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2018 GMC Terrain SLT Review By Thom Cannell


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2018 GMC Terrain SLT Review
By Thom Cannell
Senior Editor
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

• No attempt at completeness, simply comments on one week’s driving experience—balanced against years of experience and hundreds of comparisons.

“I love this car; I didn’t think I’d ever want anything other than my Camry!”


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GMC’s 2018 Terrain is hardly an average family car, which is today a sports utility vehicle—an SUV. With diligence, perseverance, and clever marketing, GMC has created a luxury brand that maintains its heritage of rugged, dependable, hard-working trucks, now with refinement and elegance. This all-new Terrain is far more urbane, more sophisticated than its predecessor and equally at home on Rodeo Drive or a rodeo.


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During our week-long test of the Quicksilver Metallic 2018 Terrain SLT Terrain, we drove in darkness and light, through thunderstorms and brilliant sun. Several months previous, we’d driven many of the Terrain models at its launch in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in congested cities and through mountainous two-lanes. Compared to the previous model, the new Terrain is Margot Robbie’s Vanity Fair cover, with a bit of her Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad) face, which is to say svelte and sensuous, while disguising power and capability. So, our friend’s comment was more surprising to her than us. Our informed judgment is you’d like it, as did we.


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We were visiting Lee County, Florida, a great place to test family cars. The roads are flat, crowded, with many opportunities to test evasive abilities, but no reason for spirited driving. In other words, average modern driving. Thus we found our co-driver’s comment revealing as to why so many are shifting from sedans to the new station wagon, the car-based crossovers called SUVs. They offer a command driving view, expanded space for people and cargo, aren’t so tall a ladder is needed for entry, and are now fuel-efficient.


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Terrain is available in three trim levels, SL/SLE starting at $25,970, SLT which is available with a small and fuel efficient diesel engine. It starts at $32,295. The Denali ($38,495), which is the most desirable trim level and a brand in itself, delivers a standard 8” infotainment system (versus 7”), LED headlamps and a heated steering wheel.


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The new Terrain features a bold octagonal grille with brightwork surrounding the main air intake. While most models have a bright horizontal grille, Denali provides a chrome grate-like grille. Boomerang headlight shapes are echoed in similar LED tail lamps. Designers have pared down the older Terrain’s thickness, replacing its overly muscular flanks with cascading, finely drawn layers. What you cannot see, but feel, is increased body rigidity, now 34-percent stiffer. This means less interior noise and greater safety for your family.

Our SLT was subtle about its luxury appointments. However, we soon noticed contrast stitching on the dash, graining that matched across panels, perforated leather seats with both heat and ventilation, and trim that was real aluminum.


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While most buyers seek out SUVs for their efficiency-of-size, they are often interested in the power beneath the hood. Terrain offers two gas engines mated to 9-speed automatic transmissions, a 1.5L turbo (170HP/201 LB-FT) and a more powerful 2.0L turbo (252 HP/260 LB-FT) that we tested here. Also available is a 1.6L turbo-diesel. Its power output is 137 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque, which is slightly less than the 2.0L, but it delivers the best fuel economy at 28 City, and 39 mpg on the Highway. If you’re commuting long distances, the extra cost of the diesel and its six-speed auto might be repaid in fuel cost and resale value. All three powertrains are equipped with one of the smoothest Stop-Start systems we’ve tested, another fuel-saving feature.


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After picking up our Terrain SLT, we filled it with luggage (not as pictured!) and set out for nearby accommodations. We immediately noted how quiet the interior was, something we’d observed in our previous test drive. GMC, like all manufacturers, not only chases Best In Class fuel economy, but quietness on the road. Another thing we noticed, which might be important for some, is that the safety belt has only one shoulder height. For taller or shorter drivers this could be problematic. Depending on where the seat is positioned, your build and gender, there is no adjustability, only pulling down and across.


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Along with quietness, our first evening drives through the traffic of Lee County showed excellent headlights. Headlights have long been a sore spot for those of us who’ve experienced European lighting. The 2018 Terrain excels and we expect to see good ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Light from the standard HID lighting was wide, uniform, and fully lit the sides of the road, as well as ahead. We expect no less from the Denali’s LED headlamps.


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The engine’s power was impressive at every stoplight. Modest throttle application pushed us ahead more than briskly. In fact, after an 8-inch rainfall, we had wheel spin away from those same stoplights! We chalk this up to low rolling resistance tires; they provide more fuel economy, and less road grip in every vehicle we’ve tested. We also thought that the transmission provided incredibly smooth transitions between its nine gears, which brings up our fuel economy. Overall, we averaged 22.6 miles per gallon (it’s EPA rated at 23 combined) and a best of 32.2-MPG, far better than its 26-MPG EPA highway rating.


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With two drivers, opinions differed on some of the features of our posh ride. For instance she thought the seats too firm; we thought them perfect, particularly for longer drives. The most interesting—and controversial—feature of the new Terrain is its ”Electronic Precision Shifter” with push buttons at the bottom of the console. Let’s say opinions were divided, with her an instant accepter, while we still wanted more choice of control. She loved the ergonomic placement of the three buttons, Drive, Park, and Neutral. Some drivers like to select a gear, which remains possible (but onerous), to use engine braking for finer control over vehicle dynamics. Yes, we’re that 1%.

We agreed that the turning circle was a too wide, as U-turns—important in Fort Myers—required nearly three lanes. For head-in parallel parking we hugged the left side to turn right. The backup camera, now standard on most vehicles, sent bright images to the navigation screen almost instantly. What we hadn’t expected was any potential impact—whether an obstacle, moving vehicle, or pedestrian—produced an on-screen and audible warning and a nudge to the driver’s backside! Yes, it’s called “haptics” and similar to the vibration your phone can produce.

We love cross traffic warning, and this just ups the game in a useful (and entertaining) way.

We also agreed that the 2018 GMC Terrain rides with elegance, neither too firm nor too soft. It’s a vehicle you could easily drive for hours, or enjoy for a run to the grocery.


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Another feature of every modern vehicle is a suite of “telematics” or “infotainment”, the combination of radio, satellite receiver, and navigation system. Voice entry for navigation functioned reliably in most cases. But, like every system, where there were multiple identically named locations we could be lead astray, as we were when locating the Bonita Springs Elks club. The next evening we were delivered directly to a numbered address with only voice entry.

Another delight, once our iPhone was connected, it was automatically synced every time we started the car and our Pandora play list resumed where paused. We also tried Apple Car Play and its familiar applications, particularly for selecting play lists.

With all of that said, here’s the Bullet Points, both the Good and Room For Improvement:

The Good:

  • Solid powertrain choice of three fuel-efficient and powerful engines.
  • Quiet, sturdy, supple ride and handling characteristics; you’ll enjoy driving a Terrain every day.
  • Incredibly improved style. Gone are the Mad Max boxy shapes, replaced by a layered and enduringly styled exterior.
  • An interior that delivers on the luxury promise with more than leather seats; useful telematics and infotainment, stellar ergonomics, and plenty of room.
  • Folding rear 60/40 split seats aren’t new; uncommon is a flat-folding front passenger seat for delivering eight-foot cargo.
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    Split Decision:

    • Electronic Precision Shifter. You’ll love it or not.

    Room For Improvement:

    • A turning circle that’s too wide. Trim a lane off, please.
    • Offer three-season tires that provide wet traction (this is an industry-wide issue, not GM’s alone).
    • Fix the single point seat belt attachment, not everyone is built the same.

    More Independent GMC Information Than Anywhere Else