The GMC Terrain has been mostly unchanged since its introduction for 2010. That’s six years without a major refresh or redesign, which is a pretty long time in automotive terms. The 2015 Terrain still stands out for its comfort-oriented drive and optional V6 engine. But is that enough to keep it out in front of its newer competitors?
If you’re shopping for a crossover that’s great on road trips and highway journeys, the GMC Terrain is better than most at dealing with America’s underfunded road infrastructure, and it’s one of the quieter vehicles we’ve tested at highway speeds. The aforementioned V6 engine is a peach, too, with plenty of power on tap for passing maneuvers and uphill slogs. Some competitors offer turbocharged four-cylinders with similar output, but there’s something to be said for a tried-and-true naturally aspirated V6. Properly equipped, the Terrain can haul up to 3,500 pounds, which is also impressive. And while the Terrain isn’t a class leader for overall roominess, it has a decent amount of space in the back for rear passengers.
Aside from these traits, though, the Terrain is generally outmatched by several leaders in this segment. The standard 4-cylinder engine in the 2015 Terrain is pretty underwhelming. While its rated power on paper is competitive, out on the road the Terrain just doesn’t have a whole lot of verve when accelerating around other cars in the passing lane or when getting up to speed on freeway on-ramps. Furthermore, its flat-footed feel contributes to a general lack of driving entertainment. This may seem like a moot point for most shopping this segment, but it’s still worth noting, especially since our long-term test of a 4-cylinder Terrain had real-world fuel economy falling short of the EPA estimates.
If you’re considering a Terrain, you may find some newer competitors to be more appealing. The 2015 Honda CR-V is the most well-rounded crossover you can get today, with a more fuel-efficient engine and a bit more cargo space. If you’re looking for a crossover that’s more entertaining to drive but still quite practical, the 2015 Mazda CX-5 is our choice. Other viable options include the high-tech and agile 2015 Ford Escape, the engaging and roomy 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and the versatile 2015 Jeep Cherokee, which has an available V6 and some excellent off-roading tricks up its sleeve.
Ride quality is excellent on all 2015 GMC Terrains. The compact crossover glides over road imperfections and boasts a hushed cabin at interstate cruising speeds, giving the driver the feel of a larger, more substantial vehicle. The Terrain Denali gets special rear shocks to further cushion the ride. Don’t expect sporty handling, though, as comfort is the Terrain’s primary mission. Likewise, the steering is exceptionally light and not especially precise, even for a crossover SUV.
Although the 4-cylinder GMC Terrain matches the acceleration times of other compact crossovers in this price range, it doesn’t feel as potent out in the real world. You’ll have the gas pedal floored during routine merging and passing maneuvers, and this isn’t very relaxing. During SUVS testing, fuel economy came in well below the EPA combined ratings. In our view, the actual fuel-efficiency advantage of the 4-cylinder engine is smaller than the EPA ratings suggest, and you’ll have an even harder time matching those numbers with your foot pinned to the floor.
The clear choice, then, is the Terrain’s available 3.6-liter V6 engine. The V6 provides strong performance in any situation and delivers its power in a smooth manner, while its actual fuel economy isn’t much lower than that of the four-cylinder.
The 2015 GMC Terrain is available in SLE, SLT and Denali trim levels. The SLE and SLT trims are further subdivided into two levels: SLE-1 and -2 and SLT-1 and -2.
Standard equipment for the base SLE-1 trim includes 17-inch alloy wheels, heated sideview mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, cruise control, a power height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat with sliding and reclining functions, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with cruise and sound controls, OnStar (with onboard WiFi hotspot), Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a 7-inch touchscreen interface that includes satellite radio, an auxiliary sound jack and an iPod/USB interface.
Move up to the SLE-2 trim and you’ll get roof rails, automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat with power lumbar adjustment, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded cloth upholstery, Bluetooth sound and an upgraded eight-speaker Pioneer sound system with GM’s IntelliLink user interface that allows voice command for some phone and sound functions. Optional on the SLE-2 is the Safety package, which includes lane-departure warning and forward-collision alert systems, along with rear parking sensors, while the Convenience package adds heated front seats and remote engine start. Also available for the SLE-2 are various chrome packages that include chrome exterior trim, 18- or 19-inch chrome-finish wheels and an all-weather rear cargo mat. A sunroof is a stand-alone option.
