Chevrolet and GMC have had an all-too-close relationship for decades, with many GMCs being almost exclusively rebadges of one Bowtie or another. Lately, however, thanks to the advent of platform sharing, GMCs have been receiving some unique DNA. The GMC Terrain, which is the brand's second-best-seller behind the Sierra pickup and one of GM's ten-best-selling vehicles, period, was one of the first to receive this treatment.
Under the skin, the 2012 GMC Terrain we drove recently is identical to the Chevrolet Equinox and the similarity extends to the interior as well -- the only difference there being the color of the lighting. But the boxier sheetmetal of the Terrain is totally different from that of the Equinox, and is distinctly aimed at a different type of customer. One downside of this lookis that it gives the Terrain a considerable wheel gap. Some may like it because it makes it look more truck-like, but I'm not a fan.
Like other crossovers in this tweener "bigger than a two-row compact, smaller than a three-row midsize" segment, the Terrain is fairly hefty. An AWD V-6 model tested in 2010 weighed in at 4135 pounds, meaning this FWD example would have weighed in at around 4000 pounds. Of course, the big engine is one of the reasons to opt for the bigger -- and pricier -- two-row CUVs like the GMC Terrain, Nissan Murano, and Ford Edge over smaller options like the Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson.
I took the Terrain to Joshua Tree National Monument, some 120 miles to the east of Los Angeles, for an impromptu rock climbing trip with some friends. It proved to be a wise decision. Rock climbing gear on its own doesn't take up that much space - it was a day trip, so no camping equipment was necessary -- but the 39.9 inches of rear-seat legroom was appreciated by the lone soul who sat in the back.
On the freeway, the Terrain is quiet and comfortable. The SLT-2 comes standard with an eight-speaker Pioneer audio system, which provides good quality sound. Fuel economy is slightly below average for the class based on the EPA ratings at 17/24 mpg city/highway, but the V-6 models come with a mammoth 20.9-gallon tank, making the Terrain a solid long-distance option based on cruising range alone -- at an average of 20 mpg, 400 miles will pass between fuel stops. Body roll is well controlled, so the junior hockey players in the back are unlikely to ruin the upholstery should the road get curvy, but the 2-ton curb weight (and the fact that it's a family-hauling CUV) isn't going to draw you to the twisties. Despite the heft, the Terrain stops quite well -- the aforementioned 2010 tester needed just 112 feet -- and feels confident under braking. Panicked stops don't have to be panic-inducing.
The 3.0-liter V-6 makes 264 horsepower and 222 lb-ft of torque, which is comparable to similar engines in the Toyota Venza and Nissan Murano, but below the output of the 280-hp 3.5-liter under the hood of the Ford Edge. It'll get out of its own way, but don't expect brisk acceleration. The AWD model we tested in 2010 needed 8.1 seconds to get to 60 mph, meaning that FWD acceleration is likely a couple of ticks less.
For 2012, the Terrain SLT-2 offers a forward collision alert and lane departure warning system. It's a $295 option, though I fortunately didn't have any situations that engaged the alert system. The lane departure warning system seemed to work better when solid lines marked the side of the road.
If you're on the market for a spacious two-row SUV and aren't too concerned with fuel economy, the Terrain is a solid choice, particularly if you prefer boxes to bubbles -- and I'm not talking about sub-types of donks -- and want some athleticism when hauling little athletes.