Vital Stats

Engine:
3.6L V6
Power:
301 HP / 272 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
6.7 Seconds
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
31.6 / 63.9 CU-FT
MPG:
16 City / 23 HWY
An Engine Upgrade Is Our Sort Of Bling



Admittedly, when GMC invited us to drive the new 2013 Terrain Denali, the summons did not incite argument over which one of us wanted to attend as much as trigger flashbacks to Envoy Denali and Diamond Edition Jimmy models. It's not that we are averse to the "Professional Grade" version of the Chevrolet Equinox. In fact, we like this second generation of the Theta-platform crossovers just fine. It's just that, collectively, midsize crossovers are about as exciting as watching sun tea brew. And this wasn't even a new vehicle, just a familiar trim package being pushed further on down the product line. The Denali badge has become something of a right of passage for GMC vehicles approaching that awkward, no-longer-new phase of their lifecycle. Special grille and extra chrome trim? For sure. Upgraded interior? Check. A new powertrain? Now they had our attention.

So we hopped into our long-term Mini Countryman and headed north. Pulling into our hotel in Traverse City, Michigan, we were presented with our test vehicle. A loaded, all-wheel-drive model with a V6, the 2013 Terrain Denali we drove retails for $41,720, including delivery. That's over $15,000 more than the list price for the cheapest 2012 Terrain, representing a 58-percent upsell. Of course, you don't have to drop forty large for a Terrain Denali – base MSRP is $35,350 for the four-cylinder, front-wheel drive model.

If you're curious how the Denali badge can be applied to such a grocery getter, consider the following: Over a quarter of all GMC vehicles sold are Denalis. For the seven-seat Acadia, the most recent model to get the Mount McKinley treatment, that ratio is more like one in three. (Acadia Denali doesn't even get any hardware upgrades, by the way.) Further, we were told GMC is currently selling some 70 percent of Terrains with four-cylinder engines. So it only makes sense that GMC would sever the conventional relationship between top-level trim and top-of-the-line powertrain.
2013 GMC Terrain Denali side view2013 GMC Terrain Denali front view2013 GMC Terrain Denali rear view

The good news is that sword cuts both ways, as the new 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 we found under the hood of our Denali will be available in other Terrain trim levels as well. In the Denali, it's a $1,750 option that comes bundled with 19-inch chrome wheels. We can say definitively that this version of the General Motors corporate engine is a major upgrade for the 2013 Terrain. With 301 horsepower and 272 lb-ft of torque, the new V6 boasts 14 percent more horsepower and 23 percent more torque than the old 3.0-liter V6.

While the old model would do 0-60 miles per hour in just over eight seconds, the upgraded V6 with all-wheel-drive should enable the 2013 Terrain to hit 6.7 seconds, according to GM. But it's not just a numbers game, as the new V6 feels and sounds powerful, with a refined roar under acceleration. Yes, GM has finally equipped the Terrain with the torque necessary to motivate its roughly two-ton curb weight with authority.

2013 GMC Terrain Denali engine

While the engine's power is satisfying, so too is the transmission. The six-speed automatic seems tuned for drivability more than fuel economy – a refreshing change from many vehicles we test these days. Our Denali would hold gears well past 4,000 rpm, even under part-throttle application, which probably explains why we saw only 18 miles per gallon displayed on the trip computer after our brief jaunt. (EPA numbers will be 16 city and 23 highway, according to GM.) Yet even as the Terrain felt responsive, full-throttle acceleration could stymie the all-wheel-drive system, which sometimes seemed slow to transfer power rearward.

Denali models get exclusive Mando Dual Flow Dampers, which we've seen before in Hyundai and Kia models like the Sonata and Sorento. This type of shock employs a trick valve that can vary the rate of oil flow based on how quickly the piston is moving and thus how much force it is generating. In the quest to improve ride quality, this mechanical system is said to ride softer over both small bumps and very large ones, while delivering a firmer ride for better handling the rest of the time. While we were not given the opportunity to drive a standard Terrain without the new DFD suspension back-to-back with a Denali, the DFD-equipped vehicle indeed felt firmer than we remember from the last time we got behind the wheel of the Terrain.

