2010 GMC Terrain

The 2010 GMC Terrain is yet another example of how the “New” GM operates. For better, or worse.

Mechanically identical to the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox, unlike past efforts at platform sharing between the two brands, the Terrain goes far beyond the typical grille and badge swap to make it more suitable to display next to the fancy Buicks on the showroom floor where the Pontiacs used to be.

Park the two next to each other and I dare you to find a body part or piece of glass that’s the same on both cars. OK, maybe the windshield, and probably the roof, but definitely not those grilles!

The Equinox is a very safe, traditional crossover, with soft curves and a bit of Chevy Malibu about it. The Terrain is a much bolder and more questionable collection of boxes that’s almost Hummeresque, but with a pinched-cheeks effect at the front end that ruins its chances of getting a starring role in the sequel to “The Hurt Locker.” The crossover definitely looks more like a truck in this guise - fitting for GM’s truck brand – but has the awkward proportions of a full-size Yukon that was downsized by Matchbox.

Inside the changes are mostly limited to the door liners and the top of the dashboard, which has an insert that’s shaped something like a flying saucer. In two-tone models it’s a sharp element that’s visually much stronger than the arching dual-cockpit motif of the Equinox. Center stack, steering wheel and just about everything else is pure carry-over, not to imply that that’s a bad thing.

One of this platform’s most noteworthy attributes is the amount of legroom on offer, given its relatively compact footprint. The front seat can slide back so far that a six-foot, one-incher like me can barely toe the pedals - manna from heaven in a world where far too many automakers cut you off even when there’s plenty of room left to be had behind you. Better still, if you decide take advantage of all of it, the kids in the cheap seats don’t get the shaft, thanks to a moveable bench that offers more second row legroom than any vehicle in the GMC lineup, including the Savana full-size van. Add the $1,295 dual-screen entertainment system and you might be able to reclaim your den.

The cargo area expands and contracts in concert with the seat, and while it’s not exactly cavernous, there’s plenty of room for a week’s worth of luggage for four, if not five passengers. A relatively narrow rear seat may dissuade anyone from taking residence on the hump, anyway, especially if there’s a child’s car seat or two involved. Even if they do there isn’t one of those panoramic sunroofs available to ease any incidents of claustrophobia, just a normal-size one up front that, oddly, has separate buttons for tilting it and sliding it open. I’d call this is retro, but, as far as I can remember, since the invention of the power sunroof one button has performed both of these tasks admirably.

Of course the bold print on all of the advertisements for the Terrain is the standard 182 horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is rated at 32 mpg highway. That’s a mind-boggling number for a vehicle this size - especially one that’s not a hybrid - and it slips just a few ticks to 29 mpg when fitted with all-wheel-drive. Having previously reviewed the Equinox in that configuration, I sought out a Terrain with the optional 264 hp 3.0-liter V6 and its highway fuel economy rating of 24 mpg - more in line with GMC’s “Professional Grade” slogan, or so I’d hoped.

Found in a number of GM products, this is not one of the company’s more impressive motors. On paper it sounds great, but with a lowish torque rating of 222 lb-ft that shows up at a very high 5,100 rpm there’s none of that stump-pulling power you expect in a vehicle that looks like it will easily run through a brick wall, and with top safety ratings probably could. The greatest benefit of spending the extra $1,500 is a tow rating increase from 1,500 lbs to 3,500 lbs. It’s also a little livelier than the four-cylinder at freeway speeds and more relaxed while tackling hills, but not so much that you can’t live without it. Either way, speed demons will be looking elsewhere.

For moderate use, however, this is a tough car to argue with. GMC’s version comes with a slightly higher level of standard equipment than the Equinox to go along with its slightly higher base price of $24,995. All trim levels, including the $31,300 SLT 2 version that I tested, are fitted with a small backup camera in the rearview mirror, a USB port, and all of the usual retinue of options on offer. These include a $2,145 touch-screen infotainment system with navigation that seems like an extravagance given the effectiveness of OnStar’s turn-by-turn navigation feature, which currently costs $100 for the first year of service and $299 annually after that. Then again, if you like the Terrain enough to buy one, there’s a good chance you’ll end up owning it for the seven years that it’ll take to make up the difference.

Despite the tall, SUV-like seating position, it has a composed suspension and drives more like a sedan than a truck. There’s no undue bobbing and weaving, and while the variable-rate power steering may not be the best of the breed on feel, it’s light and easy around town and won’t lead you astray on the highway.

Considering this arguably-cute ute competes with a lot of smaller vehicles on price, and more expensive ones on size, those who find its looks appealing should be happy with their purchase. I’m not sure how many of those people are out there, but I’ll tell you this – I see a lot of bulldogs on the streets where I live, even though golden retrievers are in plentiful supply.

Beauty, it's only a reskin deep.


2010 GMC Terrain SLT 2

Base Price: $31,300

As Tested: $35,040

Type: 5-passenger, front-engine, all-wheel-drive five-door crossover

Engine: 3.0-liter V6

Power: 252 hp, 222 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

MPG: 17 city/24 hwy