2011 GMC Terrain
$24,500 - $31,650

2011 GMC Terrain Expert Review:Autoblog

The following review is for a 2010 Model Year. There may be minor changes to current model you are looking at.

2010 GMC Terrain – Click above for high-res image gallery

GMC's "Professional Grade" tagline works best when it's being used to upsell truck shoppers into Sierras instead of Chevy Silverados, but even wider mass-market success comes from snaring folks who couldn't care less about payload. And while the Yukon has its place at the table for some families, the thirsty brontosaur's broad appeal vanished with the disappearance of super-cheap gasoline. Hence, traditionally truck-focused GMC has crossed over, so to speak. The three-row Acadia was the beginning, and while the trucks are still there for those who want or need them, if you're shopping for a family car, the nice man in the tie would like to show you something different: the 2010 GMC Terrain.

Photos by Alex Nunez / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

If you're thinking, "It's just a Chevy Equinox wearing a GMC costume," you're basically right. It shares its architecture, powertrains and even its suspension tuning with the Chevrolet. Unlike the bad old days, however, when this would have been a naked badge swap and little else, the Terrain's external appearance differs completely from the Chevy. In fact, the casual observer (i.e. the average car shopper) would never guess they share so much under the skin. And the shared stuff's nothing to complain about, anyway.

We actually had the chance to spend a couple of weeks with two Terrains – one a top-trim four-cylinder Terrain SLT-2 with a base MSRP of $31,300 and the other a V6 version of the same model. The four-cylinder Terrain also included the optional stereo with navigation ($2,145), rear-entertainment system ($1,295) and some other minor options for a grand total of $35,780. The V6 model was more modestly optioned with just the bigger engine ($1,500), a cargo management system ($245) and trailering equipment ($350) for a grand total of $33,840. The least expensive front-wheel drive four-cylinder Terrain SLE-1 starts at $24,250, so this shouldn't necessarily be considered an expensive CUV unless you've got an itchy trigger finger with the options.

Upon its introduction, we flat-out disliked the GMC Terrain's styling. After spending a couple weeks with Terrains parked in the driveway, however, our stance has softened somewhat. The blocky, truck-y look has a little Lego-meets-Tonka thing working in its favor. While the Terrain SLT-2 includes a chrome trim package in its bag of goodies, it's not overwhelming; we'd even say it's handled tastefully.

The things that we aren't really crazy about are the swollen fender flares. Frankly, they're a bit much, and they help emphasize the rather sizable gap between the 18-inch wheels and the top of the cutout. Maybe it's supposed to imply the sort of suspension travel associated with an off-road-capable SUV, but that would be silly. Butchy looks aside, the Terrain – even when equipped with all-wheel drive – is a pavement-pounder designed for the mall, not Moab. Optional 19-inch chrome wheels ($900) would likely fill things out better, but you have to buy a V6 model to get them, and they do leave a dent in your wallet. Given that most of the folks we spoke with enthusiastically approved of the Terrain's looks, pregnant fenders and all, we're probably dwelling on styling minutiae that the prospective Terrain buyer doesn't care about.

Inside the Terrain, its Chevy Equinox genetics are far more evident. Is there differentiation? Yes. Is it extensive? Not at all. The primary gauges are presented a little differently, and the Terrain uses red illumination in its information center and radio displays, but the the basic layout is the same. The instrument panel's "wings" extend out from an orderly center stack that's identical to the one in the Equinox. The Interior plastics are a good quality and well-textured. Auxiliary and USB jacks are there if you prefer to use a portable device for your tunes, and the standard two-dial radio remains intuitive to use. It's worth noting, however, that the supplemental audio system buttons all look very much alike and aren't distinguishable by touch, so you'll have to glance at them if you need to do something that the wheel-mounted controls don't handle. The climate control interface, located right below the radio, is easy-peasy. The center console storage bin is also deep and roomy enough to be of good use, and it's further supplemented by a shallower compartment atop the dash, as well as the regular glovebox.

