2013 GMC Terrain – Over 30 MPG from a fully-capable SUV

2013 GMC Terrain (stock)

GMC has made several changes to the popular Terrain crossover-SUV. It still comfortably seats five, with luggage, and retains its balance of economy and power, but it now includes much better style to make it less of a "younger brother" to the larger, more domineering Acadia. Most notably for FutureCars readers, however, is the fact that the 2013 Terrain is EPA rated at 32 miles per gallon on the highway and 22 in the city in its front-wheel-drive base configuration. This makes it one of the most fuel efficient full SUVs on the market today.

The manufacturer says

Terrain offers a commanding view of the road and strikes a balanced, athletic stance that is characterized by bold, muscular fender flares. The surfacing is angular yet refined, with a strong front-end appearance that features precise, squared-off edges accented with chrome.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: GMC
  • Year, Model: 2013 Terrain
  • Class, Type: Small SUV
  • Propulsion system: Gasoline
  • Base Price: $25,560
  • MSRP as tested: $41,600 (Denali trim, AWD)
  • Availability:
  • Fall 2012

Photo courtesy of GMC

Overview

The Terrain is a true 5-seat sport utility with all of the roominess and versatility that implies. It's closest competitors are the Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-7, Ford Edge, and Nissan Murano. Compared to them, the Terrain has equal or more room inside and better fuel economy. Two engine options are available for the Terrain, including a 4-cylinder 2.4-liter DOHC I-4 Direct Injected base engine and a larger 3.6-liter DOHC V6 DI. Both of those engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and are available in front-wheel or all-wheel-drive (FWD, AWD). Trim levels include the return of the Denali high-end luxury option with exclusive paint and interior fittings, the distinctive round-holed corrugated grille, etc.

In standard Ecotec 4-cylinder, FWD configuration, the Terrain is rated at 22/32 mpg city/highway by the EPA. Adding AWD lowers that to a still-impressive 20/29 mpg. GMC did several things to improve mileage, including changing the AWD to become active only when needed rather than full-time. This option is selectable by the driver, so the vehicle itself can shift to AWD as needed or the driver can "lock" it in as preferred. When not engaged, the AWD becomes FWD and significantly improves fuel economy. During our test run, this shift between modes was seamless with the only indication being a small dash light alerting the driver to AWD mode engagement. While off-road, we locked the AWD in with a simple button push. Other additions such as electric-assist power steering have also improved economy without sacrificing handling.

The new 3.6-liter V6 engine option replaces the older 3.0L engine, but doesn't sacrifice economy for the higher displacement and power output. Fuel economy in the 3.6L is still 17/24 mpg city/highway in FWD and 16/23 in AWD with this engine. Because of the heavier engine, however, the electric-assist power steering is not offered in the V6 option.

On the road, the Terrain is a smooth driver with easy handling and a comfortable feel. Passenger seating is comfortable all around, with even the tallest having plenty of room in the rear seats. Cargo space is versatile and sizable as well.

What we like

A true SUV in compact form the 2013 Terrain has a great combination of drive, room and versatility. Towing capacity is good enough to pull ATVs or camping gear on small trailers (1,500 pounds in 4-cylinder, 3,500 in V6).

Comfortable and economical are the two words best describing the Terrain. It's just the right size for most families today and gets great fuel economy for the segment.

What we don't

Big wheelbase, longer than many in this segment, contributes to the Terrain's great interior roominess, but makes it harder to maneuver in-city.

4-cylinder not as punchy as the six, for obvious reasons. The Terrain weighs in at about 5,000 pounds in the 2.4L base model and at 182 horsepower, it has enough to get it going and make the merge onto the freeway, but will not feel "sporty" while doing so.

Conclusions

In this market segment, one of the largest in North America, the competition is fierce. GMC has done a good job stepping up to the plate to deliver a strong contender with the Terrain. The piles of now-standard options, great trim level even at base configuration, and high economy numbers mean that for 2013, the Terrain has definitely poised itself to make a dent in this high-selling segment.

Test Period Length and Limitations
Test drives were at an event hosted by the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press in Colorado and included both on- and off-road driving. Total time in the Terrain was about 30 minutes and included mountain trails of light difficulty, dirt roads, and paved city and highway time. Test vehicle was a pre-production model with full Denali trim and AWD.

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