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  • 2010 GMC Terrain FWD SLE-1

    Posted on August 3rd, 2010 ninarussin

    Five-passenger SUV delivers 32 miles-per-gallon on the highway

    By Nina Russin

    2010 GMC Terrain

    2010 GMC Terrain

    These days, finding the right new car without breaking the bank is a formidable challenge; especially for families with active lifestyles.

    Buyers who haul trailers require serious towing capability on top of a versatile cargo area. Fuel economy is important, since it impacts cost of ownership.

    The GMC Terrain is designed to fill all of these squares, with seating for up to five passengers, and a choice of two fuel-efficient engines. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine on front-wheel drive model averages 32 miles-per-gallon on the highway. A 264-horsepower V6 is slightly less efficient, but can tow up to 3500 pounds, meeting our ALV standards.

    Base sticker price for the front-wheel drive SLE-1 with the four-cylinder engine is $24,995 including delivery. The base car comes with most of the comfort and convenience features buyers need, and a few they might not expect.

    A rear-backup camera display in the rearview mirror makes it easier to park. Standard XM satellite radio includes a three-month complimentary subscription. OnStar is standard on all models: the system automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel if the airbags deploy.

    Other standard features include a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, air conditioning, auxiliary and USB ports, remote keyless entry, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Terrain received five-star federal crash test ratings for both frontal and side crash tests (four stars for rollover). It also received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick award for 2009.

    Rugged exterior styling gives the Terrain familial resemblance to GMC’s larger trucks: the Acadia, Envoy and Yukon.

    Test drive in the Phoenix heat

    2010 GMC Terrain

    2010 GMC Terrain

    General Motors cars are known for having great air conditioners. My 1972 Olds Cutlass convertible had a huge Harrison compressor that could blow ice cubes in the Sahara.

    Since then, engineers have made air conditioning systems lighter and more compact, but they still blow ice cubes: an appealing feature at the height of a southwestern summer. Five minutes after I turn on the ignition, the Terrain’s interior feels like a movie theater.

    My test drive at the end of July included some rush hour traffic, freeways and surface streets around Phoenix, Arizona. The test car is the front-wheel drive SLE with the four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Buyers who need four-season capability can opt for all-wheel drive with either available engine.

    The transmission has large overdrive gears to maximize highway fuel economy. The gearbox is smooth at all speeds, with a minimum of shift shock.

    The smaller engine provides surprisingly good acceleration for a vehicle with 3800-pound curb weight. Buyers who aren’t planning to tow a trailer should give it serious consideration. There is ample power in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range for merging onto the highway, and enough at the high end to pass slower vehicles at speed.

    The 2.4-liter engine comes with an electric power steering system in lieu of a hydraulic setup. Electric power steering systems are lighter and more compact than conventional systems. This one seems well tuned, offering enough assist for low-speed maneuvering while maintaining positive on-center highway response.

    A forty-foot turning radius is adequate, though not exceptional. Don’t expect to do U-turns on narrower two-lane roads.

    Four-wheel independent suspension provides a supple ride, smoothing out bumps in the road. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the turns. The standard 17-inch wheels give the Terrain an ample footprint: the vehicle feels quite stable at speed. Buyers can opt for 18 or 19-inch rims for enhanced performance.

    Interior quiet is excellent. Passengers in both rows of seating should have no problems conversing on the highway.

    Visibility to the sides and back of the vehicle is its Achilles heel. The Terrain has a narrow greenhouse with thicker-than-average pillars. As a result, over-the-shoulder and rear visibility are not good. I had a hard time monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes, especially merging into high-speed traffic. To safely change lanes, I had to crane my neck to see around the B-pillar.

    The standard rearview camera compensates for blind spots in the back corners when the driver is moving in reverse, but side mirrors aren’t as effective when the car is moving forward.

    Versatile interior

    GMC Terrain Interior

    GMC Terrain Interior

    The Terrain has an exceptionally spacious second row: it holds three adults, without making the middle passenger suffer.  The center console protrudes slightly towards the back, but I was able to sit in the center position without having my knees in my chest.

    The front seats should be comfortable for adults of all sizes. A combination of power and manual driver’s seat controls are easy to adjust. I found the seat comfortable for drives over an hour. The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag, and a clear forward view.

    Both the gauge cluster and center stack are easy to read in bright sunlight. Details such as an ambient temperature display add extra appeal for active buyers. Controls in the center stack are intuitive to operate, and easy to reach from either front seating position.

    Both rows of passengers have access to bottle holders in the doors. Twelve-volt power outlets in the center stack and behind the center console recharge portable electronic devices. Overhead reading lamps over both rows of seating illuminate the interior at night.

    Smaller drivers will appreciate the Terrain’s low lift-over height, making it easy to load up the cargo area. The rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. The GMC Terrain meets our bicycle-friendly standards.

    Standard safety

    All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability and traction control. A standard oil life monitoring system helps owners to remember the most important routine maintenance procedure.

    GMC builds the Terrain at its Ingersoll, Ontario Canada assembly plant.

    Likes: A versatile sport-utility vehicle with five-passenger seating, a high level of standard convenience and safety features. The four-cylinder engine provides exceptional fuel economy for a vehicle of this size.

    Dislike: Poor visibility to the sides and rear of the car.

    Quick facts:

    Make: GMC
    Model: Terrain FWD SLE-1
    Year: 2010
    Base price: $24,250
    As tested: $24,995
    Horsepower: 182 Hp @ 6700 rpm
    Torque: 172 lbs.-ft. @ 4900 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: Yes (V-6 model only)
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 22/32 mpg city/highway


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