2016 GMC Terrain road test: 7 years later, it’s still going strong

2016 GMC Terrain Denali

2016 GMC Terrain Denali

There have been updates, some of them significant, but the 2016 GMC Terrain is pretty much the same vehicle that first appeared in showrooms as a 2010 model.

How do I know this? That’s because I first spent time in one of those 2010 compact crossover vehicles and recently put a few hundred miles on a deluxe version of the 2016 Terrain.

The chunky styling is basically the same, the sluggish four-cylinder engine continues unchanged, the driving position has not been altered, the interior space is the same and the luggage capacity is identical.

GMC Terrain instruments

GMC Terrain instruments

Yes, the front and rear ends have been refreshed, important safety equipment has been added and a more energetic V-6 engine replaced the initial uninspiring V-6 motor in 2013.

But, as the saying goes, if you’ve seen one Terrain, you’ve seen them all.

Why would GMC stick with this fraternal twin to the Chevrolet Equinox for so long? Seven model years is an eternity in the car business, an almost unheard of length of time without a ground-up overhaul.

The answer, obviously, is in the numbers. A mere 14,033 Terrains were sold late in 2009 after the vehicle’s introduction as a 2010 model. The sales have climbed every year since, from about 60,500 sales in calendar year 2010 to 112,030 sales in calendar year 2015. The Terrain is now GMC’s second-best selling vehicle, behind the Sierra full-size pickup truck.

Terrain front seats

Terrain front seats

And that leads us to the next question.Why are the sales increasing annually if there has not been a major change in the vehicle?

I can’t say for sure, but there are at least two things that might provide the answer.

First, the compact crossover market is really hot. More and more buyers are choosing the practicality of such a vehicle over a similar sedan. Second, the Terrain is a comfortable, upscale cruiser with a distinctive look that separates it from many of the other cookie-cutter designs.

The specific crossover I spent time with was the top-of-the-line 2016 GMC Terrain Denali, a vehicle with all-wheel drive and an abundance of desirable comfort, convenience and safety features.

Instead of the 182-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine that has been the standard powerplant since the Terrain’s inception, the test vehicle had the more satisfying 3.6-liter V-6 engine, which generates 301 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque.

The V-6, a $1,500 option, won’t take your breath away under heavy acceleration but, teamed with a 6-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually, it can move the 4,204-pound crossover from a stop to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. More importantly, the engine is strong enough to tow up to 3,500 pounds of boat or trailer.

Terrain rear seats

Terrain rear seats

Strong braking is supplied by front and rear vented discs and steering is controlled with a hydraulic power rack-and-pinion setup.

The EPA estimates fuel consumption at 16 miles per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the city and 23 mpg on the open road. In mostly level suburban and four-lane roads I averaged 22.8 mpg. On one 40-mile stretch I actually hit 24 mpg.

Obviously, when you are in a tall wagon you will not be thinking of tearing around the back roads or setting any land speed records. Instead, you will be glad the Terrain has room for up to five adults (preferably four), a rear seat that slides fore and aft almost 8 inches and has a reclinable seatback to accommodate tall passengers

There is enough cargo space to stow 31.6 cubic feet of luggage behind the second-row seats or 63.9 cubic feet of stuff with the 60/40 second-row seatbacks folded forward.

Also, buyers will no doubt appreciate the quiet, well-appointed cabin and the compliant ride provided by the independent suspension, struts in front and a four-link set-up at the rear.

Additional safety features have been added since the Terrain’s inception and now include a full complement of airbags and side curtains; forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, rear-view camera, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist, traction control and stability control.

Terrain cargo area with one setback folded forward.

Terrain cargo area with one seatback folded forward.

Among the standard comfort and convenience features included in the Terrain Denali’s $35,725 base price are a premium 8-speaker sound system, leather seating, power front seats that can be heated, air conditioning, Intellilink hands-free smart phone integration with Bluetooth audio streaming and voice-activated controls, OnStar information and emergency communication system, 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot, trip computer and remote starting capability.

Optional on the test vehicle were a cargo package with roof rack, cargo cover and convenience net ($280); sunroof ($995); navigation ($495); 19-inch wheels ($400); ebony twilight metallic paint ($395); and a trailering equipment package ($365).

Add everything together, including the optional engine and $925 delivery charge,and the 2016 GMC Terrain Denali’s suggested price comes to $41,080.

That’s a hefty price for a small crossover, but even after 7 years the Terrain comes across as a premium vehicle. The new one may not look much different than the Denali that first hit the road in 2009, but it still sets itself apart from many competitors with distinctive styling and upscale amenities.

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