What's New for 2013
For 2013, the GMC Terrain gets a larger and markedly stronger V6 engine. Also new is a revised touchscreen audio interface that includes smartphone app integration (IntelliLink). Finally, GMC has added a new, top-level Denali trim level.
The 2013 GMC Terrain is the effective twin of General Motors' Chevrolet Equinox, but its generally higher content and better-appointed cabin place it in the middle ground between mainstream and luxury compact crossovers. The Terrain's size ? larger than most compact crossovers but not quite as large as midsize models -- also makes it a 'tweener and an intriguing option for those seeking a little more stretch-out space and a little more luxury than most everyday compact crossovers provide.
Edging the 2013 Terrain even closer to the luxury end of the spectrum is the debut of the Terrain Denali, an all-encompassing, high-content trim level GMC has offered with great success in its other model lines. The Denali trim comes loaded with virtually all the optional features of the other Terrain trims, leaving it up to the buyer to choose from just a few extras (such as a navigation system) and powertrain configuration (standard four-cylinder or optional V6 engine and front- or all-wheel drive). The Denali also offers unique exterior and interior treatments to further differentiate it from other Terrain trims.
Also shifting the 2013 Terrain closer to premium brand entries is the new 3.6-liter dual-cam V6, whose 301 horsepower is greater than what many luxury compact crossovers offer. The larger and more powerful V6 comes at no extra cost at the gas pump, however. Despite being 14 percent stronger, this 3.6-liter V6 delivers the same fuel-economy ratings as the 3.0-liter V6 it replaces.
When it comes to the small crossover SUV segment, you're not exactly hurting for choices. If you want a bit more cargo capacity at a lower price, the 2013 Honda CR-V and 2013 Kia Sorento are solid picks. Alternately, the 2013 Ford Escape and Volkswagen Tiguan would be better if you want something that's more involving to drive. For similar money, you could move a size up and consider the Dodge Journey, Ford Explorer and Nissan Murano. Overall, though, we like the Terrain, finding it to be an intriguing middle ground for those who want most of the utility of a midsize crossover along with extra refinement and features.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 GMC Terrain is available in SLE, SLT and Denali trim levels. The SLE and SLT trims are further subdivided into two levels: SLE-1 and -2 and SLT-1 and -2.
Standard equipment for the base SLE-1 trim includes 17-inch alloy wheels, heated sideview mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, cruise control, a power height-adjustable driver seat, a sliding and reclining backseat, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, OnStar, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a 7-inch touchscreen interface that includes satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB interface.
The SLE-2 trim adds roof rails, automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat with power lumbar adjustment, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded cloth upholstery, an upgraded eight-speaker Pioneer audio system and GM's IntelliLink user interface (that allows voice command for some phone and audio functions). The Safety package (lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert and rear park assist) can be added, as can the Convenience package with its heated front seats and remote engine start.
The more feature-laden SLT-1 includes the Convenience package plus leather upholstery. Moving to the SLT-2 brings 18-inch chromed wheels, a sunroof, the Safety package, a height-selectable power liftgate, chrome exterior trim, charcoal-chrome grille and driver-seat memory functions.
The new Denali trim incorporates everything standard for the SLT-2, but adds Denali-specific wheels, rear cross-traffic and side blind-zone alert systems, an eight-way power passenger seat and special exterior/interior trim details.
A navigation system is optional for all Terrains except the SLE. A dual-screen DVD rear-entertainment system is available for SLT-2 and Denali.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard engine for every 2013 GMC Terrain is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 182 hp and 172 pound-feet of torque. It is backed by a six-speed automatic transmission. Optional for any Terrain except the SLE-1 is a 3.6-liter V6 that churns out a hefty 301 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque, both significant increases over the Terrain's former 3.0-liter V6. This engine also is backed by a six-speed automatic transmission; the combination can tow 3,500 pounds. Also optional for any four-cylinder or V6 Denali is all-wheel drive.
The four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive Terrain returns an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. With all-wheel drive, those numbers drop to 20/29/23.
Meanwhile, despite being almost 40 hp stronger than last year's V6, the new 3.6-liter V6 manages the same fuel economy; front-wheel-drive models are rated at 17/24/20 and all-wheel drive stands at 16/23/19.
In Edmunds testing, we clocked a front-wheel-drive four-cylinder Terrain from zero to 60 mph in 9.4 seconds, an average time for the class.
The 2013 GMC Terrain is fitted with standard antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags and a rearview camera. Also standard is GM's OnStar emergency communications system, which includes automatic crash notification, an emergency assistance button, remote door unlock and stolen vehicle assistance. Lane departure warning, collision warning, rear park assist, blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert are standard or optional, depending on the trim level.
The Terrain brakes confidently. In Edmunds testing, a four-cylinder Terrain came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet, a few feet shorter than average.
In government crash tests, the Terrain earned an overall score of four stars (out of five), with four stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Terrain the best possible rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
GMC might still be perceived as a "truck" brand, but the 2013 Terrain's nicely appointed interior is anything but rugged to the eye or to the touch. The dashboard is styled in two graceful curves and the gauges and secondary controls are highlighted by soft blue backlighting, while soothing ambient light oozes around other interior spaces.
The 7-inch color touchscreen display that's standard even on the base Terrain is symbolic of GMC's aim to make the Terrain a cut above everyday compact crossovers. The audio system has a customized menu that can also be enhanced with the IntelliLink system, which uses Bluetooth streaming audio to enable integration of smartphone apps such as Pandora and Stitcher. The screen's menus are well organized, but the system's occasional slow or missed responses to touch inputs can be frustrating.
Particularly noticeable is the attention to sound deadening in the Terrain. An acoustic windshield and other noise-killing measures -- including an active noise-cancellation system for four-cylinder models -- work wonders in muting tire and wind noise, even during high-speed cruising. The front bucket seats are comfortable and all occupants relish in the Terrain's wide cabin. Utility is maximized by the 2013 Terrain's standard sliding rear seat, which allows you to quickly optimize either rear seat legroom or rear cargo space, depending on your needs.
That said, even considering the Terrain's almost-midsize footprint, it's not entirely efficient with its interior space. With the rear seats folded, the Terrain's 63.7 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity is noticeably less than that of the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota RAV4. Outward visibility is also below-average.
The 2013 GMC Terrain's six-cylinder power is so markedly improved that the standard four-cylinder is difficult to deliberately select, particularly for those who envision using the Terrain for ferrying lots of passengers or towing a trailer. The fact that the new 3.6-liter engine's extra power comes with no fuel efficiency penalty compared to the Terrain's former 3.0-liter V6 only makes the decision to go with the Terrain's four-cylinder engine even more difficult.
Furthermore, the Terrain's near-luxury aspirations seem to almost require V6 power to complement its high-end styling and features. But the main issue is that the Terrain is not a particularly light example of the breed, so the 182 hp churned out by the hard-working four-cylinder will likely satisfy only those whose chief concern is eking out a few more miles per gallon.
The 2013 Terrain's refined ride and cozy interior are the payoff for the extra weight, however. The Terrain glides over road warts that leave more utilitarian rivals feeling out of sorts and it boasts a hushed cabin at interstate cruising speeds. The new Terrain Denali gets special rear shocks to further cushion the ride, but don't expect any Terrain to handle with particular sharpness. Comfort, refinement and high content are the 2013 GMC Terrain's calling cards.