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New GMC Terrain melds style and fuel efficiency with premium features

2010 GMC TerrainThe 2010 GMC Terrain is a new addition to the GMC lineup. It’s a crossover SUV that offers bolder, more assertive styling than its Chevrolet sibling, the 2010 Equinox. Riding on a platform shared with the Equinox, the GMC Terrain might be considered the little brother to GMC’s successful full-size Acadia crossover. It boasts a pleasing exterior package and ample room inside, with thoughtful features that maximize both cargo and passenger capacity. Front-wheel drive is standard, with four-wheel drive an option.

The Terrain comes in two trim levels, SLE and SLT, along with a comprehensive inventory of standard features such as a rear-vision backup camera, OnStar (with one-year Safe and Sound service), XM Satellite Radio, USB audio connectivity, MP3 playback capability, and a programmable rear power liftgate, The standard MultiFlex sliding rear seat can be moved up or back nearly eight inches, and the rear cargo area behind it offers up 31.6 cubic feet of storage with the seat fully forward.

Among the options offered are Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, a navigation system with a seven-inch touch screen and voice recognition, a 40-gigabyte hard drive, and DVD-based rear-seat entertainment system with two independent screens.

Walkaround: Visually, the Terrain presents a balanced, athletic stance, that’s angular yet refined, and characterized by its bold, muscular fender flares, which appear to be borrowed from the late Hummer H3. The aggressive front-end is distinguished by GMC’s new signature three-element grille, which is accented by a prominent chrome surround, and by its projector-beam headlamps mounted in large, rectangular housings with chrome accents. The front-end is finished with precise, squared-off edges on the business-like cowling.

The Terrain rides on a 112.5-inch wheelbase and features a four-wheel independent suspension with wide front and rear tracks. There’s a choice of standard 17-inch, or optional 18-inch aluminum and 19-inch chrome-clad wheels available.

The B-pillar is angled rearward from the top down, and wider than usual so the third-panel glass can wrap around to meet the liftgate.

The Terrain is larger than most of its segment competition — and considerably more stylish than the smaller Ford Escape, which has undergone some minor updates in recent years but whose overall look has become dated. Other physically smaller, and somewhat less stylish competitors include the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and VW Tiguan.

Interior: The Terrain’s premium interior is quite refined, and has been clearly influenced by European design. That refinement is evident in the contrasting stitching and quality materials that create a uniformly structured look throughout the cabin. There are also four auxiliary power outlets, including one in the cargo area.

The Terrain’s newly designed seats are very comfortable. The aforementioned standard MultiFlex sliding rear seat has a 60/40-split, offering a number of configurations for passengers and cargo. It can be moved nearly eight inches, providing increased passenger legroom and/or greater rear cargo capacity, depending on how much of the available 31.6 cubic feet is needed.

GM’s first application of Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology — already used on some Honda models and other luxury-brand vehicles — is used on models equipped with the 2.4-Liter, 4-cylinder engine. ANC utilizes microphones to detect booming sounds inside the vehicle and sends counteracting sound waves through the audio system’s speakers, for a quiet driving experience at almost all vehicle speeds.

Safety features include four-wheel disc brakes with GM’s StabiliTrak electronic stability control and traction control, as well as six standard air bags — dual frontal air bags; head curtain side air bags and pelvic/thorax seat-mounted side air bags.

Under The Hood: Two brand new, clean-sheet design, new-thinking powerplants are offered on all GMC Terrain models. Forget old technology like pushrods. Both Terrain engines feature gasoline direct-injection with variable-valve timing. A 2.4-Liter Ecotec Inline 4-cylinder — the first 4-banger offered in a GM crossover since the 1980’s — and rated at 182 horsepower, is the standard motor. The optional 3.0-Liter V6 delivers 264 ponies, and an EPA-estimated 25 mpg on the highway, and 17 in the city, while the 2.4 is rated at 32/highway and 22/city. Both engines boast a driving range of more than 500 miles, and are mated to efficiency-enhancing six-speed automatic transmissions.

The powertrains are mounted on a rigid, body-integral structure, with single-piece body side stampings and targeted applications of high-strength steel. The Terrain’s rack-mounted electric power steering system provides greater fuel efficiency on the four-cylinder models, saving nearly 11 miles per tank of gas. Maximum fuel economy on the 2.4-Liter is also achieved in part by using an “eco” mode activated with a console-mounted button. When engaged, it lowers the torque converter lockup speed to 1,125 rpm to help save additional fuel.

Behind The Wheel: Our onyx black SLT test vehicle was equipped with the V6 and was relatively loaded option-wise ($36,430 as tested). We drove the Terrain during a time of exceptionally cold, icy weather, and found its front-wheel drive to be relatively surefooted with minimal torque-steer. Acceleration was fairly strong, and handling and braking were good. Overall, we found it to drive at least as good as anything in this market segment, with stronger acceleration than all the others.

Whines: The width of the B-pillar restricts rear visibility somewhat, but is partially made up for with the standard back-up camera. There’s no optional third-row seat as in the smaller RAV4.

The Bottom Line: The 2010 GMC Terrain is an example of the new design standard being set by GMC, while offering bolder styling than its sibling Chevy Equinox. It’s boasts lots of room and comfort, thoughtful features, pleasing design, and outstanding performance. General Motors is on a mission to re-establish itself as a force to be reckoned with in the American market amid the European and Japanese competitors it allowed to eclipse its one-time dominance through a generation of managerial arrogance and product neglect. Starting with the Chevy Malibu and new Buick LaCrosse, as well as a number of new vehicles I was invited to preview in advance of this year’s Detroit Auto Show, I believe GM has an opportunity to do just that. May the best cars win.

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