What's New for 2011
For 2011, the GMC Terrain is unchanged other than improved voice recognition technology for OnStar.
Compact crossovers have quickly become the go-to choice for a family-friendly sport-utility that's cheaper, more fuel-efficient and better suited to tighter urban confines than bigger SUVs. At the same time, these crossovers have also tended to be a little noisier, less refined and not as appealing for long-distance family road trips. The 2011 GMC Terrain, on the other hand, is a small crossover SUV that manages to feel grown up and refined at the same time.
Like the Chevy Equinox with which it shares everything except exterior styling, the GMC Terrain finds the middle ground between compact and midsize crossover SUVs. While it offers nearly as much interior space as a midsize Ford Edge, its lighter weight means it can make do with its standard four-cylinder engine. We've discovered the Terrain is not quite as fuel-efficient with this engine as its segment-leading EPA estimates would indicate, but compared to the Ford Explorer and GMC Yukon, the four-cylinder Terrain is bound to save you some money. There's also a moderately powered V6 option for those who need a bit more grunt for carrying around growing children and their gear.
The Terrain's grown-up feel isn't just literal, however. Its designers went out of their way to make the cabin visually interesting in a segment where stark utility has generally reigned supreme. An abundance of acoustic insulation and an innovative noise-canceling system (yep, like those fancy Bose headphones) make the cabin noticeably quieter than its competitors, while the Terrain's ride and seating is comfortable and more indicative of a bigger SUV.
Overall, we're quite fond of the 2011 GMC Terrain, though you'll want to take a look at other top models as well. The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are more agile and offer better cargo capacity, plus the small sport-utes afford better visibility from the driver seat than the somewhat claustrophobic Terrain. The Kia Sorento can't match the Terrain's roomy backseat, but it does offer better value and a sportier drive. Each one of these models is a great pick, but the GMC Terrain stands tall, especially if you're stepping down from a bigger, more grown-up SUV.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 GMC Terrain is a midsize crossover SUV available in SLE 1, SLE 2, SLT 1 and SLT 2 trim levels.
Standard equipment on the SLE 1 includes 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, tinted windows, heated mirrors, cruise control, a backseat with sliding and reclining features, six-way adjustable driver seat, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rearview camera, OnStar and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack, iPod/USB interface and satellite radio.
The SLE 2 adds roof rails, automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded cloth upholstery, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker Pioneer sound system. The Convenience package adds heated front seats and remote engine start.
The SLT 1 adds the Convenience package items plus 18-inch wheels and leather upholstery. The SLT 2 gets rear parking sensors, a power tailgate (with adjustable maximum height), chrome exterior trim, driver memory functions and a sunroof.
Some of the upper trim's extra features are available as options on the lower trims. Depending on trim, you can also select 19-inch chrome-clad wheels, a voice-controlled navigation system (with digital music storage) and a dual-screen rear entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
Every GMC Terrain comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. The Terrain also comes standard with front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is optional across the board.
In performance testing, a front-drive, four-cylinder Terrain went from zero to 60 mph in 9.4 seconds -- on the slow end for the class. Estimated fuel economy stands at 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 20/29/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. These numbers are impressive, but after extensive testing, we have failed to see such thriftiness from the four-cylinder Terrain -- especially on the highway.
Optional for the GMC Terrain SLE 2 and SLT 1 is a 3.0-liter V6 that produces 264 hp and 222 lb-ft of torque. In performance testing, an all-wheel-drive Terrain with this engine went from a standstill to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, which is also on the slow side. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg city/25mpg highway and 20 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 17/24/20 with all-wheel drive.
Every 2011 GMC Terrain comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, a rearview camera and OnStar. Rear parking sensors are optional. In Edmunds brake testing, a four-cylinder Terrain came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet. A heavier V6 model did the same task in 127 feet. Both results are about average for the segment.
In government crash tests, the Terrain's Chevy Equinox twin received a perfect five stars in all front and side crash categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave the Equinox and Terrain the best possible rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The GMC Terrain's cabin is remarkably stylish, particularly by the standards of this typically utilitarian segment. The slick-looking dashboard design is quite modern and the Terrain's high-tech navigation and entertainment options only heighten its appeal. However, many of the buttons are flush-mounted and tightly grouped, meaning they can be difficult to decipher at a glance.
In terms of accommodations, the Terrain (and its Equinox sibling) boasts the most welcoming backseat in the class thanks to a rear bench that both reclines and slides. This makes it perfect for the legs of big kids and the car seats of little kids. Unfortunately, when the backseat is in its most rearward position, cargo capacity shrinks to among the least in the class. Rob the kids of some legroom, though, and you should be able to fit in all their stuff despite a rather narrow compartment. Maximum cargo capacity stands at 63.7 cubic feet, which is about 6 cubes shy of the more utilitarian Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
The Terrain's base four-cylinder engine should provide enough acceleration for most buyers, as compact SUVs are hardly known for thrilling performance. Its fuel economy isn't quite as stellar as its EPA numbers would suggest, but the Terrain remains one of the most fuel-efficient SUVs on the road. If you frequently haul around a lot of people or cargo, the optional V6 should provide the needed grunt.
On the move, the 2011 GMC Terrain is impressively quiet and boasts a comfortable ride indicative of a much bigger, more expensive SUV. However, we'd suggest sticking with the 17- or 18-inch wheels, as the larger 19s noticeably degrade the ride quality. The Terrain's capabilities when it comes to handing won't have you thinking sports car but certainly will make you think of a car, and despite the numb steering, the vehicle's overall competence will please most drivers.
Read our GMC Terrain Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test