$8,621 - $10,921

2011 GMC Terrain Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 GMC Terrain was new.


Performance: 8.0

The all-new Terrain's claim to fame is its fuel economy, which is excellent for an SUV and bests nearly every vehicle in its class, especially on the highway. Equally impressive is the Terrain's smooth ride and handling. It may not be the most fun vehicle to drive, but it's an ideal family hauler.

  • "Like the Equinox, the Terrain is competent over all road surfaces and handles well on corners of all shapes and sizes. Understeer is moderate when you overcook a corner, but if you're so inclined you can induce oversteer by lightening up the rear end with the brakes." -- Jalopnik
  • "It has a comfortable ride, and it handles reasonably well for its type." -- Kicking Tires
  • "While the Terrain may lack the off-road abilities of its Yukon and Sierra cousins, it has asphalt licked. It's a pleasure to drive. Sharing the same suspension as the Equinox, you'd expect a similar ride, but the Terrain seemed a little firmer." -- Detroit News

Acceleration and Power

The Terrain's base 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine makes 182 horsepower, while an optional 3.0-liter V6 makes 264 horsepower. Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission (no manual is available). The V6 (which costs an extra $1,500) offers slightly stronger acceleration, although its power is more apparent in its towing capabilities than its speed. Reviewers advise that the V6 may not be worth the fuel economy penalty that having a bigger engine entails. Along with better fuel economy, four-cylinder models have the advantage of "Eco" mode, a button which alters the drivetrain to maximize fuel efficiency – getting you even more miles per gallon.

According to the EPA, four-cylinder models achieve 22/32 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive and 20/29 with all-wheel drive. The 32 mpg highway rating is the best in its class -- and it even beats hybrid SUVs -- though the Terrain's 22 mpg city rating is bested by several competitors. For class-leading city fuel economy, consider the Ford Escape Hybrid -- but note that it nets one less mile per gallon the highway and costs around $5,000 more than the Terrain, so the fuel savings may not be worth it.

The Terrain's V6 models achieve less impressive ratings of 17/25 with FWD and 17/24 with AWD. These are on the low side for the Affordable Compact SUV class. With either engine option, the Terrain has respectable tow ratings for a compact SUV -- up to 1,500 pounds with the four-cylinder and 3,500 pounds with the V6.

  • "The smaller engine is adequate for any use short of heavy trailer towing. The use of balance shafts, a rigidly mounted powertrain cradle, a well behaved 6-speed automatic, and the aforementioned noise cancellation technology makes this the smart choice for the days of rising fuel prices that lie ahead." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The optional [V6] mill is a bit short on low-end torque relative to the RAV4's standard-setting V6, but otherwise it's one of the strongest engine choices you'll find in this segment." -- Edmunds
  • "Neither engine makes the Terrain terribly fast, but both are exceedingly smooth, and are paired with six-speed automatics that feature a thumb-shifting rocker switch on the console-mounted shift lever." -- Car and Driver
  • "Under the hood was a 2.4-liter, 182 horsepower four that at times seemed to struggle in getting the 3,798-pound vehicle going. Once it did, the Terrain was a most pleasant crossover, especially out on the interstates. In fact, it was easy to exceed the speed limit even where it was 65." -- MarketWatch
  • "We can't speak to the base inline four cylinder, but the V-6, putting out 264 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque, delivers solid acceleration, motivating the Terrain forward fast enough to get a chirp from the front tires if you're not careful." -- CNET

Handling and Braking

The Terrain doesn't offer the liveliest driving experience, but it offers a smooth, comfortable ride -- provided that you choose the right tires. The smallest 17-inch wheels come standard on the base model, while the SLT upgrades to 18-inch wheels. There are also optional 19-inch wheels for higher packages available on the base-model and SLT. Reviewers highly recommend the 17- and 18-inch wheels over the 19-inch variants, which they say can drastically reduce ride comfort. Another downside is the brake pedal, which feels spongy to some reviewers.

  • "The high-end V6-powered SLT has the most bells and whistles, but the big wheels delivered a penalty, not so much felt as heard in bump-thump noises from the low-profile tires over bumpy pavement. We'd stick with the 18s rather than drop the $900 on the big chrome 19s." -- Edmunds
  • "Ride quality was firm but manageable on one 18-inch-wheel-equipped model we drove, but a V6 with chromed 19-inch wheels jostled us more than we would have liked." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Of course there won't be a lot of soccer moms hitting the track with this car, but in daily use it's just a little stiffer over bumps with the big wheels than the Equinox." -- Jalopnik
  • "Noteworthy, however, is that V-6 models come with a hydraulic-based steering system versus the electric system of the four-cylinder models, the former offering much better feedback, not surprisingly. The most glaring dynamic shortcoming is a brake pedal that feels as precise as a hand mixer in a pot of mashed potatoes." -- Car and Driver

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