Other Terrain strengths shared with the related Chevrolet Equinox plentiful leg room, and the ride quality of a larger crossover. A 112.5” wheelbase (others are in the 103- to 106-inch range) likely deserves a fair amount of the credit for both. Though compact in width (and thus shoulder room), the Terrain goes down the road with a steadiness and solidity that you won’t find in truly compact crossovers. The Denali’s big 235/55R19 tires (an optional size on the SLT) clomp a bit over minor bumps, but the ride (enhanced with Denali-specific dual-flow dampers) is otherwise very smooth and quiet, even too quiet. Especially with the new V6 it’s shockingly easy to lose track of how fast you’re going.
If you’re seeking agility in a compact crossover, get a Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5. The Terrain is larger than those competitors, and partly thanks to a distant windshield (between massive pillars) feels even larger than it is. The steering has some play on-center (GMC DNA?), but weights up well as the wheel is turned. Typical of this sort of vehicle, understeer arrives early, but the chassis handles intuitively, with a very stable rear end (not a given with tall vehicles). I’ve experienced handling like this before: in GM’s big traditional SUVs. The Terrain is downright tight and nimble compared to a Yukon, but the way they feel through the seat of your pants is oddly similar.
The Terrain’s mid-cycle revisions haven’t affected its packaging. Despite the crossover’s long body, cargo volume is only about average thanks to a high, narrow floor and second row seats that don’t fold nearly flat.
The appearance modifications and smooth, quiet ride are worthy of the Denali label. But are these enough? The label got its start as a quick-and-dirty response to the success of the Lincoln Navigator. GM’s initial, soon-reversed decision was that Cadillac would not offer SUVs. Instead, luxury SUVs were GMC turf. To transform a Yukon into a Lincoln-fighter, GMC added cladding and a unique front end to the exterior, upgraded the interior, and made everything standard. In later iterations, the Denali gained more unique content, including an engine and drivetrain not offered in lesser Yukons. This helped justify a much higher price. A 2013 Yukon Denali lists for $3,640 more than a similarly-equipped Yukon SLT.
Two years ago, GMC added a Denali trim level to the Acadia large crossover. A new DOHC V8 died in development, and few other unique features made it through circa-bankruptcy GM, leaving the Acadia Denali short on content compared to other luxury brand vehicles. Accordingly, it lists for only $1,685 more than a similarly-equipped Acadia SLT.