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The Terrain's Domain is Mainly on the Plain

Published on Thu, Sep 27, 2018

By: Roy Nakano

2019 GMC Terrain Denali AWD

We don’t mean any disrespect to the GMC Terrain’s Professional Grade credentials. It does offer a great all-wheel drive system. The low-end torque of its 2.0T, coupled with its nine-speed auto and Traction Select System, will pull it smartly up some very challenging hills. It’s SUV license is not under danger of being revoked. BUT where the new GMC Terrain really shines is on the straight and narrow. Forget about the safari. Maneuvering the asphalt jungles of So Cal is this vehicle’s forte. The new Terrain’s ride and handling rival that of some near-luxury sedans of yesteryear.

2019 GMC Terrain Denali
2019 GMC Terrain Denali

What makes it move

Major props go to the 2.0 liter turbocharged DOHC four-in-line engine with variable valve timing in our GMC test vehicle. It’s so smooth and linear, we actually thought it was equipped with a V6 engine. That impression is also felt in passing mode, where the 252-horsepower 2.0 Turbo provided all the power we needed. All this goodness does come at a cost, however, with an EPA fuel economy rating of 21 in the city and 26 on the highway.

Other powerplants

Other powerplants are available. Standard on the base Terrain is a 1.5 liter turbo four that is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway. If fuel economy is your main concern, you can also get a 1.6 liter turbodiesel rated at 28 miles per gallon in the city and a whopping 38 mpg on the highway for the AWD version (an even better 39 mpg in FWD configuration). Notwithstanding the mpg figures, our money is on the 2.0 Turbo for its price-performance ratio.

2019 GMC Terrain Denali

What makes a GMC a GMC

It’s no secret that there’s a lot of platform sharing between Chevrolet and GMC. Historically, GMC catered to commercial buyers and businesses, whereas Chevy targeted private owners. Over the years, those lines have blurred. This GMC Terrain Denali is clearly meant for the private owner in mind. What hasn’t blurred are the economics. GMC bends more upmarket as a premium brand, and that is certainly the case with the Terrain Denali. While the Chevy version of the platform (the Equinox) is anything but spartan, the Terrain Denali is deep into luxury territory.

2019 GMC Terrain Denali

So is there anything about the GMC Terrain Denali we don’t like?

Well, some people don’t like the new face of GMC (the new grille on the Terrain). And the floating C-pillar design is getting a bit overused by just about all the car companies. On the other hand, we’ve found just as many people that really like the new look of Terrain. All things being equal, we applaud a company that’s willing to take a risk. It beats having a design that offends and excites no one.

So, just remember: The Terrain’s domain is mainly on the plain. In this instance, that means the urban and suburban plains of Southern California. Its fit and finish, comfort and convenience will stand up to any night on the town. Go ahead and find any directing sign on the straight and narrow highway. As David Clayton Thomas might say, just let it shine within your mind. The new GMC Terrain Denali shines.

2019 GMC Terrain Denali
2019 GMC Terrain Denali

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Name of vehicle:
2019 GMC Terrain AWD Denali

$25,995 (base)
$39,500 (base Denali)
$43,550 (Denali as tested, with Driver Alert Package II, Advanced Safety Package, Comfort Package, trailering equipment with seven-wire connection, Satin Steel Metallic paint finish, and roof rack crossrails)

EPA fuel economy ratings and engines:
24/28 mpg for the 1.5 liter turbocharged four-in-line
21/26 mpg for the 2.0 liter turbocharged four-in line
28/38 mpg for the 1.6 liter turbodiesel four-in-line

Nine-speed automatic with Electronic Precision Shift
(six-speed on the turbodiesel)

Drive configuration:
FWD or AWD (as tested)

EPA size classification*:
Small SUV

Passenger car classes are designated by the EPA based on interior volume index or seating capacity, except the ones classified as special vehicle. A two-seater is classified as a car with no more than two designated seating positions.

2019 GMC Terrain Denali

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