2010 GMC Terrain SLT1 FWD review: Boldly going

2010 GMC Terrain SLT1 FWD

2010 GMC Terrain SLT1 FWD

“To boldly go where no man has gone before” was the mission of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek, but it applies as well to the 2010 GMC Terrain. The 2010 Terrain, based on the same platform as the Chevrolet Equinox, enters region never before trekked by GMC. The new GMC Terrain is a crossover SUV with strong sport utility styling—a nominally front-drive automobile chassis with optional all-wheel drive  and a deliberately rugged look.

That styling, craggy bodywork with squared off fenders and wheel arches fittedwith  a colossal, masculine grille ringed by chrome large and hosting a red GMC logo in its center, is intended to appeal to GMC intenders who want better mileage in a GMC-branded sport-utility vehicle. Indeed, though a V-6 engine is optional, GMC has been touting the EPA estimate of 32 mpg on the highway for the base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine.

It was a four-cylinder the GMC provided for testing, though in next to range topping SLT1 trim. Top trim is SLT2 and base is SLE1, and both I-4 and V-6 are available in either trim level as well as anything in between, and with all with all-wheel drive or front drive. According to GMC and Buick chief Susan Docherty, the latteris important to Southern and West Coast customers who have little need for all-wheel drive.

That’s an important consideration because it indicates that GMC doesn’t expect–nor should it–GMC Terrain owners to go boldly into the woods with the Terrain. Instead, GMC chief engineer Tim Herrick plugs the ability of the four-cylinder to tow up to 1,500 pounds, sufficient for a pair of personal watercraft or a small boat, he says.

2010 GMC Terrain SLT1 FWD

The 2010 GMC Terrain SLT1 equipped with two-tone upholstery.

The interior of the 2010 GMC Terrain is equipped for transport as well. Bins are everywhere, including the dash-top compartment pioneered by Subaru and finally discovered by others, and the cavern under the center armrest that starts up here and goes down to there, big enough to hold a laptop or even the archetypical woman’s purse. (Don’t blame us. GMC engineer Whitney Krause provided that example).

GM has had a well-deserved reputation for chintzy-feeling products. That’s no longer deserved, at least not from the inside of our tested GMC Terrain’s. Surfaces were soft touch where they should be and the stitching even and real. One quibble: the stitching in the door panels and seats of our test Terrain was in a contrasting red, but that on the leather-covered steering wheel was black.  It’s a missed opportunity for coolness, but one probably justified by manufacturing expenses.

The interior design overall, however, was stylish and chic, if that term can be applied to a GMC model without ruining its reputation, in the two-tone treatment of the seats and dash. The center stack is particularly slick, not only from an ergonomic and ease-of-use standpoint but also appearance of quality. A classy touch is the ambient lighting that surrounds the edges of the control panel on the stack, a soft ring of red that complements the GMC red color theme.

The feel  of the small controls is there, too, particularly in the push buttons, which have a solid and consistent push and detent. We’d like for the knobs to be stiffer, with less wobble, but perhaps that’s a tester’s pickiness, and the dash top bin cover could be stouter as well. The stalk controls, once the new GM system is figured out, are easy to use and the stalks themselves feel durable. All good stuff.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.

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