If you pony up the (absurd) $2,495 that's required for the audio system with navigation and a 40-gig hard drive, you get a seven-inch touchscreen display and a more cluttered set of additional buttons for the radio interface. While it's nice that the color nav-o-tainment display also shows you the backup cam's view when you throw the rig into reverse, we advise that you do yourself a favor, skip the pricey high-zoot stereo and save yourself a couple grand. The backup camera is standard equipment on all Terrains, after all (it's displayed in the rearview mirror on models without nav), and you can pick up a quality portable GPS (or a solid GPS smartphone app) at a fraction of the cost for the times you really need one. If you need to regularly hypnotize children while driving, a neatly-integrated two-screen backseat entertainment system is available, but it's not exactly a bargain at $1,295. At least you aren't required to buy the nav stereo to get it.

Since our tester was loaded, the front seats and rear bench were covered in black leather with red accent stitching. We spent enough time sitting in traffic going to and from New York City to vouch for their overall comfort, too. The buckets for the driver and front passenger aren't aggressively bolstered, but they're nicely supportive nonetheless. Meanwhile, in back, the bench has 200 millimeters (7.87 inches) of travel, meaning that if you slide it all the way back, your tall friends will have more than ample legroom and won't want to kill you for denying them the always-coveted shotgun. Also, this helps you minimize, if not completely eliminate, front-seatback kicking from your fidgety preschooler strapped in the booster behind you. While the back seat is technically set up for three passengers, be advised the middle spot lacks a headrest and is flatter than the two outboard positions, which are far more pleasant.

Visibility from behind the wheel is fine straight ahead, but the Terrain, like so many other new vehicles, suffers from thick A-pillar disease, which can be annoying in some situations. Likewise, the view back is hurt by a combination of the full-sized headrests on the rear bench and the elevated beltline that's so common on SUVs and crossovers nowadays. Fortunately, with the Terrain, all trim levels include the backup camera we mentioned earlier, which is really becoming an indispensable feature on a steadily growing variety of modern vehicles.

As a grocery-getter, the GMC Terrain is basically as good as anything else in this class. Practically speaking, there's plenty of room for your stuff. Behind the rear seat, you'll find 31.4 cubic feet of cargo space. Flip the 60/40 split bench down and total capacity expands to 63.7 cubic feet. This puts the Terrain behind popular compact CUVs like the Honda CR-V (35.7/72.9) and Toyota RAV4 (36.4/73.0), but fairly close to its cross-town rival, the Ford Escape (31.4/67.2). Oh, and if you were wondering, the Chevy Equinox's cargo numbers are essentially identical to the Terrain's. Access to the cargo area in our test vehicles came via a power tailgate, whose opening height could be set at different levels via a dial in the cabin.

Driving the Terrain is pleasant, if not particularly exciting. The ride is comfortable and car-like without being wallowy, and despite its blockiness and heft, the Terrain exudes competence and confidence when exercised on curvier routes. It's no performance vehicle by any measure, but it's a respectable handler, and it should meet or exceed the expectations of anyone looking to use it as the suburban runabout it so obviously is.

The standard 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder is direct-injected, making 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard, and you can change gears manually via a rocker switch on the shifter. Our tester also had all-wheel drive. Surprisingly, we dig the four-banger. Despite giving up 82 horses to the optional V6 (we'll get to that in a moment), it's the better engine. Four-cylinder Terrains have shorter gearing than the V6 models, and the 2.4L with AWD has the shortest final drive ratio of all Terrain models, at 3.53:1. This means that despite a curb weight in excess of 4,000 pounds, the base-engined Terrain still feels reasonably sprightly in everyday driving. The electric power steering (V6 models have hydraulic assist instead) is short on feel, but let's be honest, the average car-as-appliance driver won't even notice or care (Car turns? Steering good!). For our money, we'd put up with the electric steering, as the four-cylinder Terrain was good for between 20 and 21 mpg overall in mixed use. We were pretty cavalier about using the 2.4-liter Terrain's "eco" button, too, employing it maybe half the time. The efficiency-sapping all-wheel drive system, however, kept us from ever breaking the 30 mpg average mark on the highway, though front-wheel drive models can hit up to 32 mpg on extended drives, which is remarkable for a vehicle of this size.

