2019 GMC Terrain Silver Parked Front Quarter ・ Photo by GMC
GMC has found that crossovers are golden. Of course, that isn’t unique, but it sure is profitable for a brand that otherwise would only have rebadged trucks going for it. That's why the GMC Terrain compact crossover has become a staple of the brand's lineup. It's a highly styled vehicle that isn’t quite as extreme as it was in its previous generation.
Americans’ enthusiasm for crossover SUVs is seemingly unquenchable, and the Terrain is well-positioned to tap into that. It competes in a very popular and growing segment that also includes the Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, and Honda CR-V. Some refer to them as “cute utes,” but they are more useful and versatile than that would suggest. You can go off-road in any of them you can as long as you choose the optional all-wheel drive and are aware of their limitations. The fact is that the 2020 GMC Terrain is a highly useful and practical vehicle, as thousands of buyers are discovering.
The exterior design of the 2020 GMC Terrain is imaginative, attractive, and contemporary. The previous version of the vehicle was more angular, but for this iteration, the designers softened the hard lines and brought the vehicle back into the mainstream.
That's not to say that the Terrain looks like every other crossover suv on the road today. Its side window treatment is especially distinctive, and up front it wears the big, bold GMC grille. Standard exterior features include 17-inch aluminum wheels, LED lighting, taillamps with a distinctive look, and active aero shutters. A hands-free power-programmable liftgate is available as an option. Last year the Terrain featured the Terrain Black Edition appearance package, which added 19-inch “glass-black” wheels and other black and darkened details. For 2020, it has been renamed the Terrain Elevation Edition, and it will continue to be offered on vehicles with Summit White, Graphite Gray Metallic, or Ebony Twilight Metallic paint. The upscale Terrain Denali, which GMC treats as nearly a separate model, offers unique grille, 19-inch wheels, and LED headlamps with signature lighting.
Photo by GMC
The Terrain is fitted with a stylish interior that provides very pleasant accommodations for five. After spending hours at the wheel of a mid-level Terrain, we found it to offer a good driving position, nice sightlines, and intuitive operation. The choice of drive, reverse, neutral, and park is accomplished using pull-type switches on the lower portion of the center dashboard. Unlike a button, these switches can't be activated by mistake.
The Terrain telegraphs its premium nature with authentic aluminum trim, soft-touch materials on the instrument panel, and similar materials on the doors. The center console is equipped with pass-through storage underneath, and we appreciated the convenience of the side-by-side cupholders. The front passenger seat folds flat, which works well in combination with the flat-folding rear seat to enable the Terrain to handle long cargo. Leather-trimmed seating and heated front seats are standard on the SLT and Denali trim levels, and a heated steering wheel is standard on the Denali. During our test, the standard active noise cancellation worked well in providing a quiet cabin.
Photo by Brady Holt
The 2020 Terrain features an upscale array of infotainment offerings. Depending upon trim level, buyers have the choice of 7- and 8-inch infotainment screens that offer very easy integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. During our drive, we found the system worked intuitively and completely without drama.
The Terrain offers two data/charging and two charge-only USB ports even on the base SL and SLE trims. On the higher-level SLT and Denali trims, they are accompanied by a 110-volt power outlet and two additional data/charging USB ports. For those who value wireless connectivity, the Terrain offers a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot that includes a 3-gigabyte one-month data trial. In addition to the large center-mounted touchscreen, the SLT and Denali trims, feature a standard 4.2-inch multi-color driver information center in the instrument panel immediately in front of the driver, and it is available on the SLE trim. Wireless phone charging is available on Denali, and the Teen Driver safety system is standard on all Terrain models.
Photo by GMC
The 2020 GMC Terrain hangs its hat on turbocharged engines. The base SL and SLE versions are powered by a 1.5-liter 170-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder with a stout 203 lb-ft of peak torque. That is also the base engine on the SLT, but the SLT trim also offers a 2.0-liter 252-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder with an even stouter 260 lb-ft of torque. That is the engine that is standard on the upscale Denali.
Both engines are accompanied by a nine-speed automatic transmission, and to many, that will be seen as an advantage versus the CVTs on some competitive vehicles. Front-wheel drive is the standard arrangement for all trims, and all-wheel drive is offered on every trim but the base SL.
Photo by GMC
If you look at the GMC Terrain as a competitor to compact SUVs from the European manufacturers, you might be disappointed with its handling and performance. If, on the other hand, you look at the Terrain in the context of the domestic and Asian-brand crossovers, you will find the Terrain to offer a very similar driving experience.
