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  • 2018 GMC Terrain SLT

    Compact crossover has the versatility for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2018 GMC Terrain

    2018 GMC Terrain

    GMC is one of two automakers that focuses exclusively on building trucks and understanding what its buyers want in terms of functionality: hence the term, ‘professional grade.’

    In the ever-increasing pool of compact crossovers, the new second-generation Terrain stands out as a very good package at an affordable price. Features such as a fold-flat front passenger seat and available hands-free liftgate make it a lot easier to load large items such as bikes and kayaks inside.

    At the same time, GMC includes important active safety technology such as forward collision warning with autonomous braking, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, intelligent headlamps and blind spot monitoring, as well as infotainment features such as a 4G LTE Wi Fi hotspot.

    Base price for the upscale SLT grade is $31,320 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include panoramic sunroof, power hands-free liftgate, driver’s seat memory and power front passenger seat, an infotainment system including an 8-inch color touchscreen, OnStar and navigation, Bose audio system, red exterior paint and the active safety features listed above. Final MSRP is $38,070. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 GMC Canyon 4WD SLT Crew Cab

    Midsize pickup combines value and versatility

    By Nina Russin

    2016 GMC Canyon

    2016 GMC Canyon

    Buyers looking for versatility but not needing the towing capabilities of a full-size pickup truck should seriously consider the midsize GMC Canyon. The Canyon’s dimensions aren’t significantly different than that of the full-size Sierra. The Canyon’s wheelbase is about 13-inches shorter for the crew cab, and the truck is six-inches narrower.

    But there’s a significant difference in cost and fuel economy. Pricing for the Canyon starts at $21,880 as compared to $27,815 for the Sierra. The available Duramax turbo-diesel engine on the Canyon test truck averages 29 miles-per-gallon on the highway: seven MPG higher than the EcoTec V-6 available on the Sierra.

    2016 GMC Canyon SLT Diesel

    2016 GMC Canyon SLT Diesel

    The biggest reason for sizing up to the Sierra is its 12,000-pound towing capacity versus 7600 for the Canyon. Bottom line: if you’re planning to tow a travel trailer buy the Sierra, but if the most you’re planning to tow is a couple of jet skis, save some money and get the Canyon.

    Base price for the four-wheel drive test truck is $37,450 excluding the $925 destination charge. Options include the diesel engine that comes with a tow/haul trailer brake controller package, Bose premium audio system, eight-inch color touchscreen with navigation and Intellilink infotainment, spray-on bed liner and an active safety package including forward collision and lane departure warning. Final MSRP is $44,365. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD Crew Cab

    Full-size pickup raises the bar for engineering and performance

    By Nina Russin

    2016 GMC Sierra

    2016 GMC Sierra

    Let’s face it: any vehicle costing upwards of $50,000 needs to fill a lot of squares. For most truck owners, it means multi-tasking as a work and family vehicle, with the capability to tow and haul, accommodate at least four passengers and provide respectable fuel economy.

    From and engineering stance, these are lofty goals, since high profile, two-box vehicles aren’t aerodynamic. Ever. Despite that, the performance gurus at GMC have created a full-size pickup with astonishingly good fuel economy and ride comfort rivaling passenger cars.

    The 5.3-liter Ecotec engine and eight-speed automatic transmission beneath the Sierra’s chiseled hood give the 1500-series crew cab the heart of an athlete. The truck idles smoothly at 600 rpm and cruises at speeds up to 65 miles-per-hour below 2,000 rpm. In endurance athlete terms, it’s the equivalent of a marathoner with a resting heart rate in the high 30s.

    Base price for the SLT test truck is $46,970 excluding the $1,195 destination charge. Options include twenty-inch rims, Z71 off-road suspension, spray-on bedliner, special seats and center console, front and rear park assist, LED headlamps, power sunroof, navigation, premium audio system and a trailer brake controller. Final MSRP is $53,845. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Heels and Wheels 2015

    Women’s automotive conference charts changes in the industry

    By Nina Russin

    Heels and Wheels 2015

    Heels and Wheels 2015

    It’s been a long time coming, but the automotive industry has finally realized that women think about cars differently. Since female buyers account for 50 percent of all new car purchases, understanding how their preferences impact purchase decisions significantly impacts automakers’ bottom lines.

