2010 GMC Terrain car reviews

2010 GMC Terrain SLT 2.4 FWD

GMC Terrain

Personality Luxury SUV looks... rental-sedan drive
Why we’d buy it Highway mileage (for the class), glitz and gadgets, practical size
Why we wouldn’t Loose powertrain, city mileage, HVAC controls
EPA gas mileage Four-cylinder: 22/32 mpg (20/29 with AWD)

The GMC Terrain is an odd duck, a mid-sized crossover with SUV looks, lots of interior glitz, and a little engine under the hood.

The Terrain is roughly Explorer-sized-and-shaped, but has a smoother ride (at least, in the front wheel drive version we drove), quieter interior, and more responsive powertrain. The six-speed automatic transmission deserves the credit for that, because the little engine must find it hard to propel the 3,800 pound truck with its 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque — which, to be fair, is more than six-cylinder engines produced back when the Explorer was in its prime. The engines are loud (though sound insulation makes them seem quiet when you're in the cab) due to the direct injection system.

Acceleration is not bad, in general, whether the "eco" mode is on or off. The transmission downshifts quickly and without unnecessary damping (unless eco mode is engaged), making the most of the engine's power band. You don't get the relatively quick response of a big V8, but you do get a relatively gentle ramping up of power. The Terrain goes up to highway speed quickly enough, and has passing power once there.

The transmission likes the engine to stay around 1,500 to 2,500 rpm while cruising; at 2,000 and up, it's making decent power, though it doesn't take off until over 4,000. Using the manual shifter doesn't help much; it's a moderately awkward setup (you shift down one extra level, then use a rocker pin on the side of the shifter to go up and down), and it's slow, so you press and wait. Staying in full automatic mode makes more sense, the transmission doesn't react any more quickly on manual than on automatic. (The eco button, incidentally, lowers the torque converter lockup speed to 1,125 rpm, which means the converter must be unlocked for shifting more often).

Gas mileage ratings are very good for this type of vehicle, getting into sedan territory: 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, with the front wheel drive and four-cylinder. The V6 drops mileage by 5-7 mpg; the AWD is good for a 2-3 mpg loss with the four, but is practically identical with the six. In suburban driving, we generally achieved 19-22 mpg. On the highway, we easily reached 32 mpg, with the four cylinder engine humming along nicely at 65 mph. That's excellent mileage for this size of vehicle; it's territory minivans don't quite reach.

The steering is nothing to write home about, not feeling quite right, but providing decent cornering for the type of vehicle and the generally comfortable, smooth ride.

The controls are very different from past Chevrolet and GMC products; the cruise control sits on the left hand side of the steering wheel, using the type of controls once seen with trip computers and stereos, while the right hand side has a similar set of controls for the stereo. The cruise has two rocker switches and a dial with two buttons, a setup that takes a little getting used to. The optional stereo/navigation system in our Terrain was a mass of buttons with trendy, elegant, hard to read lettering; it takes considerable attention away from the road, but does provide the convenience of a 40 gigabyte hard drive to remember your music, so you don't need to drag your iPod into the car.

backup camera

The big mess of buttons for the makes it somewhat hard to find things, and the layout of the climate control doesn't help. For reasons we can't image, GM has it set to turn the a/c compressor on every time the engine is started, so the driver can develop a reflex of shutting off the air conditioning when starting in winter. The hazard flashers disappear somewhere in the mess. Switching vents (e.g. from heater to fresh air vents) requires pressing up/down buttons and moving through various configurations, about the worst method we can imagine for this. Oh, and underneath all that is the trip computer control — which is well set up but in an odd place.

GMC Terrain navigation system

There can't be any complaints about the trip computer, which has a large display between the speedometer and odometer, and provides the usual fare such as compass heading, gas mileage, distance to empty, or even current speed, in digital form; when you lock in a speed in the cruise control, it shows up in the trip computer, briefly. Compass heading, odometer, and current gear are always visible at the bottom; the other items can be seen just one at a time (though there's plenty of room to have several at once). This panel also shows the tire pressure for each of the tires at once.

Likewise, the car control panel, integrated into the stereo/navigation system, is well designed, better than most; it's touch screen operated, and divided into categories for easier operation. The system controls such preferences as headlight behavior, reverse features, and whether the air conditioner turns itself on every time you start the engine. This panel is also used for the reverse camera, which provides a surprisingly bright, clear view, but takes a few seconds to activate when you go into reverse, and a few seconds to go away after switching back to Drive. The delays reduce the usefulness of the system, but at night and in areas where there are a lot of kids, it's very handy. The "path" feature, which shows where the system things you'll end up given the position of the steering wheel, is cute but less than fully useful.


The navigation system itself is generally well designed, though the touch-screen keyboard is not as easy to get used to as the usual QWERTY. The system is generally easy to use and helps you along a little better than older designs, but it tends to hide minor streets at any but the lowest scales (even when there are no major streets around), and is a bit slow on the uptake when typing addresses in.

