2019 GMC Terrain

Performance


#10 out of 18 in Compact SUVs

$25,000 MSRP
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2019 GMC Terrain Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.5

The 2019 GMC Terrain is available with three distinct powertrains. There are two turbocharged four-cylinder gas engines and a turbodiesel option. All of them offer ample power for daily driving, though the base engine isn’t as energetic as the other two offerings. The automatic transmissions shift smoothly. While the Terrain is not the most athletic SUV in the class, this GMC holds its own on winding roads. It’s maneuverable and delivers a comfortable ride.

  • "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 (2018)
  • "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 (2018)
  • "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 (2018)

Acceleration and Power

The Terrain features a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder base engine that makes 170 horsepower. That’s enough power to propel the Terrain around town, though it can feel strained on the highway.

An available turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 252 horsepower. This engine delivers noticeably better acceleration and is more than capable of holding its own at highway speeds. An available 1.6-liter turbodiesel puts out 137 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. While it lacks the overall power of the gasoline engines, its high torque means the diesel still delivers energetic acceleration.

The gasoline engines are mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission while the diesel comes with a six-speed automatic. Both transmissions shift smoothly and responsively. Rather than using a traditional shifter, the Terrain employs a button-operated gear selector on the dashboard, which may feel strange for some drivers. The Terrain can tow up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped.

With the base engine, the Terrain gets an EPA-estimated 26 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. While those are above-average estimates among compact SUVs, the turbodiesel goes even further, getting 28/39 mpg city/highway. The larger turbo-four gas engine gets 22/28 mpg.

  • "As we hinted, the base 1.5 turbo is merely adequate. The diesel engine (paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission) has a substantial amount of torque (that thrust when accelerating), but not particularly impressive towing talents: 1,500 pounds. The 2.0-liter gasoline engine is the pick of the three and can even pull 3,500 pounds." -- 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 (2018)
  • "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 (2018)

Handling and Braking

The Terrain cruises smoothly over uneven pavement; bumps and dips in the road do little to disrupt this SUV’s cushioned ride. The Terrain’s solid steering feel, decent agility, and impressive maneuverability combine for a great driving experience. Still, this isn't the sportiest crossover in the class. Front-wheel drive comes standard on the Terrain, and all-wheel drive is available.

  • "Around town, the Terrain is comfortable and quiet. Get it on a mountain road and it's nimble enough in corners to be neither a chore nor a bore." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2018)
  • "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 (2018)
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