For an extra $1,500 you can step up to the 3.0-liter V6. It's also direct injected and is rated at 264 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed auto is employed once again. V6 Terrains are easily identifiable from the outside by their muscular-looking dual exhaust tips (they're coming off a single transversely-mounted muffler, though). From the inside, V6 Terrains are also readily identifiable by how surprisingly disappointing that powertrain is. Steering feel is better with the hydraulic assist, and the V6 is smoother than the four, but beyond that, we couldn't see ourselves forking over the extra dough for the six-cylinder unless we explicitly needed the 3,500 pounds of towing capacity it affords. (The four-cylinder GMC Terrain can pull 1,500 pounds, by comparison.)

This isn't the first time we've felt let down by this particular V6; it bummed us out as the base engine in the 2010 Buick LaCrosse, too (Buick has since axed the 3.0 from the 2011 LaCrosse entirely). The same basic criticisms apply here. Any power advantage the six has over the four-pot is undermined by its taller gearing (the final drive ratio on V6 models is 2.77:1), which doubtless contributes to its lack of immediacy compared with the four-cylinder. It's not like you get particularly memorable fuel economy as a result, either. We averaged mid-teens with the V6 in combined driving. Incidentally, such numbers were eminently achievable with the old port-injected 3.6-liter V6 offered as the step-up engine in the last-generation Chevy Equinox and Pontiac Torrent – and that engine had more personality than the new, direct-injected 3.0-liter.

Obviously, if you're looking at the Terrain, you should test drive both engines and see which you prefer. Just don't assume that the two additional cylinders the V6 has over the base engine makes everything better. Different, yes, but not necessarily better. Overall, however, the 2010 Terrain is a very solid effort from GMC that can hang with just about anything else in the crowded field of compact to mid-size SUVs and crossovers, even if it isn't the type of professional grade hardware that this brand usually boasts.

Photos by Alex Nunez / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Easy crossover SUV for everyday chores.


The GMC Terrain is a midsize crossover sport utility that seats five. Its roomy and substantial cabin offers enough rear-seat legroom and interior volume for comfort on long trips. Terrain uses front-wheel drive and carlike unit-body construction and shares its basic structure with the Chevrolet Equinox. 

Launched as a 2010 model, the 2011 GMC Terrain carries over unchanged except it comes with the latest version of Enhanced OnStar 9.0, which delivers improved speech recognition. Terrain was designed to compete with compact sport-utilities such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 and midsize SUVs such as the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano. 

We found the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers good performance and fuel economy, earning an EPA-estimated 22/32 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive and 6-speed automatic. This engine is rated at 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. 

A 3.0-liter V6 is optional rated at 264 hp and 222 lb-ft of torque and 17/24 mpg with front-wheel drive and 6-speed automatic. The V6 is rated to tow up to 3500 pounds, enough for a light boat or a pair of personal watercraft or snowmobiles. 

All-wheel drive is available for all-weather capability. All models come with a 6-speed automatic transmission. 

We found the interior of the GMC Terrain comfortable and quiet, well isolated from the noise and chop of the roadway. Interior design and workmanship is quite good. 

The Terrain SLT trim levels offer the widest range of premium features, but even those opting for the four-cylinder engine can still equip a Terrain with options such as navigation and rear-seat DVD systems. All safety features except all-wheel drive are standard throughout the Terrain lineup. 


GMC Terrain comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine; a 3.0-liter V6 ($1,500) is optional. 

Terrain SLE ($24,250) comes with cloth upholstery, manual air conditioning, two-way adjustable driver's seat with power height adjustment and power lumbar, reclining rear seats 60/40 split-folding, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with six speakers, OnStar Safe & Sound, rearview camera, power locks, power windows, power mirrors, cruise control, tilt-telescope steering wheel, automatic headlights, fog lights, 17-inch painted aluminum wheels, floor mats. Terrain SLE AWD ($26,000) adds all-wheel drive. 

