $25,990
Trim level base price: $38,595
As tested: $44,370 (includes handling and destination)
Options: sunroof; automatic parking assist; surround-view camera; ventilated front seats; heated rear outboard seats; Qi wireless device charging; low-speed automatic braking; lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning; forward collision alert; automatic high-beam controls; trailering package; Ebony Twilight metallic paint.
Tow rating: 1500/3500 pounds
EPA rating: 23 combined/21 city/26 highway
Premium fuel specified

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