Review: 2018 GMC Terrain Denali

2018 gmc terrain denali canada review awd

Words: Don Cheng

Photography: Don Cheng

Published: July 17, 2018


When GM announced that they would refocus their resources on only a select few brands in their portfolio, nobody thought it would be Pontiac under the guilottine, as opposed to GMC. GM’s truck lineup was already pretty established through Chevrolet, and at the peak of the financial crisis, nobody thought buying big American trucks would be on anyone’s mind, potentially ever again. Yet, here we are a decade later and the market demands pick-ups and SUVs. GM’s long bet on GMC is starting to pay dividends, and they have responded by updating every single one of its hot ticket crossovers.



The latest to receive a workover is the Terrain. No it’s not a new product, though it might as well be as its predecessor was so forgettable that you’d be forgiven if you lost it in an empty parking lot. Thankfully this SUV is 100% new and shares literally nothing (except the name) with the first generation. GMC has given the styling quite some attention here, featuring an imposing chrome grille and C-shaped headlamps. The front fascia is all business, perfect for that “Professional Grade” tagline. Out back, the shape of the headlamps are mimicked in its LED taillamps, and the D-Pillar has been blacked out to accommodate the “floating roofline” illusion - an aesthetic that classes up the overall design.



The dress up didn’t miss the interior either. Welcoming drivers is an all-new cockpit. There’s been a priority for better storage solutions this time around and the Terrain delivers in spades. It’s a very practical cabin, offering a great deal of storage space for a family. Materials have been upgraded too and fit and finish looks a lot more durable. The infotainment system has seen a significant revision too. It now delivers responsive and smooth performance, though I did run into an issue of the display not switching to “Night Mode” no matter how much I fiddled with the setting.



Perhaps the biggest change is what sits just below the centre console. GMC’s done away with the standard levered gear selector and adopted a push/pull button mechanism that’s mounted just below the HVAC controls. This new design a neat feature that frees up the area where the traditional lever would go - allowing for taller objects to fit in this extra cubby hole.


In an SUV, this makes total sense. It takes some getting used to but the design is simple enough. Overcoming the muscle memory of grabbing the phantom gear lever is probably the biggest challenge. The buttons are ordered identically to the traditional lever, only now it’s oriented horizontally instead of vertically. Parking, Neutral, and Low gear are all push buttons, meanwhile Drive and Reverse are pull switches. GM says two different motions make it difficult to confuse the switches, should you decide to drive blindfolded one day.



The Terrain has done away with the V6, offering instead your choice of three turbocharged four cylinder engines. In the top Denali trim which we tested, sits a 2.0L turbo four producing 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of twist. Power of course is routed via a 9-speed transmission to all four corners - a standard feature on SLT and Denali trim levels.


Power delivery feels effortless and torque comes early in the power band. Coupled with the slick shifting 9-speed unit, and it’s a painless driving experience. I didn’t find the SUV lurching or searching for gears, nor did it struggle to hit that final cog while cruising along the highway.



In Denali configuration, GMC has retuned the suspension for a sportier feel. My guess is to accommodate the extra weight from a full spec sheet of features. While sporty may be up for interpretation, I did find the ride to be very forgiving, eating up potholes without succumbing to an endless series of bounces. There’s some body-roll mid corner but the suspension does a good job reigning it in quickly. Steering feel is well damped and light enough to not feel too artificial. The overall experience is almost like wielding a luxury crossover: it’s close, but not quite there.



At an as-tested price of $44,048, the Denali comes with all the checkboxes ticked, including a full suite of safety features such as lane keep assist, forward collision mitigation, and a number of camera views. Boasting a well thought out, practical interior, and a potent 2.0L turbo four makes the Terrain punch well above its weight class. It’s an appealing purchase if you’re looking for something a bit classier than the compact SUV defaults, Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue.


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Model: 2018 GMC Terrain Denali AWD
Base Price: $41,695

Price as Tested: $44,048
Wheelbase(mm): 2,725
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,652 / 1,843 / 1,661

Curb weight (kg): 1,724
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 252 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 2,500 - 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD

Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 11.2 / 9.0 / 10.2





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