BY SUE MEAD
GMC said “choose your own terrain,” so my daughter Brooke and I did. Most car evaluation programs dictate a driving route, with pre-determined stops to switch from driving to navigating, with other professional auto writers.
We drive and then have roadway stops with demonstrations that showcase the talents of the new model on test-drive events that automakers hold for “testers” to try out their latest vehicle offering. It’s rare that I get to choose my own route, and rarer still that I can bring my choice of a drive partner.
Brooke doesn’t care much about autos; for her, they are a conveyance to get around town and to work. She doesn’t have a big enough bank account to buy a new car, so what she cares about the most are safety and elbow-and-cargo room for her family of four and their two dogs.
All of that changed when I brought her along to test out the all-new 2018 GMC Terrain. She had work deadlines and was surprised and delighted that this midsize premium SUV had an outlet to charge her computer, plus Internet connectivity to send a report back to the office. That meant we could truly enjoy two days of making our own decisions about our travel from Montana to Wyoming.
The routes we chose were filled with breathtaking scenery and, when winter weather turned the roads slick with ice and snow, we were coddled in an uplevel mobile cabin, with all-wheel-drive traction. We drove both on-road and off-road and were impressed with the Terrain’s power and competent handling.
It’s been eight years since GMC launched the Terrain — a redesign of the popular midsize crossover has been long overdue. More than 700,000 Terrains have been sold in North America since it went on sale in 2009. The second-generation model is available in SL (starting at $25,970), SLE ($28,795), SLT ($32,295), and Denali ($38,495) front-wheel-drive versions; SLE, SLT, and Denali models are also available with all-wheel drive ($1,750 added).
The boldly styled 2018 GMC Terrain promises three new turbocharged powertrains, greater refinement and versatility to adapt to customers’ needs today, and more available advanced safety technologies than ever before.
Standard is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 170 horsepower and 203 lb.-ft. of torque mated to an electronically controlled nine-speed automatic transmission, with overdrive and Driver Shift Control. Fuel economy is rated at 26 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined (FWD) or 24/28/26 (AWD).
Optional is a 252-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine (also matched with the nine-speed transmission) that boasts 260 lb.-ft. of torque, 3,500-pound max towing, and rated at 22/28/24 (FWD) or 21/26/23 (AWD).
Diesel lovers will appreciate the 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel option paired with a six-speed automatic transmission that gets 137 horsepower /240 lb.-ft. of torque, along with fuel economy of 28/39/32 (FWD) or 28/38/32.
Outside, the all-new Terrain wears the next chapter of GMC’s bolder design language, evolving the brand’s signature cues with stronger, sharper, and more sculpted elements such as its grille and lighting features.
Our ride was a Denali trim level that steps it up a notch with standard LED headlamps, a signature satin-chrome grille, 19-inch ultra-bright machined aluminum wheels, and Denali-specific accents that include body-colored fascias and lower trim, plus chrome roof rails, door handles, side mirror caps, and body-side molding.
The updated interior emphasizes refinement and functionality. “It is a striking design with functional beauty,” said Helen Emsley, executive director, Global GMC Design. “There’s confidence and optimism in its stance, with exceptional attention to detail that speaks to GMC’s rise as a premium brand.” Notable are the new pushbutton transmission selectors, which open up space in the center console for side-by-side cupholders and pass-through storage underneath. A new fold-flat front passenger seat and flat-folding rear seat bring greater versatility for hauling longer items and make it easier to load cargo; new under-floor compartments in the cargo area provide more secure storage.
Elements such as authentic aluminum trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, soft-touch materials on the instrument panel and doors, second-row HVAC vents, and standard active noise cancellation help give more of a lux-level experience. Denali editions add a unique trim tint color with Denali-specific logos and piping on the front seats, as well as a standard heated steering wheel, navigation, Bose premium seven-speaker sound system, and a hands-free programmable power liftgate.
There are four USB ports and a standard 7-inch-diagonal infotainment system, featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and the standard OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. Owners can also manage their vehicles remotely via their compatible smartphones with the myGMC mobile app. Up to 63.3 cubic feet of storage is available with the rear seat folded.
A new, stronger and more rigid body structure helps contribute to improved occupant safety. A rear-vision camera system is standard on models not equipped with available Surround Vision; GM’s Teen Driver safety system — which allows parents to set certain vehicle controls and review an in-vehicle report card with teens to encourage better driving habits — is also standard.