$17,195 - $27,036

2018 GMC Terrain Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2018 GMC Terrain was new.


Performance: 7.8

The 2018 GMC Terrain gets three new powertrains as part of its redesign. There are two turbocharged four-cylinder engines and a turbodiesel option. All three have enough power for day-to-day driving, but the base engine is less energetic than the other two. The Terrain also has smooth-shifting automatic transmissions. It’s not the most athletic SUV in the class, but this GMC is no slouch on winding roads, either. It’s also maneuverable and delivers solid performance without sacrificing ride quality.

  • "When the segment's core engines average 70 to 80 hp less, you're allowed to smile when the power boost is more than you need but will never be wasted. The standard 9-speed was also surprisingly non-intrusive. Simply going to work in the background, its shifts were rather smooth, whether when keeping a steady pace or quickly accelerating." -- New York Daily News
  • "Setting the Terrain apart is its optional turbodiesel engine, a 1.6L unit that provides 137 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. That horsepower number is concerning, as it lags behind every other compact crossover on the market. … But with a torque curve that's as wide and flat as a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the EcoTec-branded diesel gets off the line impressively and maintains freeway speeds with ease." -- Truck Trend
  • "On-road driving dynamics are also very good, with the Terrain feeling solid and planted – let's call it 'substantial.' That's a welcomed trait in this segment of small crossovers as many feel rather light from behind the wheel. I didn't notice any obtrusive wind or tire noise (tire noise is as much about the road surface as it is about isolation) and the cabin was relatively hushed. Handling is competent and predictable, as expected, as the ride is firm without feeling too sporty." -- Forbes

Acceleration and Power

The Terrain features a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder base engine that puts out 170 horsepower. It has plenty of power for driving around town, and it moves the Terrain with ease. However, it can feel strained at times on the highway.

An available turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 252 horsepower. This engine is more responsive than the base turbo-four, and it delivers noticeably better acceleration. A 1.6-liter turbodiesel that puts out 137 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque is also available. It doesn’t have the overall power of the gasoline turbo-fours, but its high torque means the diesel still delivers energetic acceleration.

The gasoline engines are mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, while the diesel is paired with a six-speed automatic. The transmissions are responsive and shift smoothly, but the gears are selected via buttons on the dash instead of a traditional shifter, which may be odd for some drivers. When properly equipped, the Terrain can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

With the base engine, the Terrain gets an EPA-estimated 26 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. Those are above-average ratings for a compact SUV, and they’re only 1 to 2 mpg short of the most fuel-efficient rivals (not including hybrids). With the larger turbo-four, fuel economy drops to 22 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. The turbodiesel is the best of the bunch; it earns 28/39 mpg city/highway.

  • … the new turbocharged inline-fours in the trimmer Gen II Terrain proved to be solid if not exactly exhilarating replacements. Anchoring the group is a 170-horsepower/1.5-liter that makes 203 lb-ft of torque, while the Denali now comes with a 252-horse/2.0-liter that cranks out 260 lb-ft of twist and can be had as an option on SLE and SLT models. Both are backed by GM's smooth and responsive 9-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "There are three turbocharged engines available in all. … All three work superbly in the Terrain, easily carting around its sub-4,000-lb mass-although, if we were spending our own money, we'd likely choose the higher-output 2.0-liter as it offers a more responsive character than the rest of the group." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The two gasoline-fed engines are mated to a 9-speed automatic that works nearly flawlessly. More than half of the buyers are expected to choose the standard 1.5-liter. … It's just fine around town and on the open road, but I found its passing power a bit lacking on some of the hills. The 2.0-liter… is a bit thirstier but its additional punch over the standard engine is noticeable. … My favorite, which comes at a price premium of a couple thousand dollars, is the small 1.6-liter diesel. … While low on horsepower, its 240 pound-feet of torque is strong and its standard 6-speed automatic feels more relaxed. It pulls well around town and there's plenty of power reserve when needed. Add in the additional fuel economy, durability, and stretching the time between fill-ups and it's a winner – I suggest the diesel engine, if your budget will allow it." -- Forbes

Handling and Braking

Front-wheel drive comes standard in the Terrain, and all-wheel drive is available. The Terrain delivers a smooth ride and absorbs road imperfections with ease. While this GMC doesn’t have the athletic chops of rivals like the Mazda CX-5 or Ford Escape, it still provides good steering feel and solid agility, leading to a pretty enjoyable driving experience. It’s also maneuverable in tight spaces.

  • "On the broken, winding, and looping back roads near Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater home is where the Terrain revealed its best-kept secret: It's not a total drag to drive enthusiastically." -- Car and Driver
  • All the Terrain models we drove had their unique merits, though we expect most customers will be quite happy with the 1.5-liter. Light and effortless, the steering feel helped make the SUV seem small and maneuverable, though it doesn't have quite as much bite as competitors such as the Mazda CX-5." -- Motor Trend
  • "On the road, the Terrain is quiet and smooth, matching its segment for comfort and refinement. Body motions over broken pavement are well damped, and the steering is heavy off-center to provide good directional stability. We don't have much to complain about regarding the driving experience, as it matches its competition blow for blow in subjective dynamics." -- Truck Trend

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