2010 GMC Terrain: First Drive


Yesterday, we took our first spin in a few versions of the 2010 GMC Terrain five-seat crossover, which goes on sale this week. The Terrain is GMC's version of the Chevrolet Equinox. General Motors gets a little twitchy if you point out that one model is a version of another. No one wants to pay a premium for a model "based on" one from a more modest brand, right? It's a reasonable argument, but the economic reality of auto manufacturing in 2009 requires all companies to do more platform- and parts-sharing than ever, and when it's done properly, there's really nothing wrong with it.

Two things should make GM and potential buyers more comfortable about the fact that this GMC is related to a Chevy: First, its sibling is the Equinox, which in its 2010 redesigned form is a strong contender in the world of compact SUVs. Second, there's a lot to distinguish the Terrain from its sibling where it counts most: on the outside, where only the windshield and the roof are shared.


All of the things that make the Equinox attractive are here, not the least of which is its EPA-estimated 32 mpg highway when equipped with the four-cylinder. It has a comfortable ride, and it handles reasonably well for its type. I rode in the backseat with a driver who measures a towering 6 feet 6 inches tall, and he had a bit of headroom to spare even with an optional moonroof, a feature that tends to rob at least a little interior space.


Thanks to a rear bench seat that slides back, I had a few inches of knee clearance, even with the front seat moved fully rearward. I'm a mere 6 feet tall, and my knees were raised a few inches higher than the bottom cushion level, so my thighs weren't fully supported. The 60/40-split backrest angle adjusts to three positions, the rear two of which are comfortable. You'd best adjust it from outside of the car because the release handle is atop the backrest and not easily reached once seated. It felt to me that the head restraint should be inched up a bit, but despite its use of real posts, the Terrain's didn't move.

Overall, I found the backseat ride quality more than livable with 18-inch wheels on some rough roads. Seventeen-inchers are standard, and 19-inchers are optional on higher trim levels. GMC says it hasn't given the Terrain different suspension tuning or steering calibration than the Equinox has, and it's a smart move. Too often a manufacturer thinks it has to vary suspension tuning to distinguish its brands. When you make things different just to make them different, you run the risk of making one or the other inferior — maybe even both.

Terrain's SLE and SLT trim levels — subdivided into 1 and 2 versions — come with your choice of four-cylinder or V-6 engine and front- or all-wheel drive. Coupled with all-wheel drive and hauling a few people, the four-cylinder was adequate, though it was clearly working harder. The V-6 obviously brings more power, but it's in a stealthy manner: The electronic throttle and transmission schedule are so conservative that the Terrain ambles off the line and upshifts promptly. The power's there when you kick it, but the acceleration is oddly similar between the two.


The best reason to choose one of these trucks over the other is aesthetics. The interiors are a little different in design but equally high in quality. The cloth-upholstered model I checked out had nice-looking fabric, though I'm not sold on the industry's move toward rough textures. As for the exterior, most of us were unimpressed with the styling at the Terrain's auto-show introduction. Although it looks a little better out in the wild in a variety of colors, it still doesn't ring my bell. It looks tougher than the Equinox, mainly because of a huge grille and Hummer H3-style fender flares — complete with gaping space above the wheels. From the rear, the Terrain has the misfortune of resembling the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, which wouldn't be a bad thing if they weren't minivans. That's just my opinion, which is worth no more than yours. You like, you buy.


So what justifies the $24,250 Terrain's base-price premium over the $22,440 Equinox? Simply, its standard equipment list, which contains roughly 10 more of the features found optional on the Chevy, including a backup camera (displayed in the rearview mirror if you forego the navigation system offered on most trim levels). The higher you climb on the trim-level ladder, the closer these two models get in features and price. When packed to the gills with features, the Equinox actually costs more —  $37,735 — than the Terrain at $37,080, both including a destination charge.

We're often asked if the GMC division should exist, and it's a legitimate question. It's a profitable brand — something GM needs — and the company claims it attracts a significant percentage of buyers who don't cross-shop Chevys. Regardless of your feelings about one brand or the other, keeping the most impressive aspects consistent and significantly distinguishing the aesthetic character seems the right way to share platforms.

More 2010 GMC Terrain Images








By Joe Wiesenfelder | September 22, 2009 | Comments (22)



Is the Denali package going to be available for this? I think it would definately set it apart and would compete with the BMW X3, GLK 350 and Audi Q5.


Finally saw one in person, and couldn't get past the notion that they couldn't decide what to do with the front end, so they just attached a box.


PS- Okay, it's loaded, but.....37 grand??????

Idaho Guy

What is it about grills these days...bigger is definitely NOT better. Yuck.

Dave Wuss

It's just another GM rebadge job with an awful looking front end. The public is starting to figure out that the 4 cylinder is underpowered and with gas being cheap the underpowered engine makes little sense. Since GM is already offering a cash back incentive on the Equinox you can expect the same will happen here. GM will make a lot of people laugh with a loaded version priced at $37k. The 2010 Subaru Forester puts it to shame.


