New Car Reviews

First Drive: 2010 GMC Terrain

To align its menu of trucks and people movers with rising interest in smaller, more fuel efficient transportation, GMC has broomed the hoary Envoy in favor of a fraternal twin to Chevy’s Equinox called Terrain. This brings an efficient four-cylinder engine into the lineup, highway mileage topping the crucial 30mpg barrier, and a fresh load of tantalizing creature features.


From GMC’s point of view, Terrain is a compact. That assessment references the huge Acadia and Yukon XL residing across the showroom. However, Terrain is considerably larger than the Honda CRV and that dominate the small SUV category so, in the greater scheme of crossovers, it’s a midsize.


Blocky proportions, a chunk of bling at the leading edge of the hood, oversized headlamps, and exaggerated fender flares seem contrived to make Terrain appear larger than it is. GM’s crossover vehicle chief designer John Cafaro Jr., a major contributor to the C5 Corvette, calls the look “tailored toughness.” Riding on a 112.5-inch wheelbase, Terrain is half a foot shorter and two inches narrower than the Envoy it replaces but more than 10-inches longer than a . While this sounds large enough to squeeze in three seating rows, GMC resisted that urge. With three other models in the lineup offering team-hauling capacity, Terrain is secure in its role as a five-seat crossover.

In spite of the genetic makeup shared with Chevy’s Equinox, Terrain’s exterior is sufficiently distinctive that there’s little chance the two will be confused on the street. Chevy bow ties are worn over body color grille bars while GMC’s red ID badges sparkle inside chrome presentation frames.

Terrain’s unibody has a single piece side stamping to assure tight, consistent door gaps and panel fits. High-strength steel is used for enhanced stiffness, resistance to squeaks and rattles, and to save a few pounds of weight. Six air bags – including side curtains that protect all outboard occupants during a lateral collision – are standard along with ABS and StabiliTrak electronic stability control.


Entering the Terrain involves a climb up over thick door sills even though there’s no real attempt here to provide off-road prowess. Like most crossovers, Terrain’s powertrain sits sidewise and focuses most of its energy on propelling the front wheels. When the optional all-wheel-drive powertrain is selected, the rear wheels go to work only when necessary with torque delivered through a Getrag-supplied computer-controlled coupling positioned downstream of the 6-speed automatic transmission.

An especially handy interior feature the Terrain received from Equinox is a MultiFlex rear seat that slides nearly eight inches fore and aft to trade legroom for cargo space on demand. Unfortunately, the split rear cushions are stuffed to the point they don’t fold fully flat when it’s time to haul a new big screen home from the mall.

Offered in SLE and SLT trim levels with a slew of optional upgrades, Terrain is available with two grades of cloth or perforated leather upholstery. The uplevel instrument panel pads are neatly molded and stitched with contrasting thread. There are storage areas aplenty and the center armrest is configured to swallow a laptop computer. HVAC, entertainment system, and navigation controls are logically arrayed and clustered at a convenient height above the center console.

The most notable faux pas is a button on the shifter for manual gear changes. This feature will see little use because the lever is located too far aft for handy reach and there’s no redline indicated on the tachometer.


To serve snooty customers with cash available to purchase a Chevy gussied up as a GMC, Terrain offers a full compliment of electrical and electronic goodies. You can program the power liftgate to automatically stop at any desired point of its travel to clear a low garage door or to provide pet ventilation while the vehicle is parked while running a quick errand. A rear-vision camera, OnStar, and XM satellite radio are all standard equipment. The available navigation system has a colorful 7-inch touch-sensitive screen wired to a 40-Gbyte hard drive. Click the right options box and you can Bluetooth your cell phone and connect MP3 and USB devices here. Four power outlets are provided and remote starting is optional.

The $1295 rear DVD entertainment system provides two display screens mounted to the front seat backs. In the interests of maintaining peace among siblings, they’re capable of playing two distinct programs concurrently.

To make the four-cylinder engine cod liver oil go down like a double-chocolate shake, Terrain has one of GM’s first applications of noise cancellation technology. Hidden microphones listen for any unseemly booming. When that ruckus is detected, an amplifier dispatches out-of-phase signals to a speaker located at the rear of the cabin. The sound waves cancel and peace and quiet prevail.


Both the base 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and the optional 3.0-liter V-6 have direct fuel injection, 4-valve combustion chambers, and compression ratios over 11:1 for utmost efficiency. The smaller engine is adequate for any use short of heavy trailer towing. The use of balance shafts, a rigidly mounted powertrain cradle, a well behaved 6-speed automatic, and the aforementioned noise cancellation technology makes this the smart choice for the days of rising fuel prices that lie ahead. Tapping an Eco mode button on the console locks the torque converter at 1125 rpm to save gas. While the optional 3.0-liter V-6 adds some verve (and $1500 to the price), it’s by no means an essential upgrade.


Our driving stint during Terrain’s launch program provided plenty of bumps and chuckholes but no off-road opportunities. The independent front and rear suspension systems are calibrated for excellent isolation from Michigan’s cratered surface pain and a poised highway ride. The electrically assisted power steering is accurate and responsive but doesn’t go out of its way to provide actual road feel. At least it has a good sense of straight ahead for painless long-distant cruising. Terrain is, after all, a transportation appliance, not a sports car masquerading as a truck.


Base prices that start below $30,000 (with 4wd and uplevel trim) and combined mileage ratings of 20 or more mpg are an attractive combination for anyone lusting after a right-sized SUV. Terrain should be an excellent companion to Acadia in GMC’s crossover category and a good contributor to GM’s financial health.


Base Price: $24,995

As-Tested: $37,585


Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-in-line
Horsepower: 182 hp @ 6700 rpm
Torque: 172 lb-ft @ 4900 rpm
Engine: 3.0-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 264 hp @ 6950 rpm
Torque: 222 lb-ft @ 5100 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: on-demand 4-wheel


L x W x H: 185.3-in x 72.8-in x 66.3-in
Legroom F/R: 41.2/39.9 in
Headroom F/R: 40.9/39.2 in
Cargo capacity (seats up/down): 31.6/63.9 cu ft
Base curb weight: 3798 lbs
EPA Rating (city/highway):
20-22/29-32 mpg with 4-cylinder
17/24-25 mpg with V-6