The navigation system has a substantial advantage over many systems, in the large screen size. It can, however, get washed out in direct sun, which happens relatively infrequently due to the large brow overhead.

The large number of features and relatively undifferentiated controls can make it hard to find things. It took us quite a bit of searching to find the hazard flashers, in the dead center of the panel; they're actually more visible at night due to the way the lighting is set up. A Play button for the DVD player is a welcome sight, and the circular navigation control makes sense, too, but automakers in general need to get their act in gear and come up with imaginative ways to deal with large numbers of features (other than using touch screens). At least, they need to space them out better, grouping buttons together in logical batches so drivers can narrow down their search.

GMC truck

Seats are moderately comfortable, though, like most new car seats, without enough under-thigh support; the front seats slide far, far back, so you can work at your computer from the driver's seat. (While parked, or perhaps while watching a movie on the touch screen.) The interior is fairly spacious, yet much narrower than a typical SUV or minivan, allowing it to be easily parked (the backup alarm helps there, too). The cargo space is generous, as is the rear legroom; you can fit 31.4 cubic feet of cargo behind the back seats.

The interior is almost dead silent, a good thing considering how noisy direct injection engines tend to be; the engine is loud but you wouldn't know it with the windows up and the door closed. At highway speeds, wind noise and road noise are both minimal, and the engine is muffled as well. Part of this is electronic: the Terrain uses active noise cancellation on the four-cylinder models, sending sound waves through the stereo speakers to cancel out noise.

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At night, the interior is well lit up front, with soft red lighting illuminating the storage area under the center stack, the door handles, all the sunroof controls, and all the interior controls, period; nothing is left out. Lift up the center console, and a light goes on there, as well. A red neon effect comes from LEDs and light-transmitting material surrounding the center stack area, a neat effect. Gauges are more sensibly backlit with white, which makes the appearance of red warning lights far more obvious. A green headlights light comes on pretty much all the time, unless you shut off the headlights (a temporary effect on most GM systems, requiring you to pull a dial back and release it; they will be on again the next time you start the engine.) The PRNDL is rather pretty, with the selected gear in white and the others in red.

SUV backlighting

The GMC Terrain starts at around $25,000 including destination. Our test vehicle, the SLT-2, was fully loaded even without the options selected by GM, with a base price of $30,000 and a final price of $33,680. Those looking for a less well equipped version of the same vehicle can price out the Chevrolet Equinox.

transmissionThe base SLE1 comes well equipped with six airbags, StabiliTrak (stability control), antilock brakes, OnStar, air conditioning, CD-satellite stereo with direct USB input and six speakers, rear-vision camera, fog lights, and 17 inch aluminum wheels. That's one well-equipped truck even before you conside the standard oil life monitor, remote start, remote entry, rear parking assist, exterior chrome, leather seats, tilt/telescope steering wheel, cruise control, and power windows. Those who want to delay oil changes until they're really needed will profit from GM's standard oil life computer; or they can listen to self-serving mechanics who demand patronage every 3,000 miles.

The SLE2 adds steering-wheel audio controls, automatic climate control, and a Pioneer sound system; the SLT1 adds heated leather seats and 18 inch wheels; and our SLT2 added a power programmable liftgate and sunroof. Some options available across the board are a 3-liter direct-injection V6 pumping out 264 hp and 222 lb-ft of torque, rear-seat DVD entertainment, a navigation system with 10 gigabyte hard drive, and, of course, all wheel drive. Our test car also had a cargo management package including tonneau cover, cargo net, and roof rack crossbars; the navigation system with 40-gigabyte hard drive and seven-inch touch screen, with voice recognition; and a dual-screen rear DVD entertainment system. It's hard to argue with that level of equipment.

The GMC Terrain has 70% North American content, and is assembled in Ontario, a province with a history of quality assembly. The engine is made in the United States, the transmission in Korea. We're not sure why the Terrain is sold as a GMC at all, though; GMC is supposedly “Professional Grade,” not “luxury trappings around a basic crossover shaped like an SUV.” This vehicle is not meant to be used by professionals for work purposes; it's more of a macho-looking family hatchback with more gadgets than one can shake a stick at.

Regardless of badging, this is a car that can easily go head to head with the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, and Ford Escape.

Overall, the GMC Terrain matches its appearance for the most part; the four-cylinder engine does not have the deep torque of a "real" SUV, and towing is not what you would get from a Yukon, but for those who do not tow or drive heavy cargo up steep grades with the a/c on, it has decent acceleration and provides "go" when needed. The 2.4 engine fulfills most driver's needs well, providing good enough highway gas mileage to avoid regrets if fuel prices rise — though city mileage is nothing special, no doubt due to 3,800 pounds of inertia. If you must have an SUV, the Terrain certainly provides a familiar package and feel, with many of the conveniences of a modern crossover.