It looks like a Jeep Compass. . .


This thing is butt ugly. Did GM spend all the design money on the Equinox?

The fact that this is priced nearly the same as the Chevy Equinox, and is the same vehicle being marketed to the same buyers (splitting hairs doesn't count as different buyers) but required separate engineering, marketing, and retailing, tells me two things:
1. Although not a badge job in the strictest sense of the old GM, it is nonetheless two nearly-identical vehicles catering to nearly the same market for nearly the same price. Has GM not learned?
2. People are still buying SUV's like crazy, which means that, despite the redundancy of the Equinox, this thing will still sell. There's enough market for two brands of the same vehicle.

* http://www.cardealerhorrorstories.com *


Funny how I didn't see Joe W. use the word underpowered anywhere in his post. In fact Mike Hanley wrote "It doesn't feel underpowered" in describing the 4-cylinder in his recent review of the new Equinox. There is no cash incentive offered on the new Equinox. You really need to stop making stuff up and certainly feel free to enlighten us oh great poseur as to why you think the Forester puts this to shame.


this is far less of a 'rebadge' or badge engineering than we see from Ford/Lincoln/Mercury. it's probably closer to platform sharing, giving how little is the same (windshield and roof). on a Ford/Lincoln/Mercury, typically the only differences are the plastic pieces (bumpers, headlights/taillights, and interior...but only for the lincoln).

i think they did a great job of thoroughly differtiating the looks of the two vehicles, as gm has done with most of the vehicles it has developed in recent years that share platforms. although i'm not a fan of the grill, i think the best look is the one with black in the middle.

Original sheth


It costs $37k because it offers a host of options not found in the CR-V or RAV4. The Escape is $35k fully loaded with less space and worse mileage. If you skip the rear DVD package you save thousands. Few people will get a $37k Terrain.

Original sheth

Dave Wuss:

the Venza is a very similar vehicle in size, hp and price and it tops out at $38k loaded. The only feature it offers not found on the Terrain is HID headlamps. IT lacks at least half dozen features found on the GM crossovers. The RAV4, CR-V and Rogue are all much cheaper fully optioned because they don't offer much.

Dave W,
Unfortunately the other commenters are correct on two fronts.
The 4 cylinder impressed everyone on the staff with just how much it didn't feel underpowered.
Also, the option list on this thing is a bit crazy. We'll have a pricing post up later today. But Nav is $2,145, Rear DVD $1,295 and 19 inch wheels $900 for example.


The 4 cylinder should be front drive only, and the axle ratio should be bumped up to 3.53 from 3.23. That would reduce the window sticker to 20/30, but it would be quick.
The engine itself isn't underpowered, but to get to its power you need to operate in the 5000-7000 rpm range.

The V6 is far worse, which is why the 2.4 doesn't feel underpowered. 2.77 axle ratio for both powertrain options, what is GM thinking? No wonder the V6 really isn't any faster. Can 3rd gear in the V6 really exceed 100mph?
Front drive with the V6 should 3.16, the 'awd' should be 3.39

Subaru Forester, call me when it gets a modern transmission (and when it regains it center differential on the turbo model)

Original sheth


No instrumented testing of the V6 has been done but GM projected it would get to 60 in about 7.8 secs- one sec faster than the I-4. I would say the biggest advantage would be in passing times. While the four may feel inadequate in some situations, the 6 should feel OK in virtually every situation.

No one seems to remember than the CR-V needs over 9.5 secs to hit 60mph.


The sticking point with the tall gearing is where the transmission won't downshift.
Say you are going 60mph, the tranny isn't going to go into 2nd gear. So passing say 60 to 80mph won't be as quick as it should be, considering how much power the engine makes on paper.
With the correct gearing the driving experience will be so much better.
(look at the Cadillac SRX, 3.39 axle ratio with 3.0 V6)

The CR-V just got top end power now, but still no 6 speed auto.


If you buy this or the Equinox you should make sure you get the updated software package for the transmission that was recently provided to dealers. It fixes the rough shifting issues that owners have been complaining about.


After test driving both models, I can tell you that the 4-cylinder is a real dog for acceleration, and the 6-cylinder isn't much better. What the he-- is wrong with GM?


My wife, who can't tell one vehicle from another and doesn't care, saw a photo of the GMC Terrain in a two-page ad last night. Her unsolicited comment: "Look at this car...it looks like it was put together from pieces of other vehicles." 'Nuff said?

Say you are going 60mph, the tranny isn't going to go into 2nd gear. So passing say 60 to 80mph won't be as quick as it should be, considering how much power the engine makes on paper.

Good stunning car, anyone can fall in love with it.

I own this vehicle, and i just love it...the aggressive driving experience of it attracts me the most towards it...If you are looking for a high-performing SUV, then i strongly suggest you to go for this vehicle...

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