    For the past five years, my colleague Christine Overstreet has assembled a group of female journalists, product specialists, market analysts and engineers for Heels and Wheels, a conference focused on the growing impact women have on car design, engineering, media coverage and automotive sales. This year’s conference that took place in Southern California included market analysts from Kelly Blue Book, engineers from General Motors and FCA, products specialists from GMC, Buick, Dodge, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mitsubishi, Kia, Nissan, Infiniti, Mazda and Volkswagen.

    Two-dozen journalists covered the gamut from traditional outlets such as and Autobytel to electronic media, travel writers and mommy bloggers. While earlier Heels and Wheels programs focused primarily on the dealership experience, the 2015 event had a broader base, looking at recent trends and giving journalists a chance to spend time with women who work for the automakers on product development teams. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 GMC Acadia AWD Denali

    Seven-passenger crossover with refreshed exterior styling

    By Nina Russin

    GMC Acadia Denali

    In its post-2008 recovery, General Motors is wearing a new game face. In no case is this more evident than the newest GMC Acadia Denali: a seven passenger crossover featuring refreshed styling for the 2013 model year.

    In a crowded segment that includes the Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango and Honda Pilot, GMC’s three-row crossover is a formidable contender. Power comes from a direct injection 3.6-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Ninety percent of the engine’s peak 270 foot-pounds of torque is available from 2500 rpm, giving the Acadia exceptional power off the line and the capability to tow up to 5200 pounds.

    Available all-wheel drive automatically sends engine power to the wheels with the best traction on slippery roads, enhancing four-season capability. A hill hold feature applies the brakes momentarily when the driver accelerates from a stop on a steep hill to prevent the vehicle from sliding backwards.

    The 2013 refresh includes a redesigned grille with LED daytime running lamps, wrap-around rear glass and rear spoiler. New 18, 19 and 20-inch wheel designs dress up the car’s profile.

    Base price for the all-wheel drive model tested is $47,945, excluding the $895 destination charge. The test car includes two options, navigation with a rear seat entertainment system and special exterior paint, bringing the final MSRP to $52,075. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 GMC Acadia AWD Denali

    GMC adds a new premium grade for its family-friendly crossover vehicle

    By Nina Russin

    2011 GMC Acadia Denali

    The seven-passenger GMC Acadia offers families a fuel-efficient alternative to the larger Yukon. The three-row crossover vehicle comes with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission: available all-wheel drive adds four-season capability.

    Towing capacity is 5200 pounds compared to 8200 for the four-wheel drive Yukon, but a three mile-per-gallon gain in fuel economy significantly reduces ownership costs.

    For 2011, GMC introduces an upscale Denali grade, with fresh exterior styling and premium interior. A chrome honeycomb grille dresses up the front of the car, while twenty-inch wheels enhance performance and add drama to the profile.

    Base price is $45,220 for the all-wheel drive model, not including a $775 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience feature include remote keyless entry, remote start, heated and cooled front seats, OnStar automatic crash notification and navigation service, a dual-panel sunroof, second-row captain’s chairs, a rearview camera and Bose surround-sound audio system.

    A touch screen navigation system adds XM traffic and weather updates ($1890). The rear-seat DVD entertainment system costs $1445, while metallic white exterior paint adds $795 to the base price, bringing the MSRP to $50,125. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 GMC Terrain FWD SLE-1

    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. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 GMC Terrain

    GMC’s smallest sport-utility vehicle is big on active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2010 GMC Terrain

    2010 GMC Terrain

    The Terrain is GMC’s newest, and most compact sport-utility vehicle: built on the same platform as the Chevrolet Equinox. Both cars come with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder or V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission.

    Whereas the Equinox focuses primarily on value, the Terrain carries forth GMC’s “professional grade” strategy with more aggressive styling, and convenience features that appeal to truck enthusiasts. The truck’s front-end design is similar to treatments on the Acadia and Yukon: GMC’s mid- and full-sized sport utility vehicles.

    The test car is the SLT-2: the more upscale of two available grades. Base price for the all-wheel drive model is $31,000, not including a $745 destination charge. The 3-liter V6 engine is a $1500 option, as are 19-inch chrome wheels: an upgrade from the standard 18-inch brushed aluminum rims ($900). A towing package ($350) gives the Terrain 3500-pound capacity, meeting our minimum ALV standards.

