The 2016 GMC Terrain marks the seventh year of production for the truck brand’s entry into the small-to-midsize crossover class. During that time, the class has grown in popularity but the Terrain has soldiered on with only minor equipment updates. It still stands out due to its slightly larger-than-average size and unique square-shouldered body, but newer competitors best it in a few ways.
To GMC’s credit, the 2016 Terrain still has some appealing qualities. The suspension does a nice job of absorbing impacts from the road and provides a cozy drive for passengers. Noise-canceling technology and an acoustic windshield make the cabin extremely quiet as well, even in high-speed situations. And the optional V6 is a great engine that has plenty of power to help the Terrain keep up on the highway. Properly equipped, the Terrain can haul up to 3,500 pounds, a pretty good number for a crossover of its size.
If there is one significant shortcoming of the 2016 GMC Terrain, it is the base 4-cylinder engine. On specs alone, the 182-horsepower motor looks competitive with the class, but in real-life driving situations, the engine can seem underpowered and slow to respond when you step on the gas. This often results in driving pedal to the metal as you attempt to coax more oomph from the powertrain. Naturally, this leads to poor fuel economy, largely negating the four-cylinder’s one advantage over the V6.
If you are considering a Terrain, some newer options may be more appealing. The Honda CR-V is one of the best all-around crossovers on the market, with a much more fuel-efficient engine and more cargo room. If a sportier drive is more your style, the Ford Escape offers faster acceleration and superior handling. The Mazda CX-5 is also surprisingly enjoyable to drive, although it doesn’t have a more potent engine on tap. The Jeep Cherokee is another good choice, especially if you want a bit of off-road capability in your crossover. But if drive comfort and V6 power are priorities, the aging Terrain is still worth a look.
Ride quality is excellent on the 2016 GMC Terrain. The comfort-tuned suspension soaks up road imperfections, and sound-deadening measures make the crossover extremely quiet on the highway. It is an excellent cruising vehicle, and the cushy suspension in the Denali version makes the drive even more agreeable. There’s a price to be paid for the soft ride, however, as the Terrain is out of its element when the road starts to bend. If you want a more engaging driving experience, the Escape or Mazda CX-5 would suit you better.
Eighteen-inch wheels are optional on the SLE-2 and standard on SLT and Denali versions.
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. If you’re looking for a more enjoyable driving experience, the V6 is definitely the way to go. With 301 horses on tap, it’s one of the most capable engines in any crossover in this price range.
The 2016 GMC Terrain is available in five trim levels: SL, SLE-1, SLE-2, SLT and Denali.
Standard equipment for the base SL trim includes 17-inch alloy wheels, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, full power accessories, cruise control, a power height-adjustable driver seat with power lumbar, a 60/40-split folding rear seat with sliding and reclining functions, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, rear privacy glass, OnStar (with onboard WiFi hotspot), Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a 7-inch touchscreen interface that includes an auxiliary sound jack and a USB port.
The GMC Terrain’s boxy, square-shouldered sheet metal won’t be confused for any other car.
Move up to the SLE-1 and you get heated exterior mirrors, satellite radio and rear carpeted floor mats. The option for an all-wheel-drive powertrain becomes available, as do several features packages.
The SLE-2 builds upon the SLE-1, adding LED daytime running lights, automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a Pioneer eight-speaker sound system and GM’s IntelliLink system, which includes Bluetooth audio, voice command functionality and compatibility with Pandora and Stitcher smartphone apps. The available Convenience package adds heated front seats and remote engine start.
The SLT adds 18-inch wheels, chrome exterior accents, remote engine start, ambient lighting, heated front seats and perforated leather upholstery. In addition, two Driver Alert package levels are available for the SLE-2 and SLT. The first level includes blind spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic detection, rear parking sensors and an adjustable power liftgate (SLT only). The second level adds forward collision and lane departure warning systems. The SLT-only Memory package includes driver memory settings and an eight-way power passenger seat.
The Terrain SLT gets a unique dark grille with chrome surrounds, while the Denali’s is all chrome.
The range-topping Denali has the SLT features as well as a Denali-specific comfort-oriented suspension setup, wheels and interior/exterior trim. It also includes the Memory and Driver Alert I and II packages.
A navigation system is optional on Terrains in SLE-2 trim and above. Eighteen-inch wheels can be ordered on the SLE-2, while the SLT and Denali trims can each be ordered with unique 19-inch wheels.
Although GMC is primarily known as a truck brand, the nicely appointed interior of the GMC Terrain is anything but rugged or tough to the touch. 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, and 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.
The 2016 GMC Terrain’s interior is attractive. The 7-inch touchscreen responds to inputs more slowly than those in competitors, though.
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.
But even when primed for cargo, the Terrain can’t carry as much stuff as some other crossovers. 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 2016 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, blind-spot monitoring, a cross-traffic alert system and rear parking sensors are optional on the SLE-2 and SLT trim levels and standard on 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 2016 GMC Terrain comes standard with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 182 hp and 172 pound-feet of torque. Optional for SLE-2, SLT and Denali Terrains 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 on all trims except the base SL model.
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 18 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, which is a bit slower than average for a small crossover. A V6-equipped, all-wheel-drive Denali version went from zero to 60 in a quick 7.0 seconds.
With the 4-cylinder engine, a properly equipped Terrain can haul 1,500 pounds; the V6 increases towing capacity to 3,500 pounds.
Powerful available V6 engine; quiet interior; cozy highway ride; spacious and adjustable backseat.
The 2016 GMC Terrain offers a quiet, cozy drive with a powerful V6 that can keep up with traffic without breaking a sweat. Unfortunately, driving with the base 4-cylinder engine is a stressful experience, as the motor doesn’t have enough grunt to move the Terrain with any sense of urgency.