2010 GMC Terrain Review by G. Chambers Williams III

Consumers can't seem to get enough of the all-new GMC Terrain compact crossover and its Chevrolet sibling, the Equinox.

These fuel-efficient family vehicles are selling so well that the plant in Ontario, Canada, that builds them is running at capacity, yet is unable to keep up with demand, General Motors North America President Mark Reuss said this week at the Detroit auto show.

With sales mushrooming for the Terrain and Equinox, as well as for the new Cadillac SRX midsize crossover (built in Mexico) and Buick LaCrosse (assembled in Kansas City, Kansas), the automaker might have to start reopening plants it closed last year, Reuss said.

That's great news for GM after a year of almost nothing but bad.

But after a week in the driver's seat of the new Terrain, and after a similar test a few months ago in the new Equinox, I'm not surprised that these vehicles are catching on with new-car buyers.

The Terrain is the replacement for the Pontiac Torrent, which was discontinued along with the entire Pontiac brand last year as GM downsized in the wake of a government bailout and a steep general decline in U.S. auto sales.

But the market is picking up, and vehicles such as the Terrain and Equinox are helping lead the way.

The Terrain, a five-passenger model, competes in the burgeoning small crossover segment against such vehicles as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner and Jeep Liberty. But it's roomy enough to compete also against midsize crossovers such as the Ford Edge, Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX-7.

To accommodate larger families, GMC offers the Acadia crossover, which can hold up to eight people. Some of the Terrain's styling was taken from the bigger Acadia, including the signature GMC grille.

Terrain prices begin at $24,250 (plus $745 freight) for the base front-wheel-drive SLE-1 model, while the all-wheel-drive version starts at $26,000.

Next in line is the SLE-2, with a two-wheel-drive base price of $25,850 and $27,600 for the all-wheel-drive model.

SLT-1 versions list for $27,450 with two-wheel drive, and $29,200 with all-wheel drive, while the top model, the SLT-2, starts at $29,250 with two-wheel drive, and $31,000 with all-wheel drive.

Our tester was the base SLE-1 two-wheel-drive version, which comes with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. They combine to give the Terrain amazing EPA mileage estimates of 22 mpg city/32 highway.

Optional on all but the SLE-1 model are a 3.0-liter V-6 engine with dual exhaust ($1,500); a sunroof ($795); 19-inch chrome-plated wheels ($900), available only with the V-6 engine; rear DVD entertainment system ($1,295), which also requires purchase of the convenience package on SLE-2 models; a navigation/audio system ($2,145); a trailer-towing package ($350); and a cargo package ($235), which includes a cargo net and cover, and roof-rail crossbars.

While my Terrain tester was not equipped with these extras, my Equinox was - including the V-6 engine. It also came with all-wheel drive. The price difference between my Terrain front-drive four-cylinder ($24,995 with freight) and fully equipped Equinox V-6 ($36,380 with freight and options) was considerable, but I found that even my base Terrain was well-equipped for the money, and had everything I needed, even if it lacked some of the extras I might have wanted.

The Terrain offers class-leading backseat legroom, GM says. The flexible backseat configuration seats up to three people comfortably. And when the back seat is folded, there is almost 64 cubic feet of cargo space behind the front seats.

Standard features even on the SLE-1 include a rearview camera system and an AM/FM/compact-disc audio system with six speakers, USB connectivity and XM satellite radio.

The SLT-2 is the fanciest of the Terrain models (corresponding to the Equinox LTZ), and comes with leather seats, a premium Pioneer audio system, power liftgate, sunroof, and chrome trim package.

The four-cylinder engine has 182 horsepower and 172 foot-pounds of torque. The base engine in the Pontiac Torrent and previous version of the Equinox was a V-6 with 185 horsepower.

EPA ratings for the four-cylinder model compare with 20/27 for the Honda CR-V and 22/28 for the Toyota RAV4, the leading models in the compact crossover segment. With careful driving, the Terrain four-cylinder model could go up to 600 miles between fill-ups.

Most buyers are expected to choose the four-cylinder engine, but the V-6 offers 264 horsepower, yet is efficient enough to provide an estimated fuel economy of 17 city/25 highway (for the two-wheel drive).

The four-cylinder is standard even on the fanciest model, so consumers can have all the high-end amenities but still have the better fuel economy of the smaller engine.

Standard safety features include OnStar communications (with automatic accident reporting), front seat-mounted side air bags, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for rows, electronic stability and traction control, and four-wheel antilock disc brakes.

Optional is a remote-start system that enables the car to be started using the remote-control key fob so its interior can be warmed up or cooled down before the passengers get in.

The Terrain's rocker panels are integrated into the doors to make it easier to enter and exit, a design that prevents getting pants legs dirty. A flush-fitting windshield and rear glass were designed to help reduce wind noise inside the vehicle.

There are many storage cubbies, including an oversized glove box, a bin above the center stack in instrument panel, and a closed bin under the front center armrest that is big enough to hold a laptop computer, allowing it to be hidden from view while the vehicle is parked.

XM satellite radio is included on all models.

Cloth upholstery is standard, and the seats have been made more comfortable than those in the Torrent and earlier Equinox, GM said. The "floating" center instrument stack was designed to make it easier to operate the climate-control and audio systems.

The 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat can be moved forward or backward nearly eight inches to increase cargo space or give rear passengers more legroom. There is 31.6 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat in place.

Electric power steering is standard, which would help accommodate a gasoline-electric hybrid system in the future. No plans have been announced yet for a hybrid version of the Terrain or Equinox, however.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at 210-0250-3236; chambers@star-telegram.com.

2010 GMC Terrain

The package: Compact, five-passenger, four-door, front- or all-wheel-drive, four-cylinder or V-6 powered crossover utility vehicle.

Highlights: GMC's new compact crossover arrived for 2010, replacing the discontinued Pontiac Torrent that was sold by most GMC dealers. It has great styling, lots of amenities, a choice of two new engines, and quite decent fuel economy.

Negatives: No third row of seating offered for increased capacity; no manual gearbox available.

Engine: 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder; 3.0-liter V-6.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic.

Power/torque: 182 HP./172 foot-pounds (I-4); 264 HP./222 foot-pounds (3.0 V-6).

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Length: 185.3 inches.

Curb weight: 3,853-4,049 pounds.

Cargo volume: 31.6 cubic feet (behind rear seat).

Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds (I-4); 3,500 pounds (V-6).

EPA fuel economy: 22 mpg city/32 highway (I-4, 2WD); 20/29 (I-4, 4WD); 17/25 (V-6, 2WD); 17/24 (V-6, 4WD).

Fuel capacity/type: 18 gallons, regular unleaded.

Base price range: $24,250-$31,000 plus $745 freight.

Price as tested: $24,995 (SLE-1 front-wheel drive, including freight. There were no options added).

Major competitors: Hyundai Tucson, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner/Mazda Tribute, Ford Edge, Toyota RAV4, Toyota Highlander, Jeep Liberty, Honda CR-V, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Outback.

On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.

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