    While the V6 can’t compete with the four-cylinder engine’s 32 mile-per-gallon fuel economy, I think it’s a better choice for buyers who live in climates with bad winters. The bigger engine has fifty more foot-pounds of torque, which makes a big difference in low-end acceleration. In other words, the V6 is better equipped to crawl out of a snow drift, and has enough power to accommodate a full-load of passengers plus athletic gear. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 GMC Terrain

    Big truck features in a compact package

    2010 GMC Terrain

    2010 GMC Terrain

    The 2010 GMC Terrain shares chassis components with the compact Chevrolet Equinox. Designer John Cafaro Jr. gave the Terrain a more aggressive front end than its Chevrolet sibling, featuring a three-bar chrome grille and large headlamps. Although they share a 112.5-inch wheelbase, the Terrain is slightly longer than the Equinox, translating to a larger cargo bay.

    The second-row seat slides fore and aft up to eight inches, making it easier for parents to install a rear-facing infant seat, or to extend the cargo floor. The 60/40 split rear seats also fold flat to make the Terrain bicycle friendly.

    Buyers have a choice of two engines: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine or more powerful V6. Both come with a standard six-speed automatic transmission, and both are available with either front or all-wheel drive. In eco mode, the four-cylinder engine averages 32 miles-per-gallon on the highway. The mode switches the transmission from a liquid to friction coupling at lower speeds to save gas.

    The 264-horsepower V6 appeals to buyers who need to tow trailers, meeting our ALV 3500-pound towing capacity. All models come with a fully-independent suspension, front and rear disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking. The base model rides on 17-inch wheels: buyers can upgrade to 18 or 19-inch rims.

    Inside, the Terrain offers many features normally limited to larger sport-utility vehicles, including an available two-screen rear entertainment system. All models come with standard USB and Bluetooth interface, XM satellite radio, remote vehicle start, and an available navigation system with 10-gigabyte downloadable hard drive.

    A programmable power liftgate allows the driver to adjust the height of the door, making it easier to open and close. A standard rear backup camera eliminates blind spots to the back of the vehicle.

    Standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, antilock brakes, and a year of complimentary OnStar Safe and Sound Service.

    Pricing for the Terrains starts at $24,995 for the front-wheel drive four-cylinder model. The upscale SLT2 model with standard 18-inch wheels, heated leather seats, a sunroof and power liftgate starts at $29,995. All prices include the $745 destination charge.

    GMC builds the Terrain at General Motors’ Ingersoll, Ontario assembly plant.

  • 2007 GMC Acadia

    By Jim Woodman

    2007 GMC Acadia

    2007 GMC Acadia

    I first eyed a GMC Acadia when one of my neighbors scored one of the very first ones to be sold in San Diego. The sleek, yet bold design certainly caught my family’s attention and I must admit I’ve been intrigued ever since. No question the Acadia is a very attractive vehicle.

    So when it came time to test drive the Acadia, which is named for Acadia National Park, an idyllic island preserve just off the coast of Maine, I couldn’t wait to put the Arcadia through the paces.

    My 2007 model, which wasn’t sold till February or March 2007, was the front-wheel-drive SLT-1. There are three trim levels: SLE, SLT-1 and SLT-2. SLE starts at $29,990 and SLT-1 sets you back $33,225 for front-wheel-drive versions. All-wheel-drive will set you back another $2,000 which effectively takes the Acadia out of the ALV best value class on the SLE trim.

    That said, for purposes of this review and because I tested the SLT-1 FWD version, I’m obliged to classify this vehicle as luxury because 99% of these are going to be sold north of our $30k best value limit. Of course, if you go nuts on the options and choose an AWD SLT-2 at $38,105 base, you can find yourself sneaking up close to $50k.

    If you have to know, the SLT-2 trim dials you into more luxury extras such as rear parking assist, 8-way power seats instead of 6-way, 115 volt power outlet and assorted conveniences that you may or may not want for the extra $2,880 added to the base price. Each trim comes with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 275 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard.

    Crossover SUVs

    And for those that recall my Buick Enclave review, the Acadia, along with the Saturn Outlook, is a close first cousin. These vehicles share the same platform and are part of the fastest growing segment in the auto industry: crossover SUVs.