Terrain SLT ($27,850) upgrades with leather upholstery, automatic air conditioning, heated front seats, eight-way adjustable driver's seat, Pioneer audio with eight speakers, amplifier and subwoofer, Bluetooth, remote start ignition, 18-inch machined aluminum wheels with P235/60R18 all-season tires, color-keyed roof rack. Terrain SLT AWD ($29,600) features all-wheel drive. 

Optional AM/FM with Navigation ($2,145) adds DVD navigation with seven-inch touch-screen display, voice recognition, hard drive, and eight-speaker Pioneer audio. Rear-seat Entertainment ($1,295) includes dual displays, two wireless headsets, remote control, auxiliary jack, USB port, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA, DVD playback, Pioneer eight-speaker audio. Other options include a programmable liftgate ($495); sunroof ($795); and a cargo management package ($245) with rear cargo cover, cargo net, luggage crossbars. 


The GMC Terrain is designed to appeal to a different buyer than the Chevy Equinox, which is made in the same plant and based on a shared platform. GMC is strictly a truck company, so the Terrain has bolder styling with a larger, more distinctive grille. 

The GMC body makes use of broad, sheer surfaces with rectangular shapes in the wheelwells. The side surfaces are clean, with chrome accents on the door handles and windows. Along the bottom of the exterior panels is a textured anti-chip layer of paint, conveying the message that the Terrain could be functional in harsher environments, both urban and rural. A sleek roof rack provides additional cargo capacity. 

Especially when viewed from the front, the Terrain's wide stance and high beltline make for a substantial, well-planted impression. Although technically a compact, the Terrain looks much bigger. 

Three wheel sizes and styles are available, including 17- and 18-inch aluminum wheels, and 19-inch chrome clad wheels. 


GMC Terrain seats five, and it is not available with a third-row seat. The larger GMC Acadia is better for families who might need to seat seven or eight. 

The interior design of the GMC Terrain features curving lines and close-fitting panels with nicely grained textures. The environment inside the Terrain is open and relaxed. Seats are styled using a secondary contrasting inset with exact red stitching. 

The GMC Terrain offers a high seating position, giving the driver the same kind of vision and command of the road as traditional body-on-frame SUVs. The step-in height, however, is relatively low, making entry, exit and rear-seat loading a bit easier than with the truck-based SUVs. 

The seats proved comfortable and adjustable enough to keep us from squirming as the hours wore on. For our average-size frame, there was more than enough legroom, and it was easy to position the seat comfortably in relation to the steering wheel. We were told that the interior team worked extensively to optimize the accelerator pedal heal position, so that the driving position could be close to ideal for a wider range of body types. There was special attention paid to accommodating shorter drivers. 

The controls and dash are low and lean away from the front occupants, an effect that creates a generously open, spacious feeling. The dash and controls are lighted in orange, with bright white instrument numerals. The interior lighting scheme is extensively developed, creating a well-lit, but not overly bright, nighttime environment. 

A floating center stack, positioned so that the most-used controls are within easy reach, houses a center storage bin big enough for a laptop computer. The navigation screen is seven inches in size, with touch-screen design. A 10-gigabyte hard drive enables storage of a substantial number of music files. 

The rear seat is designed with emphasis on flexible operation. It reclines and slides forward eight inches to favor either cargo room or passenger room, as the situation dictates. The optional rear-seat entertainment system has two independently operable screens, capable of providing separate amusements for two back seat occupants. 

A rearview camera is standard in all models, a great safety feature as it can help the driver spot a child behind the vehicle when backing up. However, without the navigation system, the image is displayed on the rearview mirror and it's small. Having the navigation system makes the rearview camera easier to use. Regardless, this image can help the driver spot a small child when backing up. 

OnStar and XM are pre-paid for one year. There are four power outlets for phone chargers, laptops and other portable devices. 