2013 GMC Terrain Denali headlight2013 GMC Terrain Denali grille2013 GMC Terrain Denali wheel2013 GMC Terrain Denali taillight

Unfortunately, any notion of sportiness intimated by the suspension will be kept at bay by the Terrain's steering. Despite the V6 models having hydraulic power steering, the Terrain we drove felt like it had an electric power steering unit – and a poorly tuned one at that. In dynamic situations, we found little relationship between the effort needed to turn the steering wheel and the amount of force the pavement was exerting on the tires, and in straight line driving, the wheel center position just had far too much play.

While we love the new engine and aren't entirely unhappy with the rest of the Terrain Denali's mechanical package, when it comes to the aesthetics, the best we can do is say we're impressed that GMC thought to use satin chrome instead of the more gaudy kind. Honestly, in its three model years, the Terrain's T-square exterior styling has never really grown on us. It's actually had quite the opposite effect, making us think that a facelift or redesign can't come soon enough. This isn't it, as the Denali's big exterior changes – that "signature" grille, body color rocker panels with chrome accents, chrome exhaust tips and wheels, and slightly different headlights and taillights – don't really address the cartoonishness of the Terrain's fenders. Of course, GM would likely object to our displeasure with the unique look of the Terrain, no doubt pointing out that sales are up 13 percent through May. Yes, if the Terrain is your cup of tea, GMC will be happy to serve it to you. And of course, you do take chrome and leather, right?

2013 GMC Terrain Denali interior2013 GMC Terrain Denali seat detail2013 GMC Terrain Denali rear seats2013 GMC Terrain Denali rear cargo area

Inside, the Denali has a nice looking soft-touch dash pad, a wood-trimmed steering wheel, a leather armrest, matching wood and leather door inserts, illuminated sills and the obligatory Denali logo embossed in the leather seats. The interior changes are as subtle as they are on the exterior, but they're nice. The Terrain has one of GM's better interiors already, and though the angle of the dash can create glare issues on the navigation screen, its controls are mostly logical and well placed. Of note is that the power door lock button on the center stack has been supplemented with redundant door buttons. New owners can thank the early adopters for complaining.

As might be expected, the Denali version of the Terrain includes most of the model's optional equipment as standard, including lane departure warning and forward collision alert. Denali buyers also get blind spot and rear cross traffic alert, features previously unavailable. An eight-way power passenger seat is the sole province of the Denali owner, so if you love your spouse, well, you'd better spring for the bling.

2013 GMC Terrain Denali rear 3/4 view

Options are few once you get past the engine and all-wheel drive (both $1,750). Foremost among these would be the $795 charge to add navigation to the standard touchscreen audio with IntelliLink, GMC's smartphone telematics service. There's also a $350 trailer hitch and a $235 "cargo management package" that includes luggage crossbars. A rear seat entertainment system runs all of $1,295, though we'd be remiss if we didn't point out to those parents unconcerned about their children rotting their minds in the back seat that you could just buy each of them an iPad and a hefty iTunes Store gift card for the same money. Of course, we're not so sure the people who will be shopping Terrain Denalis are as concerned with value as they are with that shiny badge and unique grille.

Hugh Milne, Marketing Manager for GMC Crossovers, says that admittedly the Terrain Denali is in an odd competitive place. Maybe they'll see some customers also looking at a high-end Nissan Murano, he says, or the top-of-the-line Ford Edge. "Could we get some people cross shopping us against [BMW] X3?" he asks rhetorically. "Sure, but we're not going to call it out."

"A lot of people who are going to buy a BMW," he posits, "are going to buy it because of the name."

Something you could also say about Denali.

