2018 GMC TERRAIN Review By Thom Cannell
Professional Grade Mid-sized CUV grows into greater style and luxury
2018 GMC Terrain Review
By Thom Cannell
The Auto Channel
We recently completed a harrowing must-arrive-on-time-at-airport drive from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water across Pittsburgh. It was an ugly rush hour, filled with incompetent, unobservant, and just plain silly drivers, and it provided a near-perfect test for the all-new 2018 GMC Terrain. Weaving in and around traffic proved the chassis was a work of art (as had previous mountainous driving), steering response was very good, comfort and security made us feel, well, secure, and the powertrain moved us ahead at every opportunity. We got our directions from the 7-inch navigation-equipped touch screen telematics system that’s standard on all new Terrain. Response to touch was swift and we thought the audio quality delivered from both an iPhone and satellite was far more than merely acceptable, it was good.
We arrived on time, somewhat frazzled, and the experience reemphasized several things we’d learned about this all-new Terrain:
Its quiet, almost silent interior made conversations easily audible. Responding to back seat conversations, even while holding another in front, was effortless.
The 2018 GMC Terrain’s enormous sunroof illuminated the interior almost as well as an open convertible top.
Its seats were comfortable and supportive in a lengthy 2.5-hour commute.
The new Terrain’s 2.0-liter turbocharged engine coupled to a 9-speed transmission (a segment first according to GMC) supplied abundant power.
Vision, critical to weaving in and out of multiple freeway entrances and exits, was excellent.
It also confirmed that we, personally, are not thrilled with the now-exclusive e-shifter with buttons on the console. While it surely opened welcome space in the center, we often wanted more control over the powertrain. Lastly, we were not overjoyed by the angle of Terrain’s new and handsome gauges; they angled downwards to resist glare, which resulted in a more-difficult reading for us.
Our conclusion; GMC’s 2018 Terrain is a true contender in the luxury market where it out-points many Asian and European competitors.
We’d flown to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to test this all-new new crossover, and we were infused with hope that it would live up to expectations created at its launch.
Terrain is a relatively new name plate at venerable GMC, debuting at the New York Auto Show in April 2009. At the reveal we were underwhelmed by that vehicle, particularly its patchwork, multi-surface exterior. It was a feeling that persisted until the unveiling of this all-new Terrain at the Detroit International Auto Show in 2017. What intrigued us most about the all-new 2018 Terrain was its cleaner, more layered exterior design. This Terrain reeked of sophistication from our vantage point many meters away. Then we got a look inside where it was obvious that designers had been allowed to source better, richer, truly premium materials. We were also excited that there was a diesel powertrain as well as two turbocharged gasoline engines, 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter in-line four-cylinder motors.
After having a chance to live with this crossover, though a very brief encounter, it is indeed a convincingly premium product. Exterior surfaces are clean, genuinely muscular in a way the outgoing model was not. Gone are unexplained bulges, replaced by sleekly sculpted panels that ooze refinement. Grilles, either Denali or its cousins are equally rich, and the addition of sculpted headlights and LED tail lights offered designers a clean and cultured canvas.
We always ask ourselves if we would buy this vehicle. In short, yes. It fits into garages and parking spaces, possibly automatically if you choose the automatic parking option. More important, you’ll fit into it just as comfortably. Hands fall naturally where you need them to find switches, touch pads, controls and buttons, and Terrain’s advanced electronics function as advertised.
Today, a fully equipped telematic suite is a necessary consideration. Thankfully, you can use standard embedded features like satellite radio, Pandora, navigation, etc. and easily link either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for enhanced and far more familiar application use. Or you may use the built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot to catch up on Facebook or Tinder, if you’re not driving; swipe left on that! OnStar is, of course standard, as are other effective technologies like Surround Vision, Forward Collision Alert with Following Distance indicator, Lane Keep Assist, Blind Side Zone alert with Lane Change Alert, and the extremely useful Rear Cross Traffic Alert. We have only scratched the circuit board on the totality of Terrain’s on-board tech.
With the all-new 2018 Terrain, the center console has become an even more useful place with super-deep arm rest storage including two USB connectors. It has side-by-side cup holders and a storage bin that’s the size of two deli sandwiches or your designer clutch. At the front of the console is something new, an Electronic Precision Shift (which we failed to fall in love with, a very personal observation) that is far more intuitive to operate than a console shifter. For ease of use, Terrain’s new one button-push Electronic Precision Shift is hard to beat. Select FWD or REV and you’re done. Towing a trailer? Dial up tow-mode on the standard Traction Select system and the transmission stays in the current gear longer. Our dissatisfaction is based in the goodness of the powertrain! It rolls along so smoothly, disconnecting the rear axel (AWD models, of course) when not needed to increase fuel efficiency, that it just keeps on rolling. We like a bit of engine braking when such control is needed for fast driving on twisting roads, a one-percent occurrence.
Interiors, particularly in Denali versions (which we did not test), offer more cultured interiors than SL, SLE, or SLT, moving from the Ritz and W-category into the boutique, which is to say from luxury to greater luxury. One difference between in-person and on-line information hit us squarely. Originally, looking only at photos, the stacked pod nature of controls for shifter, HVAC, and 7” (8” optional) touch screen looked, uhh, like stacked pods. In person the combination is far more organic and delivers natural progression of control structure.
Both of the vehicles we drove during our test, each in SL trim level—one with a a 1.6L Diesel option and 2.0-liter turbo with 252 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft of torque—showed refinement in the powertrain. We’ve touched on this, but coupling a 9-speed transmission to a turbocharged gasoline engine puts power when it is needed. Having a very low and exceptionally tall gear makes launches from stoplights swift and enhances fuel economy at every revolution of the engine. The diesel is, on paper, less powerful at 137 horsepower and 240 lb.-ft of torque. However, with its abundant torque that is useful at just above idle speed, the engine provides plenty of aggressive power at any stage and was particularly nice in the surrounding hills. Though a premium in price, if we were hyper-milers and wanted more than the EPA rating of 39 mpg (38 if AWD) we’d go for it. It’s coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
A third 1.5-liter turbo gasoline engine (170 hp/203 lb.-ft) is the standard motor, one we have not tested. We’ll place a wager that while a substantial number will buy Denali, which has grown to become a sub-brand, the other 70-80-percent will buy this power train. It too comes with a 9-speed transmission which should make it feel more powerful.
We look forward to evaluating the Denali trim level with its Bose stereo and LED headlamps for a full week of pampering. Regardless model, all are quiet, powerful, luxurious CUVs that easily fit into any carport or garage, an all-new 2018 GMC Terrain with excellent ratings, a new crossover to be proud of.