Upgrade to the SLT-1 and you’ll get all the SLE-2’s standard equipment as well as the Convenience package contents and leather upholstery. The Safety package and sunroof remain optional, and you can also opt for a height-adjustable power liftgate. The SLT-2 comes with all of the above equipment as standard (except the cargo mat) and also includes driver-seat memory functions.
The Denali trim incorporates everything that’s standard for the SLT-2, but adds Denali-specific wheels (18-inch wheels on 4-cylinder versions and 19s if you get the V6), rear cross-traffic and side blind-zone alert systems, an eight-way power passenger seat and special exterior/interior trim details.
A navigation system is optional for all GMC Terrains, except the SLE-1. A dual-screen DVD rear entertainment system is available for the SLT-2 and Denali.
Considering the Terrain’s almost-midsize footprint, it’s not entirely efficient with its interior space. With the rear seats folded, the Terrain’s 63.7 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity is noticeably less than that of the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota RAV4. With the rear seats carrying passengers, the Terrain offers 31.6 cubic feet of cargo space.
The dashboard is styled in two graceful curves and the gauges and secondary controls are highlighted by soft blue back lighting, while soothing ambient light makes for a truly inviting nighttime environment.
The standard 7-inch color touchscreen display lends a high-tech feel to even the base model Terrain, but the IntelliLink interface (standard starting on the SLE-2 model) is a worthwhile enhancement, as it uses Bluetooth streaming sound to enable integration of smartphone apps such as Pandora and Stitcher. The on-screen menus are well organized, but the system’s occasional slow or missed responses to touch inputs can be frustrating.
Particularly noticeable is the attention to sound-deadening in the Terrain. An acoustic windshield and other noise-killing measures — including an active noise-cancellation system for 4-cylinder models — work wonders in muting tire and wind noise, even during high-speed cruising. The front bucket seats are comfortable, and the standard sliding rear seat allows you to optimize rear-seat legroom or cargo space, depending on your needs.
The 2015 GMC Terrain is fitted with standard antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags and a rearview camera. Also standard is GM’s OnStar emergency communications system, which includes automatic crash notification, an emergency assistance button, remote door unlock and stolen car assistance.
A lane departure warning system, forward collision warning system and rear parking sensors are optional on the SLE-2 and SLT-1 trim levels and standard on SLT-2 and Denali. Blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert systems are exclusive to the Terrain Denali.
The Terrain brakes confidently. In SUVS testing, a 4-cylinder Terrain came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 119 feet, a few feet shorter than average. The heavier V6 AWD Terrain Denali stopped in 123 feet.
In government crash tests, the Terrain earned an overall score of four stars out of five, with four stars for overall frontal-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Terrain the best possible rating of "Good" in its small-overlap frontal-offset, moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. The seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
The 2015 GMC Terrain comes standard with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. Optional for any Terrain except the SLE-1 is a 3.6-liter V6 that churns out a hefty 301 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional, regardless of engine choice or trim level.
With the 4-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive, the Terrain returns an EPA-estimated 26 miles per gallon combined (22 city/32 highway) and 23 miles per gallon combined (20/29) with all-wheel drive. The 3.6-liter V6 front-wheel-drive models are rated at 20 miles per gallon combined (17/24), and all-wheel drive stands at 19 miles per gallon combined (16/23).
In SUVS testing, a front-wheel-drive 4-cylinder Terrain went from zero to 60 miles per hour in 9.1 seconds. A V6-equipped, all-wheel-drive Denali version went from zero to 60 in 7.0 seconds. Both times are average for the class.
With the 4-cylinder engine, a properly equipped Terrain can haul 1,500 pounds; the V6 increases towing capacity to 3,500 pounds.
Premium look inside and out; quiet interior; cozy highway ride; powerful available V6 engine; spacious and adjustable backseat.
The 2015 GMC Terrain is a compact crossover SUV with a cozy drive and an available V6 engine that’s worth checking out. Compared to newer, sleeker crossovers though, the Terrain may not be the best choice.