On the Road Review: GMC Terrain SLE

The hottest category in the automotive industry is compact class crossovers. Buyers are swiftly leaving compact and midsize cars for these five-door wunder-cars that offer more cargo flexibility, AWD traction security, improved driving dynamics and more interior room, visibility and general comfort than the venerable four-door car.

GM and its professional grade truck division, GMC, are in this race with a redesigned Terrain for 2018. Now 350 pounds lighter, about 3 inches shorter and sporting crisp new contemporary styling (gone are the blunt edges and square face), the latest Terrain also sports three new turbocharged engines and rides on a re-engineered all-independent suspension (using a 5-inch shorter wheelbase) that retains the fluid ride and handling dynamics of the previous model. The second best-selling GMC model is a fresh offering.

The Terrain’s new styling embraces LED lamps front and rear, while polishing the sharp creases of the previous model with a more-rounded grille that looks less truck-like. The rear three-quarter view features a “floating-roof” design with blacked out “D” pillars that mimic the Nissan Murano and Lexus RX. These body changes lower peak cargo capacity by a mere 2 cubic feet, yet the rear load floor is now lower, the rear folding seats now form a more user-friendly flat-load deck, while rear-seat passengers get to enjoy the largest such passenger compartment in the segment — just like before. While the rear seat no longer slides to and fro, the limousine-like head and leg room is just not found elsewhere in this class.

The new chassis also improves steering feel and tightens the low-speed turning radius. Path accuracy, highway tracking and the composed winter-ravaged ride are all embraceable traits found in the top vehicles in this segment.

Standard power comes from a new 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 170 hp and earning EPA estimates of 24/28 mpg for AWD models. Our SLE-trimmed sample featured the new 2.0-liter turbocharged four used in other Chevy and Cadillac models, producing an energetic 252 hp with 260 pound/feet of peak torque. Acceleration is easy, swift and propels this lighter crossover up to requested speeds with a vigor that will leave buyers never regretting the previous V-6 engine. A new nine-speed automatic transmission is used with the gasoline engines, while the previous six-speed automatic is teamed with the new 1.6-liter turbodiesel, which has EPA ratings of 23/39 mpg. The diesel motor will become available by late spring.

Other standard gear includes 4G LTE connectivity with on-board Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple and Android compatibility — for all trim levels, SL, SLE, SLT and Denali.

Another new feature will require a slight driver adjustment — the transmission shifter is now a bank of horizontal buttons on the lower center dash. Push for park and neutral, pull for reverse and drive and push and toggle for manual shift action; the Terrain explores new territory in space management and electronic shifting. While non-intuitive, the acceptance level should be fairly brief, as electronic shift points will soon proliferate.

A second shifting upgrade is the Terrain’s AWD system. A console knob lets operators select FWD-mode only for better fuel economy, and then engaging 4-AWD for continuous monitoring and instant 4-WD action when sensors detect wheel slippage. This flexible arrangement puts more control back in the driver’s hands.

On the GMC’s scorecard is a lengthy list of pros and some cons that are personal choices and impressions that not all might share. On the likes side: comfortable cloth seating with three-stage, two mode seat heaters that let you pick back-heat or back and buttock warmth (much better than leather too), excellent drivetrain performance, balanced and composed handling and ride, precise steering wheel controls for audio and cruise, nice touch-points and interfaces for buttons and switches, plus the spacious rear seat.

Nit-picks include the absence of a heated steering wheel and power liftgate at our SLE’s price point, $37,050, plus the nav screen uses an older interface that lacks some detail and is smaller than several rivals. The GMC’s automatic stop/start cycling on the push-button ignition appears to be undefeatable as well. To gain the electronic driving aids found on some rivals, blind spot detection, lane departure, automatic forward braking, you have to add another option package or go to the SLT trim level.

Pricing for the SL front-drive Terrain starts at $25,990, including destination fee. Our AWD SLE started at $29,600 before options like the panoramic sunroof, 2.0-liter engine, heated power seats, remote starting, roof racks, dual-zone climate and a tow package. The SLE diesel will start at $34,395.

Fresh design, modern turbo-power and balanced chassis put the latest Terrain right in the hunt for compact crossover buyers.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.

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