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2010 GMC Terrain SLE-2 Review

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2010 GMC Terrain SLE-2

GMC, truck specialist of the General Motors family, has something new for 2010. The Terrain is a mid-sized SUV made on a unibody platform. Elsewhere that's cause for "crossover" as if there is some embarrassment in the words "truck" or "SUV". Those two words do seem conspicuously absent from the official descriptions of their crossovers by most manufacturers, but not GMC's. It unabashedly calls the Terrain an SUV, and even lists ground clearance and towing capacity in the specifications.

The SUV trend has run its course, but that doesn't mean that there aren't still people who want or need an SUV, and who have no problem with it being called an SUV. Trend followers can go to whatever is trendy now; those who want a sport-utility vehicle for its utility can go to GMC. And, with the Terrain, they can have a right-sized vehicle that combines interior space and versatility, reasonable ground clearance, and useful towing ability -- 1500 pounds for the four-cylinder or 3500 for the V6 -- with car-like comfort and better fuel economy than can be had from a more traditional body-on-frame truck.

Although it's the smallest GMC SUV, the Terrain is not all that small, especially inside. It could be considered to have taken the niche in the GMC lineup once occupied by the Jimmy, as it is similar in size to that old body-on-frame truck, but it's marginally longer and has over five inches more wheelbase, for plenty of interior space. The Terrain is built to the standard crossover formula - unibody construction, transversely-mounted front engine (2.4-liter, 182-hp four-cylinder or 3.0-liter, 264-hp V6) in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive trim. Trim levels are base SLE-1, SLE-2, likely the most popular, luxury-oriented SLT-1, and premium SLT-2. The four-cylinder engine is standard in all, with the V6 available in all except the SLT-1. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission.

Don't think of the SLT-1 as a low-feature model though. Even it has the "MultiFlex" fore-and-aft adjustable 60/40 split rear seat, an AM/FM/XM/CD audio system with minijack and USB inputs for external audio players, a rear-view camera with display in the inside rear-view mirror, and full complement of safety equipment including StabiliTrak electronic stability control. My SLT-2 test vehicle adds fancier cloth seating, Bluetooth connectivity, an eight-speaker Pioneer audio system, automatic instead of manual climate control, and the availability of the V6 engine, with a trailering package for those so inclined, a sunroof, heated seats, remote start, a cargo management system, a touch-screen navigation system with a 40GB hard drive for music storage, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.

And my SLT-2 had most of the available options, V6 included, lacking only the towing package and rear-seat entertainment system. As equipped, it was an comfortable and useful mid-sized vehicle with most of the capabilities of a "real" truck SUV that most people actually use, and the 7.8 inches of ground clearance should make it friendly to both summertime camping trips involving logging roads and wintertime weather without any entrance/exit height problem. The MultiFlex rear seat is a great idea. With the V6, power was never lacking, and I suspect the same could be said of the four.

APPEARANCE: Wallflower-meek styling has never been in the GMC character, so the Terrain's in-your-face bold and boxy styling is no surprise. It says "truck", not "crossover". The oversized, chrome-trimmed grille, angular lines, and prominent rectangular fender blisters and wheel arches tied together by what looks like body cladding bow not at all to any city-crossover trends.

COMFORT: The Terrain is not really bigger inside than out, but it seems that way. In style, it's uniquely GMC, and the bright trim accents on the doors, instrument panel, and steering wheel echo the exterior angles. At SLE-2 level, upholstery is a pleasantly textured cloth that is both comfortable and interesting-looking. Firm padding means good seat comfort, and the SUV high eyepoint gives a good view of the road. The driver's seat is power-adjustable; the front passenger's is manual. The leather-rimmed steering wheel has cruise and auxiliary audio controls, and adjusts manually for both tilt and reach, a definite plus. Instruments are easy to read and well-protected from glare. The optional navigation system has a simple interface, and moves the backup camera image from the rear-view mirror to the screen at the top of the center stack. Inputs for music players are in the console box, with a power point. Red ambient lighting, including the cupholders, makes night-time use easier. All four doors have storage pockets and bottle holders. As pleasant as the front seats are, the rear is even better. Eight inches of fore-and-aft travel and a flat floor make it very comfortable for two and actually reasonable for the center position. Folding either part of the 60/40 seatback forward causes a flap to cover the space between the folded seat and the cargo floor, lessening the possibility of losing small items. And there's plenty of cargo space back there, with a space-saver spare under the load floor.

SAFETY: The Terrain's unibody structure incorporates a strong safety cage around the passenger cabin and front and rear crush zones. Energy-absorbing materials in the cabin offer further protection. Dual-stage front, front-seat side, and full-length head curtain airbags are standard in all models, as is the StabiliTrak electronic stability management system, a backup camera, and strong four-wheel antilock disc brakes. The standard OnStar system can notify the authorities in the even of a crash.

RIDE AND HANDLING: There is no truck in the Terrain's background, so don't expect any solid axles and leaf springs. The fully-independent strut front, multilink rear suspension is called "Soft Ride" and provides just that. The relatively long wheelbase further adds to ride comfort, and good soundproofing makes for a quiet, relaxing driving experience.

PERFORMANCE: Both Terrain engines are contemporary aluminum alloy, dual overhead cam, four valve per cylinder designs with variable cam phasing, direct fuel injection, and electronic throttle control. Direct injection allows use of a high compression ratio (11.7:1 in the V6, 11.4:1 in the four) for improved efficiency and power output, and lower emissions -- and allows the use of regular unleaded gasoline. Variable cam phasing likewise improves power characteristics. Use of a six-speed automatic transmission allows lower low gears for quick acceleration and strong low-speed towing and higher high gears for more economical cruising. With 264 horsepower (at 6950 rpm) and 222 lb-ft of torque (at 5100 rpm), the V6 is the best choice if towing is a need. So-equipped, and with the towing package, the Terrain can tow up to 3500 pounds, meaning a small boat or camping trailer. The four's 1500-pound capacity is still plenty for watercraft or motorcycles. EPA mileage is 17/25, and with a moderate amount of highway driving I saw a 19mpg average.

CONCLUSIONS: It may technically be a crossover, but the GMC Terrain is still all-truck in character and style.

2010 GMC Terrain SLE-2 FWD

Base Price			$ 25,850
Price As Tested			$ 32,620
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 24-valve aluminum
				 alloy V6 with direct fuel injection
Engine Size			3.0 liters / 183 cu. in.
Horsepower			264 @ 6950 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			222 @ 5100 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		112.5 in. / 185.3 in.
Curb Weight			4032 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		15.3
Fuel Capacity			20.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87-octane regular unleaded gasoline
Tires				P235/55R19 101H Hankook Optimo H725
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc all around, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent strut /
				  independent multilink
Ground clearance		7.8 inches
Drivetrain			transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 25 / 19
0 to 60 mph				7.8  sec

Convenience Package - includes:
  heated front seats, remote start system		$ 440
Cargo Management Package - includes:
  rear cargo security cover, cargo net, roof rack
  crossbars						$ 245
Audio System With Navigation - includes:
  AM/FM stereo, CD player, RDS, auxiliary jack,
 voice-activated navigation system with 7-inch touch
 screen, 40GB hard drive				$ 2,145
3.0-liter dohc V6 engine				$ 1,500
19" chromed aluminum wheels				$   900
Tilt & slide sunroof					$   795
Destination charge					$   745