Bluetooth allows the driver to operate cellular telephones hands-free using the Terrain's speakers, a hidden microphone, and the navigation screen. 

The power rear hatch can be programmed to open part-way, in case of low-clearance garages. 

Underway, the GMC Terrain is commendably quiet. GMC engineers have used acoustic blankets between the engine and dash to reduce engine noise, and acoustic laminated glass to deflect wind noise. The doors are triple-sealed for further quieting and efficient climate control. 

Driving Impression

The GMC Terrain feels substantial around town, but reasonably agile, with a progressive turn-in and minimal body roll at normal speeds. The chassis is clearly set up to deliver a smooth, isolated ride, as we discovered on some straight, fast and sometimes potholed Midwestern roads. Relatively little vibration leaks through into the steering wheel or other touch points. The suspension is on the soft side, but handling around town and on more demanding roads is not hugely affected by body roll or brake dive. Hydraulic bushings were used to tune the chassis. Cornering is quite predictable and secure, enhanced by a relatively wide stance. All things considered, we think the Terrain offers a comfortable dynamic balance, appropriate for a multi-purpose SUV. It's not going to win an autocross, but the Terrain is still solidly planted and nicely balanced. 

The 3.0-liter V6 is an advanced, direct-injection engine that revs smoothly and willingly. The same engine is used in the Buick LaCrosse, but this is a higher-output version that has more aggressive induction and exhaust turning. The 3.0-liter V6 is rated at 264 hp and 222 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 17/25 mpg with front-wheel drive, 16/22 mpg with all-wheel drive. The Terrain V6 is rated to tow up to 3500 pounds. 

For an engine that supplies peak torque fairly high in the rev range, the V6 pulls from low rpm smoothly and well, capably powering the nearly 4000-pound Terrain around town in a satisfying, low-effort manner. It's the 6-speed transmission that makes the engine ideal, with a gear for every situation and intelligent programming that can sense the difference between subtle variations of throttle input. Sixth gear is a very tall overdrive, so the Terrain cruises at highway speeds easily and quietly, loafing along at 1500 rpm at 60 mph, and 1800 at 75 mph. And yet, the transmission and V6 allow the Terrain to respond well to demand for power on on-ramps and highway passing. Ask it to pass and it downshifts twice in quick succession, but with very little shift shock, and the tach shows 4500 rpm on the way to a 6950-rpm redline. Upon full throttle, there is a rush of available power, but not excessive noise. 

The Terrain with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers good performance. In fact, we did not notice a huge difference in acceleration performance. Towing capacity is reduced to 1500 pounds, but overall driveability is comparable. With its own quick-shifting 6-speed transmission, the 182-hp four-cylinder was easily able to power the Terrain around town, and with just a little more effort, supply confident on-ramp acceleration and no-downshift passing power on the highway. The 6-speed Hydra-matic behind the 2.4-liter has slightly lower gearing, but it shifts just as smoothly and follows throttle input just as well. Especially for those who feel fuel costs will become a significant factor in the next five years, the four-cylinder powertrain is worth consideration. The 2.4-liter gets an EPA-estimated 22/32 mpg City/Highway, 20/29 mpg with all-wheel drive. The 2.4-liter engine is rated at 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. 


The GMC Terrain is a generously sized compact (or small midsize) crossover SUV best suited to young families. It's well designed and executed, with state of the art powertrains, features and safety systems. 

John Stewart filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the Terrain in southeast Michigan. 

Model Lineup

GMC Terrain SLE ($24,250), AWD ($26,000); SLT ($27,850), AWD ($29,600). 

Assembled In

Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada. 

Options As Tested

3.0L SIDI V6 engine with dual exhaust ($1,500); AM/FM with Navigation system ($2,145) includes premium eight-speaker Pioneer audio, DVD navigation with touch-screen, voice recognition, hard drive, USB; cargo management package ($245). 

Model Tested

GMC Terrain SLT ($27,850). 

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