First Drive: GMC’s all-new 2018 Terrain compact CUV

The 2018 GMC Terrain has earned a spot on the short list of compact CUV shoppers

2018 GMC Terrain

LAC-BEAUPORT, QC – If it weren’t for the big GMC nameplate dominating the massive new front grille, you might not recognize the 2018 Terrain – the latest iteration of this compact crossover is that different from its predecessor. In fact, this second-generation Terrain differs so much there’s not a single part that’s common with the current model, notes GMC brand manager Mark Alger.

Sharper, stronger, new exterior styling drives home the difference. The current generation’s two-box, slab-sided design with bulging wheel arches has been replaced by a bolder, more sculpted and refined look that starts with a fresh face accented by C-shaped headlight assemblies – a design cue that’s emerging as a signature feature for the brand. The new Terrain’s emphasis on attention to detail is apparent in the headlights, which have the brand and model nameplates embedded within the assemblies.

The snout of the Terrain is dominated by a new grille that comes in three “flavours” – one for each of the trio of trim levels. The base SLE gets a blacked-out horizontal bar design with the GMC nameplate front and centre; the mid-range SLT adds chrome trimming to the three crossbars, while the premium Denali has a totally different, multidimensional mesh, satin-chromed design. The Denali also is equipped with LED headlamps, while the other trim levels have HID lamps.

The current Terrain’s bulging wheel arches have been toned down on the new version, defined now by a character line that extends from front to rear and helps give the vehicle side a smooth, flowing look. The wheel wells are filled with new wheel designs – 17-inch alloy rims are on the SLE, while the SLT has 18-inch wheels and the Denali gets 19-inchers.

Perhaps the biggest exterior change is the roofline – it’s now a floating design with a blacked-out rear pillar, a hot trend in CUV styling that’s showing up on several of the competition’s new premium models.

New inside too

The Terrain’s interior has also been redesigned to make it more functional. All trim levels have a new fold-flat rear seatback and front passenger seatback that makes stowing longer items so much easier. Overall cargo space has increased, with a total of 2,294 litres with the front passenger and rear seats folded; with just the rear seatback flat, there’s 1,792L, and with the rear seat upright, there’s still 846L of storage capacity. Under the rear cargo floor, there’s a storage bin to tuck away items you’d prefer to keep out of sight. You can readily change the configuration – to lower the front seatback, just lift a lever on the side of the seat; to drop the 40/60-split rear seatback, either pull up a lever on the seatback or use the levers mounted in the cargo area.

The interior is nicely trimmed, with premium materials and impressive craftsmanship. The instrument panel and inner door panels are covered in soft-touch materials, while satin-finished aluminum accents create an upscale feel.

The seats proved to be comfortable and supportive during our afternoon of driving, while the standard active noise cancellation kept the intrusion of engine and road noise to a minimum. Canadian-exclusive standard features include remote start, dual-zone climate control with vents for the second row, plus heated front seats.

If you opt for the SLT trim, you’ll also enjoy such Canadian exclusives as a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a hands-free power lift gate and six-way power passenger seat in addition to numerous upgrades shared with all North American models. Additional Canadian features on the top-of-the-line Denali include heated and ventilated front seats and heat rear outboard seats.

Throughout the cabin there are numerous bins and cubbyholes. The interior door panels, for example, have an assortment of appropriately shaped storage spots to hold drink bottles and other items for families on the go.

Adapting to the digital age

One storage feature I found especially practical was a rubber-lined slot in the instrument panel in front of the passenger. It’s designed to hold a cell phone, so the occupant doesn’t have to tuck the phone in a door bin, where it inevitably falls out, or fight for space in a centre-console cupholder. There’s also a slot in the console of the Denali for wireless charging.

Charging ports abound in all trim levels – the SLE has two data/charging ports plus a pair of charge-only USB ports, while the SLT and Denali have two additional USB ports plus a 110-volt power outlet.

For 2018, the Terrain gets an all-new infotainment system featuring a simplified home-screen layout similar to a smartphone. The multi-touch display responds like your smartphone, with pinch and zoom, swipe and scroll on screen features.