GM contacted us after this article was originally published with a new 0-60 time, which has been updated in the text.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 69 Comments
      merlot066
      • 2 Years Ago
      Are people that desperate for chrome that they wouldn't just buy an SRX? AWD w/ Luxury package is $43k. The interior alone is worth moving up to the Caddy.
      brgtlm
      • 2 Years Ago
      I prefer the styling of the Equinox better and I definitely think the price is way too high. A lot of appealing competitors when you're at this price point.
      BG
      • 2 Years Ago
      $41,000 for this? Wow, not my choice, but for each his own. It sure looks like there is no recession any more if buyers have > $40k for crossovers like this.
      Al
      • 2 Years Ago
      Saw one today with the "satin" chrome. Gee - $40 for a vehicle that looks like its chrome is 8 years old. What are they thinking? Knock $1k off and give me "real" chrome.
      Alexandra Guzman
      • 2 Months Ago

      I love  my 2011 terrain. not with a lot of bling bling. It;s beautiful though and the grill is black so the silver comes out more :3

      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Moosetang
      • 2 Years Ago
      So it's really ugly, pretty boring, it helps render the "Denali" badge meaningless, and they don't even have a proper response to the "who is this appealing to?" question. Way to go, GM.
      kyle
      • 2 Years Ago
      why GM chose to axe Pontiac and not GMC is beyond me. every GMC vehicle is a simple re-badge of a chevrolet vehicle, sold at a higher price with some nicer trim. i hardly ever see a GMC on the road anyways. at least with Pontiac, GM could've used the rear drive Holden G8 formula and made some badass high performance rear wheel drive coupes/roadsters/maybe even that pickup truck concept thing resembling a modern day El Camino.
        z28ssx
        • 2 Years Ago
        @kyle
        GMC was GM's 2nd best selling brand, not Pontiac. Plus GMCs bring in HUGE profits for GM, Pontiac didn't bring in any money. So when it comes time to cut a brand, do you cut your cash cow, or the one that bleeds money from you. GM is a business and at the end of the day they did the right thing.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @kyle
        [blocked]
        A P
        • 2 Years Ago
        @kyle
        Try a little research...they kept GMC because it makes MONEY hand over fist. Similar to how the Jeep Wagoneer in the 70s and 80s had a buyer demographic that made far more than the average income. The Wagoneer buyer often had a Caddy or MB in the same garage with their Jeep. Learn the business a bit and these things will be obvious.
      GN
      • 2 Years Ago
      Seriously, how come this thing made it into production is beyond me. Probably one of the worst designs I've ever seen. WTF is going with GMC?
      Rob K
      • 2 Years Ago
      The dash looks lifted from a Hyundai. And those fenders?! What were they thinking? I'll pass.
        BB79826
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rob K
        The dash looks exactly like every other Chevy right now. But this is a stupid car. $41k?!
          DC Mike
          • 2 Years Ago
          @BB79826
          Actually, I have priced an Overland... That's why there's one in my driveway. If you read my post I said a loaded Cherokee OR the Overland. I'd take a base Overland over this GMC.
          DC Mike
          • 2 Years Ago
          @BB79826
          Yeah... When you start approaching $41k I'd be looking at a loaded up Grand Cherokee or the Overland edition, not this eyesore.
          montoym
          • 2 Years Ago
          @BB79826
          @ DC Mike: They you apparently haven't priced out an Overland then. They start out at $39,895 before options and that's with 2wd and the 6cyl, not the Hemi nor 4wd, tack on $3,500 for 4wd and $2,195 for the Hemi. A loaded Overland will be closer to $50k.
          DC Mike
          • 2 Years Ago
          @BB79826
          @montoym Agreed. My Overland sees beach duty and light trail/access road duty with the family atleast 3 times a year. One look at the chin spoiler on that thing and I can tell you ... It's not up to the task.
      DC Mike
      • 2 Years Ago
      Those wheels probably cost $2000-$3000 extra and probably come bundled with some type of appearance package. This may seem petty, but if I'm paying extra for them they had better damn well NOT look like hubcaps. Those wheels hit the corny, ugly, and cheap-looking trifecta.
        montoym
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DC Mike
        The Denali package is essentially an appearance package. So, I guess you are somewhat correct. But, they aren't in addition to that cost, they are included if that's what you were getting at.
          DC Mike
          • 2 Years Ago
          @montoym
          What I'm getting at is that the buffoon who selected those wheels to be the appearance package rims picked very ugly, and very cheap looking wheels.
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