The Terrain, GMC’s combatant in the torrid compact crossover wars, is a somewhat more upmarket variation on its corporate cousin, the Chevrolet Equinox. They share mechanicals and structure and the fact that they have been completely redesigned for 2018. The differences reside in styling, features, suspension tuning — and personality.
The pricing of the new Terrain starts at an affordable $24,995 and goes up to the decidedly premium all-wheel-drive Denali model that I tested. That option had a base price of $39,270 and ended up with a total tag of $44,470.
What you get for that buck is a particularly pleasant, premium piece. Like the other Terrain models, the Denali is built on a new and much stronger platform. As a result of that additional rigidity, coupled with improved sound insulation, the car is as quiet as it is handsome. The structural strength and the suspension tune also render it surprisingly agile.
While the new Terrain is 3.2 inches shorter than its predecessor, the interior remains roomy. There is enough legroom and headroom in the backseat to accommodate tall people. The downsizing manifests itself in the cargo space, which drops from 32 cubic feet to 30. (Amends are made by providing a flat-folding front passenger seat that allows 8-foot pieces of framing lumber to fit in the car.)
The Denali comes standard with GM’s direct-injected, 2-liter turbo, which can be found in everything from Buicks, Chevys, and Cadillacs to the extinct Pontiac Solstice. I like this engine. It has horsepower ratings ranging from the 250s to the 270s (252 in the Terrain) and a ton of torque. It made for lively fun in the Denali. It was also quiet and inoculated against the vibration virus, with reasonable EPA mileage ratings of 21 city and 26 highway in all-wheel-drive form.
The Terrain also is offered with a new base engine, a 1.5-liter turbo that develops 170 horsepower and delivers EPAs of 30 and 26 as a front-driver. The economy king, however, is the also new-for-2018 1.6-liter turbodiesel, a rarity in the compact crossover segment that engenders EPAs of 28 and 39 in a front-drive setting. (Unlike the Terrains with gas engines, which have a nine-speed automatic, the diesel is buttoned to a six-speed.)
Beyond the Denali’s slick exterior styling, the interior is aesthetic and upmarket. The heated, power front seats, black leather with white stitching and perforated inserts, are comfortable, if in need of a bit more bolstering. The next thing you notice is the unique electronic shifter. Situated at the base of the center stack, it consists of buttons you press to select park and neutral, and little levers you pull to put it into drive or reverse. It takes a little getting used to, but it does save space on the console.
Hitting the start button brings the willing and mannerly turbo to life, and tugging on the drive button gets you on your way. The engine has a nice note, and the transmission goes about its business in a seamless fashion. The steering is linear and properly weighted, and the braking is quite ample. The handling is more athletic and enjoyable than you would expect from a crossover. That is partly due to the Denali’s special suspension tuning, which is rather firm. You feel the bumps on rough pavement, but the ride is quite comfortable most of the time.
The tester was one heavily equipped critter. The goodies ranged from a litany of electronic safety gear to an array of infotainment features, such as OnStar-connected navigation.
2018 GMC Terrain Denali
Base price: $39,270.
As tested: $44,470.
Standard equipment: 2-liter, directed-injected turbo, nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive, and an exceptional amount of luxury features.
Options: Include a panoramic sunroof, safety electronics, ventilated front seats and heated back ones.
Fuel economy: 21 mpg city and 26 highway.
Engine performance: Satisfying.
Ride comfort: Firm but reasonable.
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper.
Four Bens: Excellent.