The new system is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and is capable of simultaneous pairing with two Bluetooth devices. An additional feature – a first for GMC – is an interface that accommodates up to five users, each with their own personalized user profiles.

OnStar’s 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot, including a three-month, 3GB data trial, is standard on all models. GM’s Teen Driver feature is also standard, as is its rear-seat reminder system, which alerts the driver to check the back seat for overlooked occupants if the rear door has been used during the trip.

Powertrain updates

Positioned beneath the infotainment screen is a new electronic shifter, indicative of the changing nature of powertrain systems. It replaces the traditional console-mounted shifter, freeing up more storage space in the centre console. The Terrain is not the first vehicle to shift to an -mounted electronic system, but the Terrain’s shifter is operated by buttons, rather than a lever or dial.

I found it quite intuitive to operate, with the Drive and Reverse buttons requiring a pull action, while the Park button is pushed to activate. It took just a few minutes to get comfortable with this system.

With the Terrain’s gasoline-fuelled powertrains, the shifter controls a nine-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, which proved to be flawless during our drive time in this picturesque area of Quebec. (The available diesel engine is coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission.)

Three new turbocharged Ecotec engines, including an available diesel, have been introduced to power the Terrain. A 1.5-litre four-cylinder, generating 170 horsepower and 201 lb-ft of torque, is standard on the SLE. In front-wheel drive configuration, its fuel efficiency is rated at 9.2L/100 km in city driving, 7.9 on the highway and 8.6 combined.

A 2.0L turbo-four is standard in the SLT and Denali (and available for the SLE.) It cranks out 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Its fuel consumption ratings (with all-wheel drive) are 11.2 city, 9.0 highway and 10.2 combined.

The diesel option is a 1.6L four-cylinder that’s shared with the Terrain’s sibling, the Chevrolet Equinox. Its output is rated at 137 horsepower and a stout 240 lb-ft of torque. Fuel consumption, with front-wheel drive) is rated at 8.5 city, 6.0 highway and 7.4 combined.

A fuel-saving auto stop/start feature is standard with all three engines.

On the road

The 2.0L powertrain in my gasoline-powered test vehicle performed well during my drive time, with plenty of power on tap for quick, safe highway merging and passing. The transmission shifted seamlessly and wasted no time searching its inventory of gear ranges for the one that was appropriate for my demands.

Likewise, the 1.6L diesel was quite responsive – and surprisingly quiet. In fact, none of the typical diesel clatter could be heard inside the cabin, even under hard acceleration. There was just a smooth, “torque-rich” response when the go-pedal was pushed. (I wasn’t able to take a spin in the 1.5L-powered SLE model.)

The 2018 Terrain, which is built on a new platform that’s lighter (by 10% or about 200 kg) and stiffer (by 34%), has new suspension systems front and rear that result in a better ride and improved road feel.

The test vehicles I drove delivered a comfortable ride, absorbing bumps and other road imperfections without a fuss. At speed on the highway, the Terrain was quite stable and there was minimal body roll while I negotiated the highway access ramps. Maneuvering this crossover in parking lots was a breeze, thanks to a tighter turning circle. It has been reduced to 11.4 metres (37.4 feet), compared to the current generation at about 12.5 metres (41 feet).

The Terrain’s towing capacity is 1,585 kilograms (3500 lb) when equipped with the available towing package, the 2.0L powertrain and all-wheel drive.

Although the compact crossover segment is so highly competitive, GMC has made its new Terrain a solid contender. The brand has increased standard content significantly for 2018, while delivering better value by reducing prices across the lineup.

The SLE’s pricing now starts at $30,195, including freight charges – a price reduction of $1,605 while gaining $1,000 in additional standard content. Pricing for the SLT starts at $37,695, down $150 while adding $2,900 in content. The Denali’s base price has been reduced $3,580 to $41,695, while adding $2,800 in standard content.

With its stylish new looks, upgraded interior, efficient new powertrains, additional standard features and reduced prices, the 2018 GMC Terrain should definitely be on the short list of compact crossover shoppers.



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