What's New for 2012
For 2012, the GMC Terrain gets a standard touchscreen audio interface that can be paired through Bluetooth audio streaming to Internet-based services like Pandora and Stitcher (late availability). Lane departure warning and forward collision alert are also now available as options.
While it's rare to hear words like "stylish" and "sophisticated" used to describe a compact crossover, they're a fitting characterization of the 2012 GMC Terrain. Underneath its squared-off bodywork, the Terrain is nearly identical to the Chevrolet Equinox right down to the four-cylinder and V6 engines under the hood. Size-wise, the pair splits the difference between the compact and midsize crossover categories, a fact that makes them more fuel-efficient choices without sacrificing much of the practicality of traditional SUVs.
For 2012 the Terrain gets a few small but significant changes, including E85 flex-fuel capability on its 2.4-liter four-cylinder. More important to most buyers are the high-tech standard feature upgrades in the passenger cabin, including a touchscreen audio interface that also integrates the standard rearview camera display. A new Bluetooth system called Intellilink, which arrives late in the model year, makes it possible to control smartphones with voice commands and stream audio content from online sources such as Pandora and Stitcher radio.
What don't change are things like a refined ride and handsomely styled interior that's also whisper-quiet thanks to the generous use of acoustic insulation and a high-tech noise-canceling system. The cabin also earns high marks for passenger comfort, with nearly as much room as some midsize crossover SUVs like the Ford Edge.
The 2012 GMC Terrain has a lot going for it, but the same can be said for a few of its competitors in the compact crossover segment. Specifically, we'd recommend driving it back-to-back with rivals like the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4, all of which offer more agile handling, better visibility and more cargo capacity. On the other hand, they feel a little less substantial and well-suited to a road trip than the Terrain. Add in its bold, trucklike looks and high level of refinement, and this "little" GMC is well worth considering, especially for those downsizing from a bigger SUV.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 GMC Terrain is a midsize crossover SUV available in SLE and SLT trim levels, each of which is subdivided into two different models.
Standard equipment on the SLE-1 includes 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, tinted windows, heated mirrors, an integrated driver-side blind-spot mirror, cruise control, a power height-adjustable driver seat, a sliding and reclining backseat, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, OnStar, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a touchscreen interface, a CD player, satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB interface.
The SLE-2 adds roof rails, automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat with power lumbar adjustment, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded cloth upholstery, Bluetooth and a premium eight-speaker Pioneer audio system. The available Convenience package adds heated front seats and remote ignition.
Move up to the SLT-1 and you get those Convenience package items plus perforated leather upholstery. The SLT-2 takes things a step further with 18-inch chrome-clad wheels, rear parking sensors, a power liftgate (with adjustable maximum height), chrome exterior trim, driver seat memory functions and a sunroof (optional separately on the SLE-2 and SLT-1).
Options vary by trim level and include a 3.0-liter V6, 19-inch chrome-clad wheels, a trailer towing package, a voice-controlled navigation system (with digital music storage) and a dual-screen rear video entertainment system. A lane departure warning and forward collision alert system is also available on SLT-2 models.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2012 GMC Terrain comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. Towing capacity with this powertrain is 1,500 pounds.
In performance testing, a front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder Terrain went from zero to 60 mph in 9.4 seconds -- on the slow end for the class. EPA 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 failed to see such thriftiness from the four-cylinder Terrain -- especially on the highway.
Optional on SLE-2 and SLT models is a 3.0-liter V6 that produces 264 hp and 222 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel-drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are also standard, while all-wheel drive is an option. With this engine, towing capacity jumps to a respectable 3,500 pounds.
In performance testing, a V6-powered all-wheel-drive Terrain 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/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 17/24/20 with all-wheel drive.
The 2012 GMC Terrain comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, a rearview camera and OnStar. 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 good for the segment.
In government crash tests, the Terrain earned an overall score of four stars (out of five), along with four stars in frontal impacts and five stars in side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Terrain its best possible rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
For a brand that touts its hard-working truck roots, GMC designers have done a remarkable job of giving the Terrain a decidedly classy interior. The style is sleek and modern, and that look is complemented by a number of high-tech standard features including the now-standard 7-inch touchscreen audio interface and rearview camera display. Unfortunately the dash's abundance of tightly grouped buttons can be hard to sort out with a quick glance.
The passenger cabin gets high marks in the comfort category, especially in back where the rear seat both slides and reclines. Families with growing kids will appreciate the extra legroom and comfort it provides. There's a trade-off here, though, as cargo room shrinks dramatically when you slide the seat all the way back. Setting that seat in the middle of its track is a good compromise, with enough legroom for kids and a family vacation's worth of stuff. However, the Terrain can't quite match more utilitarian rivals like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 for maximum space. Fold the GMC's rear seatbacks down and you get 63.7 cubic feet of cargo room, which is decent, but about 9 cubic feet less than you'll find in those rival crossovers.
The 2012 GMC Terrain's standard four-cylinder engine should suit most buyers' needs nicely. Even though the real-world fuel economy numbers don't measure up to the official EPA estimates, this is still one of the most fuel-efficient crossover SUVs out there. Just the same, the V6 is probably a wiser choice for drivers who regularly haul around a full load of people, cargo and/or a trailer.
One of the most noticeable qualities of the driving experience is how hushed the cabin is, giving the interior an upscale feel. The ride quality is also quite comfortable, with a substantial feel reminiscent of a bigger SUV, though be aware that bigger wheels make things rougher. Handling is unremarkable and the steering feels a bit numb. In other words, the Terrain is not the most responsive or agile compact crossover but it does manage to feel solid and competent on the road.