Virtually all of these vehicles are set up for smooth, quiet ride rather than sharp handling, and the Terrain performs well in that context. Even with the 1.5-liter engine, the vehicle accelerates well, thanks to its hefty torque. Brakes are easy to apply and modulate, and steering is well-weighted for this type of vehicle where the driver is seeking ease rather than maximum tire feedback. And if you want to take your young family of five on vacation, you will find plenty of luggage space in the cargo area.
Photo by GMC
The GMC Terrain has updated for 2020 with a much more comprehensive standard safety package than in previous model years. GMC Pro Safety is now provided on all trim levels. It includes automatic emergency braking, a forward collision alert, lane-keep assistance with a lane-departure warning, and a following-distance indicator. Frontal pedestrian and automatic high beams are also parts of the standard safety gear.
If you are seeking even more comprehensive safety and driver aids, an optional Driver Alert Package includes adaptive cruise control with a camera, a lane-change alert, a side blind-zone alert, a rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, and a Safety Alert Seat. To emphasize its premium nature, the Denali adds front parking sensors. Six standard airbags, including frontal driver and passenger, roof rail-mounted head curtain, and thorax side-impact airbags, lead the passive safety equipment. Also included are collapsible pedal assembly and a standard rearview camera. The innovative Rear Seat Reminder notifies you when the second-row doors had been opened when you switch off the vehicle.
Photo by GMC
In a field of five-passenger crossovers, the Terrain is right about average in the amount of interior space it offers. With the rear seat folded, it delivers 63.3 cubic feet of cargo space compared to 65.4 cubic feet in the Ford Escape, and 70.0 cubic feet in the Nissan Rogue. With the rear rows of seats up for use, it has just 29.6 cubic feet of cargo space. That compares to 37.5 cubic feet in the Ford Escape and 39.3 cubic feet in the Nissan Rogue.
The liftgate is easy to open and shut, and we appreciated the adjustable power operation. During our recent test of the vehicle, we found the interior both comfortable and accommodating, though it didn’t seem more premium than its non-luxury-brand competitors. The Denali trim doesn’t seem all that special on the Terrain either, though we have appreciated Denali variants of other GMC vehicles.
Photo by Brady Holt
The GMC Terrain is a five-passenger crossover that can be equipped with either of two efficient, small-displacement four-cylinder engines. The quest for high fuel economy is aided by the sophisticated nine-speed automatic transmission.
The base front-drive Terrain turns in EPA estimates of 26 mpg city/30 mpg highway/27 mpg combined. In comparison, a front-wheel drive Mitsubishi Outlander offers 25 mpg city/30 mpg highway/26 mpg combined. The top-of-the-line all-wheel drive Terrain Denali delivers an EPA-rated 21 mpg city/26 mpg highway/23 mpg combined. Surprisingly, the Terrain Denali with all-wheel drive is rated to tow a 3,500 trailer. That is significantly more than many vehicles in the class.
Photo by GMC
For 2020, the Terrain vehicle lineup encompasses four trim configurations: SL, SLE, SLT, and Denali. As we’ve noted, GMC treats the Terrain Denali as virtually a separate model. The goal of the SL is to please budget buyers, so its equipment level is moderate, but it does offer a significant amount of standard safety gear and some creature comforts.
As one escalates through the trim levels, there are a couple of big distinctions. For example, the more potent 2.0-liter turbo engine is only available on the SLT and Denali trims. All-wheel drive is not offered on the base SL. For those who are looking for a fully equipped vehicle, the Denali trim is the obvious choice. At the same time, you can get a high degree of luxury and performance, including the 2.0-liter turbo, if you check the right boxes on the SLT trim. A new Denali Premium Package that combines the Advanced Safety Package and Comfort Package to include adaptive cruise control with a camera, ventilated driver and front passenger seats, and heated rear seats, along with a premium suspension that includes new internal valves to deliver a more refined ride.
Photo by General Motors
The 2020 Terrain resides in an overheated portion of the U.S. car market, and it is GMC’s value vehicle. The SL trim is the budget version, and we believe you’ll probably be happier by stepping up at least one trim level to SLE or SLT. If you make the latter choice, we suggest opting for the more powerful engine.
Available option packages on the SLT help you get the stuff you want without buying the stuff you don’t. Or if you want to avoid heavy thinking and you have the cash, choose the Terrain Denali and you pretty much get it all. The base front-wheel drive Terrain SL has an MSRP of $25,000 plus a $1,195 destination charge. For the all-wheel-drive SLT trim level, the MSRP climbs to $32,800 plus destination. Should you opt for the Terrain Denali, the MSRP is $39,900 plus destination.
Photo by GMC