My husband and I have seen Broadway and recording star Audra McDonald twice and shall make it thrice if the right ride arrives. I envisioned a Range Rover or Jaguar, perhaps, but the GMC Terrain Denali met open curtains instead. It has its own style, harbors luxury, is capacious, and comes efficiently powered. There could be worse ways to arrive.
I have to say Ms. McDonald is substantially more beautiful than the Terrain, but it has its merits. In Denali trim, there’s deep luxury inside and flashy bling outside - beginning with the chrome textured grille, GMC trademark C-shaped running lamps, LED headlamps, and lower foglamps. More chrome dresses the lower facia, bodysides, roofrack, and liftgate. Check the 19-inch alloy wheels. The Terrain is a tall and narrow vehicle, which causes some frumpy visuals, but it spent many hours in the wind tunnel to hone interior sound and fuel economy. The broken rear pillar is becoming trite, but works well with the Terrain’s upscale style.
We listened to McDonald on the Bose audio system coming and going, enabled by Bluetooth and a plethora of USB ports. Accessing her music was easy with 4G Wi-Fi. For the upscale Denali feel, stylists stitched dash coverings, specified deep woodgrain for the dash and doors, and applied aluminum-look trim left, front, and right. After walking through a cold evening, we slipped into heated (and ventilated) leather seats; I gripped the thick heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, fiddled GMC’s push-button gear selector, and headed to the concert.
The technology suite is fairly comprehensive. GMC’s latest touchscreen is easy to use – browse with the tuning knob, swipe the screen like a tablet, or command by voice. Navigation made getting to dinner easy while the red forward collision alert flash saved our grille when an idiot stopped suddenly. Other safety gear includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, rearview camera, and rear cross path detection. A rear seat reminder tells you when a kid (or heavy computer bag) is being forgotten.
Unlike in the previous generation Terrain, there’s no V6 available. But, you won’t miss it because the Denali came stoked with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 252 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. It connects to the all-wheel-drive system through a 9-speed automatic transmission. Towing capacity is rated 3,500 pounds to tote jet skis or a small camper. I’m not a fan of auto stop/start, and the Terrain’s can’t be defeated, but it’s pretty smooth and enables 21/26-MPG city/highway (with AWD).
On the road, the four-wheel-independent suspension does a reasonable job of taming potholes, but it is quite firm and the turning radius is pitiful. Stepping through the gears to keep the turbo-four humming was a delight while stomping onto the freeway or easing through traffic. Most drivers will find it perfectly pleasant.
If you can make it on Broadway, you can make it anywhere and that’s definitely true of McDonald – and the GMC Terrain, which sold over 700,000 “tickets” during the past decade. She sounded superb – nothing less than expected. The GMC, on other stages, both delighted and perplexed its passengers. Exterior styling is not everybody’s favorite song, and the new slightly smaller interior gets mixed reviews, but the level of luxury and style for the price is impressive. Terrain starts at $24,995, rising to $38,595 for a base Denali and $41,710 as-tested. Competitors include the Lincoln MKC, Acura RDX, BMW X1, Jeep Cherokee, and upcoming Infiniti QX50
2018 GMC Terrain Denali
- Five-passenger, AWD Crossover
- Powertrain: 252 hp 2.0-liter T4, 9-spd trans
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Style, Space
- Towing Capacity: 3,500 lbs.
- Fuel economy: 21/26 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: San Luis Potosi, Mexico
- Base/as-tested price: $24,995/41,710