The GMC Terrain is a square-shouldered counterpoint to the belief that small crossovers should be domesticated, mainstreamed tall cars. It adds a welcome dose of rugged attitude and available V6 power to the standard compact-SUV recipe of everyday convenience and usability, and does so at a competitive price.

Pricing and Equipment

The Terrain is the starter GMC in terms of both size and purchase price, and shares its underpinnings with the Chevrolet Equinox. Base MSRP for a four-cylinder front-drive Terrain SL is $24,070 plus destination; a rearview camera, keyless entry, and Bluetooth phone connectivity are standard. Trim levels climb through SLE-1 (SiriusXM radio, among other details), SLE-2 (power driver's seat, more available options) and SLT (leather upholstery, navigation, etc.) before topping out with the Denali at $34,275 plus destination. Buying a V6 Terrain first requires selecting the SLE-2 or above, and then adding $1,500. All-wheel drive (available on all except the SL) costs another $1,750.

The standard motor is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with variable valve timing and 182 horsepower. The available 3.6-liter V6 packs 301 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission is used on all models. EPA estimates range from a rather impressive 21 city/31 highway for a front-drive, four-cylinder Terrain, to a less cheerful 16 city/23 highway when the V6 and all-wheel-drive are selected.

  • A battery of driver safety aids (blind zone and cross-traffic alerts, collision warning, lane departure warning) is available on the SLE-2 and SLT, and standard on the Denali.
  • The Denali also piles on plenty of trim and luxury features, including genuine mahogany in the cabin, providing the full luxury experience at at a midmarket price.
  • If you have a shiny take on life, the Chrome Edition package applies the reflective material to door handles and external mirrors. If you feel more in tune with the Dark Side, the Nightfall dress package adds a slate of charcoal-colored accent pieces.

Performance Pros

INFINITI QX30

The Terrain delivers everything buyers expect in a small-to-midsize crossover: all-weather capability, easy handling, a sense of security, and enough grunt to handle moderate loads and rough roads. It's an excellent example of why crossovers are the most popular vehicles on the market right now.

  • The 301-horsepower V6, shared with the bigger Acadia, provides plenty of muscle for everything short of drag racing and pushes the Terrain around with confidence.
  • Ride quality is pleasant and well controlled, even on rough roads. The suspension tuning does a great job of minimizing impacts.
  • Towing capacity is a respectable 3500 pounds with the V6.

Performance Cons

  • The base four-cylinder provides good around-town motivation, but wilts when faced with heavy tasks. Customers who regularly haul loads, face steep hills, or tow trailers should treat the V6 as mandatory.
  • The flip side of that advice is measured at the pump: fuel economy with the V6 will remind you more of a traditional SUV than a light-footed crossover.
  • The rugged cousin-of-Hummer styling is unfortunately not matched by serious off-road capability. A Terrain will be fine along unpaved roads, but it's really an all-weather suburban transporter, not a rock crawler.

Interior Pros

INFINITI QX30

The Terrain is another example of GMC's appealing paradox of designing very comfortable and livable interiors for their tough-looking trucks. Clocking long distances in the Terrain is effortless regardless of weather or road conditions, and the body's larger-than-class-average dimensions translate into plenty of usable interior room.

  • The front features enough headroom to handle NBA point guards or Abraham Lincoln impersonators, complete with hat.
  • Long-suffering long-legged passengers will be thrilled to learn that the rear seat slides back and forth a full 8 inches, adding an extra dose of flexibility to the generous dimensions of the Terrain's cabin.
  • The four-cylinder includes Active Noise Cancellation technology to put a lid on sound from the engine; the V6's noises are pleasantly muted by nature.

Interior Cons

  • You will quickly learn to appreciate the standard rearview camera. As with many modern crossovers, outward visibility is not generous.
  • The quality of some materials is still a step behind the competition.
  • Your tolerance of the cargo-floor height may depend on how long it's been since your last CrossFit session.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

There's nothing in the Terrain's general description or appearance that indicates how it excels as a long-distance highway cruiser. The quiet and spacious cabin and comfortable ride give it legs to rival expensive sedans.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

The crossover market is intensely competitive and the Terrain's dated structure and mechanics—the platform was introduced back in 2010—put it at a qualitative disadvantage. It's time for the Terrain and its Equinox sibling to get the kind of audacious and appealing remake that is turning into a habit for GM.

The Bottom Line

The Terrain has been a strong seller for GMC, and for good reason . Not only does it cover the standard crossover bases, but it also works extremely well over the long haul. If you want a dose of gutsy design and a spacious interior along with all-weather capability and all-around usability, the Terrain makes a strong case for a visit to your local GMC dealer.