Those of you who regularly read my column know I am not enamored with SUVs. As far as I'm concerned their time, if it ever existed, has passed. Their only saving grace is their ability to carry large loads. But that's just my opinion; SUV sales continue to be good so most of the U.S.A. disagrees with me.
GMC (and many others) no longer call all SUVs a SUV; some are now crossovers (usually a crossover is a car based SUV-like vehicle). GMC, the smallest General Motors Division, has two crossovers in its 2012 lineup — the Acadia and Terrain (a third, Terrain Denali, joins in 2013). The "true" SUVs are now called trucks (they are truck based). I recently drove a GMC Terrain.
The Terrain is the larger of GMC's crossover for 2012 and its intended competition are vehicles like the Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, and Hyundai Santa Fe. The Terrain is 185.3 inches long and rides on a 112.5 inch wheelbase. It weighs 3798 pounds plus depending on model and option; not bad for a SUV, er crossover, but a little portly.
I am not a fan of the styling; too much chrome, too massive a front-end, and too angular for me. The size is decent though — easy to get in and out of and for its interior volume (a total of 63.9 cubic feet) it is relatively small on the outside.
The 2012 model has two engines available; a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 3.0-liter V6 (the V6 goes to 3.6-liters for 2013). I can see only one reason to go with the four — it is
more fuel efficient but at the expense of towing capacity and performance (let's face it, its 182 hp and 172 ft-lbs of torque aren't much to move almost two tons). The V6 is rated at 17-city and 24-highway and that isn't bad for a vehicle like this. I drove a similar Chevrolet vehicle last year and it mirrored the '12 Terrain's mileage. I found that it is easy to exceed the highway figure but the city figure will drag down the combined. (Note to all automotive engineers: Not all driving is on a highway; please find a way to get the city mileage up.) Even with the larger engine the '13's mileage stays the same.
One big difference between the 4-cylinder and V6 is the towing capacity. The V6 more than doubles the towable weight to 3,500 pounds. If you plan on towing anything heavier than a basic travel trailer go for the V6.
GMC uses a 6-speed automatic transmission (helps with economy) with either engine. It easily rivals the GM transmissions of old in operation (remember when automatics were trouble free?) but with the world moving to 7- or 8-speed automatics it is time for the domestics to up their game. (Did I actually just diss a very good 6-speed automatic?)
I find many current vehicles to have busy instrument panels. They are way too fussy with too many buttons that aren't easy to use or intuitive. The Terrain is no different except at least there are some knobs. There is a feature I really liked — the "hoods" over the instrument cluster and radio. It almost eliminated glare and reflection. Excellent!
Crossovers have replaced big 4-door sedans as the vehicle of choice in suburbia. Look around, how many large sedans do you see? And the fuel economy of the crossovers is good for their size. But that's the rub; it's good for their size. There was a time when 24-mpg was considered great; now it's only fair. If we're going to ever become free of foreign oil we are going to have to develop family size (or North American family size) vehicles with much better fuel economy.
For now, though, the GMC Terrain is a very good choice. I can't keep up with the average sale price of vehicles. It seems like only yesterday that $20,000 got you a decent set of wheels. (Actually it was a long time ago.) In June 2012 the average transaction price was $30,508. That puts the lowest price Terrain ($26,385) in perspective. Go with the top model (SLT-2 All-Wheel-Drive), load on all the options you can and you are pushing $40,000.
Exploring the 2012 GMC Terrain - San Jose Mercury News