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GMC Terrain Denali SUV impresses USA News Today

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GMC Terrain Denali SUV impresses USA News Today

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press
Published 12:02 p.m. ET Sept. 22, 2017

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GMC reveals the 2018 Terrain SUV during the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
USA TODAY NETWORK

PITTSBURGH — General Motors’ truck division, GMC, stakes out with the 2018 Terrain Denali, a compact SUV trimmed and equipped to compete with the likes of the Acura RDX and Audi Q5.

Terrain shares its chassis with the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, but the days when GMC vehicles were just gussied-up Chevys are long gone. There’s no visual similarity from the outside, and the Terrain’s interior boasts luxury touches such as aluminum trim and intuitive new transmission controls.

The 2018 Terrain is about 3.5 inches shorter than last year’s model. Despite that, it has plenty of interior room. The 2018 Terrain is about 350 pounds lighter and considerably more fuel-efficient than its predecessor.

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Terrain Denali was fast, responsive and quiet in a long day of driving that included
sidestepping construction zones in downtown Pittsburgh, twisty Pennsylvania hill roads, hours of highway driving followed by sitting in Detroit’s rush hour.

The 2-liter engine puts out 252 horsepower, making it second only to Alfa Romeo Stelvio in the segment. Terrain’s 3,500-pound capacity tops the competition. A 9-speed automatic transmission is standard with gasoline engines. 

Steering is responsive and quick. The transmission shifts fast and nearly imperceptibly. The Terrain’s handling is more than competent, but enthusiastic drivers will likely prefer the Stelvio, whose exhaust note and racy chassis are more likely to incite sporty driving.

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The Denali’s fuel economy rating of 21 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined essentially matches most competitors. The Audi Q5’s 25 mpg combined leads the class, and the Lincoln MKC and Acura RDX trail at 22 mpg. 

The Denali uses premium gasoline to achieve its rated fuel economy, as do all competitors except the MKC.

Terrain also comes with a 1.6-liter diesel engine option. It tacks on $3,770 but makes up for it with better fuel economy. That combo should earn it a look from diesel fans who used to buy Volkswagen Tiguans and hybrid owners who could use the diesel’s 1,500-pound towing capacity for outdoor activities.

I also drove the 170-horsepower 1.5-liter gasoline engine that powers the base Terrain on a short course that included a couple of steep hills. Most drivers will be perfectly happy with it.

GMC has elevated its luxury and sophistication but has yet to add enthusiast appeal to its brand identity.

Besides being roomy, the interior is comfortable and quiet. Innovative new toggle controls for the transmission located on the center stack create more storage space in the center console, including handy side-by-side cup holders that will eliminate that relationship-testing moment when you accidentally gulp down your companion’s drink.

GM calls the control its electronic precision shifter, and the name fits. The intuitive design quickly felt natural. That’s a refreshing change from other automakers’ attempts to reinvent the shifter, the worst of which have been linked to multiple accidents.

The Terrain has plenty of headroom, even with a big panoramic sunroof. The rear seat is
comfortable on long drives.

The controls are simple and easy to use. They include a new version of GMC’s touch screen with improved graphics.

The exterior design is striking, from a bold octagonal grille to a seemingly floating roof
created by blacked-out C-pillars and small rear side windows. Those narrow windows would make good gun slits, but visibility is surprisingly good. Still, I’d recommend getting blind spot and cross traffic alerts, optional features on most models.

As for the downside, the infotainment system suffered a couple of intermittent glitches.
Sometimes the dashboard and steering wheel controls didn’t work to advance or repeat tracks with Apple CarPlay.

The touch screen didn’t always respond in its non-CarPlay mode. The touch points lit up to show it registered my attempt to change settings, but nothing happened.

GMC didn’t become General Motors’ second-largest brand by accident. Born as a provider of delivery trucks early in the 20th Century, it has come to embody a compelling mix of ruggedness and sophistication. The 2018 Terrain Denali’s new vision of GMC styling, comfort, value and features will bolster that reputation.

WHAT STANDS OUT

Size: 3.5 inches shorter than the last one, but still plenty of room

Styling: Bold

Infotainment system: Not glitch-free

2018 GMC TERRAIN DENALI

What? An all-wheel-drive, five-passenger SUV

When? Coming soon

Where? Made in San Luis Potosi, Mexico

What makes it go? 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with a 9-speed transmission

How thirsty? 21 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway
and 23 mpg combined

How big? 15.2 feet long

How much? Terrain starts at $24,995 and the all-wheel-drive Denali is $39,270. Price as tested:  $43,475.

Overall: A top-notch SUV, based on looks, features and comfort

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