GMC Terrain — Better Than Good

by Frank S. Washington

PLYMOUTH, Mich., –I traveled to suburban Detroit to test drive GMC’s new 2010 Terrain utility vehicle. These days I general drop the sport from in front of the utility when I’m talking about a vehicle that has unibody (read car) construction.

The Terrain is the next bullet that GM is firing at the public in its fight to return to relevance with car buyers. And one of the company’s internal calls to war is “good enough is not good enough.” In other words, GM products must be the best.

This is GMC’s smallest utility vehicle but that doesn’t mean it’s miniscule. The Terrain is a five-passenger utility vehicle that can be powered by a four- or six-cylinder engine, mated to a six speed transmission and it can be outfitted with two-wheel- or four-wheel-drive.

The best in this package comes in two areas: the four cylinder model is rated at 32 mpg in the city and 22 mpg in the city. According to the specs, the Terrain has a highway range of more than 500 miles no matter which engine you have or how many wheels are being powered. That’s best in class, so says GMC.

Oh, the other best is rear leg room. The Terrain has more than its competitors thanks to a rear seat that will slide backward or forward eight inches. But that’s the sort of stuff you really discover after you’ve made your purchase. And vehicle purchases, it seems to me, are based on need, emotion which is fed by style and cost.

The GMC Terrain has the rugged look of its commercial truck heritage. The brand was created by Max Grabowski in 1901 and acquired by GM in 1909. I’ll spare you the name change history but it was one of the earliest commercial trucks on the road.

What will get customers into GMC showrooms to look at the Terrain is its muscularity. The vehicle has a huge distinctive grille, squared off edges, bulging wheel wells, and rectangular features everywhere from the running lights to the grille work.

It’s one of those vehicles that photos just do justice. The Terrain must be seen live for its exterior design to really be appreciated. As the design equation goes, that exterior design will entice consumers to open the door and it’s doubtful that they will not like what they find inside.

GMC’s challenge is to get consumers to test drive a Terrain. I had a four cylinder front-wheel-drive model and was impressed before I got in. The cloth interior was almost leopard like but it worked well because of the small spots.

The 182 horsepower four-cylinder engine was quiet, gear shifts were smooth and on the highway power was subtle but efficient. I didn’t have to put the pedal to metal to past anyone and cruising at 75 mph seemed effortless.

Build quality also seemed excellent. I could feel the Terrain going over bumps but the bounce associated with the protrusions never quite made into the cabin. And the sound indicated that the Terrain was solidly put together.

Road noise was minimal but there was a bit of wind noise right where I’d expect it in utility vehicle with a higher stance, the A pillars. But I really noticed the unobstructed view. My driving partner was Alan Nicol, the Terrain’s interior designer.

He credited the expansive view with the “low and away” design of the instrument panel. Instruments were reachable but not in my face, the setup gave the cabin a spacious feel. It would be hard for anybody to feel cramped sitting in a Terrain.

The Terrain’s dash board also had a peaked surface like that of a basketball. The days of smooth unattractive plastic surfaces in automotive interiors are fast falling on the wayside.

As with every GM vehicle, the list of stuff that the GMC Terrain could be equipped with is formidable and includes a rearview camera with or without the optional navigation system.

I’ve got to get a Terrain for a week long test in the urban world. But my first impression is that the GMC Terrain is better than good enough and it raises the bar on many fronts for competitive small utility vehicles.

GMC Terrain prices start at $24,995.


  1. i love my terrain.

  2. I have a GMC terrain recently 2010 only 34 kl one problem the trunk is not flat inside and the driving is very noisy on the road i have Michelin tirer wide why the van is more quiet tell me the solution Merci Fernand

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