Thumbs Up: The interior is the best I’ve seen in a domestic, non-luxury vehicle.
Thumbs Down: Six speed automatic transmission is overkill and feels like a CVT.
Buy This Car If: You need to haul four or five people and their stuff in comfort, but still want decent fuel economy.
Sometime after college, you come to a sobering realization: there are cars you want to drive, like a BMW M3 or a Mustang GT convertible, and there are cars that circumstances (a growing family, a house in the suburbs) force you to drive. To me, crossover vehicles fit into this latter category. They’re not particularly entertaining for a driver, which is the kiss of death for any true automotive enthusiast. They’re not as functional as go-anywhere SUVs, but they’re not as soul-crushing as driving a minivan. Crossovers are a reasonable compromise for hauling stuff from Home Depot, packing up the family and heading south to see the relatives, or simply getting to and from work on a daily basis. They’re generally better on gas than SUVs, they have a more comfortable ride than SUVs and they’re usually less expensive than SUVs. If you need AWD for winter driving, most crossovers have this as an available option.
The 2010 GMC Terrain bills itself as a five passenger crossover, with premium features and bold styling that links back to the rest of the GMC family. I’ll buy into all of that, as the Terrain willingly swallowed the passengers and cargo I threw at it, transported us in comfort, and looked good doing it. I was surprised to see that such a big vehicle was only packing a 2.4 liter, direct injection, four cylinder Ecotec motor, but my first drive impressed me. The four cylinder Terrain never felt underpowered in normal driving. You won’t be towing a twenty foot boat while hauling five passengers and luggage with the Ecotec motor, but that’s why GMC also offers the Terrain with a 3.0 liter V6. Want AWD? GMC offers that on 2010 Terrain models as well.
I can’t get over how much I liked the interior, which is hands down the best I’ve seen from a non-luxury domestic brand. I’m a big fan of cloth seats, which provide better ventilation and grip than their leather or vinyl counterparts, and require no care and feeding. The textured seat material in the Terrain (also used in its sister vehicle, the Chevrolet Equinox) is very comfortable and looks great in the contrasting grey and black fabric. The dash is superb, blending grey and black plastic with an instrument surround meant to resemble leather. Red stitching, matching the GMC logo color and the instrument lighting, is used with great effect to offer some contrast on interior and dash stitching. The door latches are trimmed with plastic, styled to look like brushed aluminum, and the door pocket inserts are molded in red rubber, again tying back to the GMC logo color. You can tell that quite a bit of thought went into the interior, which makes it a pleasant place to rack up the miles. For snowbirds or those with vacation properties in distant states, the Terrain would be a great option for getting from point A to point B.
The tester came equipped with a rear seat DVD system and wireless headphones. Try though I might, I couldn’t get my wife to haul me around while I tossed back gin and tonics and watched “Pulp Fiction” for the 200th time. I’m sure the DVD system works great, and would be just the thing to ensure domestic tranquility on long road trips. The back seat was roomy enough to carry three comfortably, especially around town. You won’t be taking the Terrain cross country if you need to haul three offensive linemen to the NFL draft, but they won’t complain if you’re just ferrying them from the airport.
Other sites have panned the Terrain for it’s lack of cargo space, but it never disappointed me. If you run out of space behind the seats, you can always add a cargo pod to the SLE-2 version’s roof rack; if that’s still not enough room, then you need to be shopping for a bigger truck.
Visually, the Terrain appeals to the traditional GMC truck customer. My neighbor, who drives a Chevy Avalanche, loved it and remarked on the styling. It’s certainly more masculine than a Honda CR-V or a Nissan Murano, two vehicles that GMC is specifically targeting with this model. Unlike the Ford Edge, whose styling appeals to almost everyone and offends no one, the GMC Terrain will have fans and critics alike. If you don’t like the looks of GMC’s SUVs and trucks, you probably won’t like the Terrain either. And that’s a shame, because you’ll be passing up a very comfortable choice.
One of the key selling points cited by GMC is best in class fuel milage, rated at 22 city and 32 highway. I averaged 22.6 miles per gallon in city driving, so I have no reason to doubt the EPA’s numbers. Also, my tester had racked up only 1,500 miles since it left the factory, so fuel mileage will only get better once the Ecotec motor is fully broken in.
As I mentioned earlier, the Terrain never felt underpowered with the base 2.4 liter direct injection Ecotec motor. It’s rated at 182 horsepower and 172 ft-lbs of torque, which was fine for hauling three passengers around town. An “Economy” switch helps increase fuel mileage by upshifting at lower rpms and limiting downshifts. It’s not too intrusive for normal driving, but if you’re intent on passing a slower car, be sure to turn the “Economy” mode to off. If you need more grunt than the Ecotec motor offers for towing, the optional 3.0 liter V6 gives you 264 horsepower and 222 ft-lbs. of torque, enough to tow up to 3,500 pounds.
I wasn’t a big fan of the Terrain’s six speed automatic transmission. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s a case of “if five is good, then six must be better”. The transmission spends too much time hunting between gears and feels like a CVT when you put your foot all the way in it; in my opinion, a well sorted five speed automatic would have been a better choice. I’m sure GMC chose the six speed to boost fuel mileage, and most Terrain drivers won’t even notice what I’m griping about.
Handling was predictable, although I resisted the urge to try Consumer Reports style drop-throttle testing of the Stabilitrak stability control system. You’re not buying a Terrain to autocross it, and the GMC didn’t present any bad manners to me under heavy braking or cornering. Other reviewers have complained about a rough ride from the optional 18” wheels, but I didn’t notice any harshness on rough pavement or over railroad tracks. I made sure the tires were set (cold) at GMC’s recommended pressure of 35 psi, and I’m guessing complaints of a harsh ride may have been generated by over-inflated tires.
Pricing starts at just under $25,000 for a FWD base model, already reasonably well equipped. Option out an AWD version with the V6 and SLT trim, and you can easily top $37,000 on the sticker. The example I drove was a mid-level SLE-2 ($25,950), equipped with the Convenience Package ($440), the Rear Entertainment System ($1,295), a Sunroof ($795) and 18” Machined Aluminum Wheels ($250) for a sticker price of $29,475. A similarly equipped Nissan Murano would set you back $35,250, while a comparable Ford Edge would price out at $36,115, making the GMC a relative bargain in comparison.
So, here’s the million dollar question: would I recommend it to friends and family shopping for a crossover? Yes, I would definitely recommend a test drive of the GMC Terrain. You’ll either love the styling or you’ll hate it, but the outstanding interior will go a long way towards winning over those who aren’t fond of the outside. As for safety, it’s got a five star frontal and side crash rating, and a four star rollover rating. Factor in the best-in-class fuel mileage, and the 2010 GMC Terrain is a hard choice to ignore.