    As a dad with three kids all under eight years, I’ve become a big fan of these crossovers. The fact you can get three rows of seating and, depending on your choice of second row, easily carry seven or eight passengers is a huge bonus. And, unlike three-row SUVs of a few years back that could barely give a child enough leg room in the back row, today’s crossovers are plenty roomy for adults in the back row.

    While I wouldn’t want to sit in the back row of an Acadia for an extended road trip, it’s more than adequate for daily commuting and family outings. And, when you consider carrying children, these crossovers are quickly replacing minivans as all-purpose family vehicles.

    Child Seat Installation

    Installing my 2-year-old’s car seat was a snap. The safety LATCHes were well-placed and didn’t require a struggle with the seat cushions to snap the hooks in place. The rear tether hooks are conveniently placed right behind the second row seats. While a second row bench is optional and can increase seating capacity to eight, our model had a pass-through area between two captain’s chairs which made it very convenient for my kids to get in and out or move between rows.

    Acadia also features a “Smart Slide” second row feature that lets the seats slide four inches fore and aft – with just one lever – and easily flip up and out of the way for access to the third-row seats.

    Handling and Acceleration

    The Acadia handled much like a car and its exceptional turning radius, for a car this size, made getting in and out of tight parking spaces much easier than with my minivan or other large trucks and SUVs I’ve driven. I wasn’t overly impressed with the highway acceleration as I felt it certainly adequate but a little lacking when wanting to go from say 40mph to 70mph. The Acadia seemed to perform best at low-end torque, meaning it does pretty well off the line: 0-40mph.

    Shifting was very smooth on normal accelerations but seemed to delay shifts a little too long when accelerating hard. To be fair, very few people are going to pound the accelerator to the floor in an Acadia. This isn’t what the car is designed for and if normal day-to-day commuting and car pooling the kids is your gig, you’ll be grinning ear to ear in your Acadia. Every once in a while I’d get a lag or delay on a downshift but it wasn’t too annoying or noticeable. As with the Enclave, it seemed to occasionally happen when releasing the accelerator at speeds under 30mph.

    The Acadia doesn’t seem to be as friendly at the pump as it claims. EPAs are 18 and 26 for city and highway respectively, which seems reasonable but I’d count on being lucky to get 18 mpg on the freeway. I spent most of my time in stop and go traffic and while I didn’t calculate this exactly, I found myself going from a half tank to near empty in less than a hundred miles. I also noticed the fuel gauge could vary significantly based on whether I was parked on a slope or not. After starting the car, and getting to flatter roads, it would take several minutes before I got an accurate fuel gauge reading.

    Cargo Storage

    I did like the 60/40 third row seat fold down configuration which made hauling gear on one or both sides of the third row very easy. Moving the seats up and down was a snap. Even with the third row in place, there was more than adequate space behind the third row (19.7 cubic feet) for hauling groceries and equipment such as tennis racquets, golf clubs and, if I were to remove both front and rear wheels, my racing bicycle.
    With the second and third rows folded down, the Acadia boasts an impressive 116.9 cubic feet of cargo storage. Folding down just the third row, scores you 68.9 cubic feet to haul your gear.

    But here’s the cool part — and this is key to why crossovers are so hot. The Acadia delivers literally the same amount of interior passenger space as a Yukon and significantly more cargo room, yet it’s a tad smaller outside. Think about what I just said. A slightly smaller vehicle on the outside, with more room — that drives more like a car — and gets better gas mileage than the large SUV. Can you say no-brainer?

    An optional power liftgate ($350), which could also be controlled from the keyless remote allowed me to easily open the rear cargo area. Surprisingly, the remote only allowed me to open the gate. Closing it required me to push a button on the gate. Okay, call me soft but I kind of like these power open and close remote functions.

    The center console features a sliding, fore and aft, compartment that has additional climate control buttons for the rear passengers. It’s kind of a slick feature, but the storage space in the center console is a little confusing. It took me awhile to even realize there was a second storage area beneath the top one and it wasn’t all that hefty. Normally, I’d like to pack in CDs, sunglasses and the typical junk we haul around in our cars into the center storage area. It’s like some engineer got a little too cute with the design and forgot the basic principles of simplicity and function.

    Plenty of Standard Features

    Standard features on my SLT-1 included full power controls for just about everything, leather appointed seats, tri-zone climate control and a full array of airbags. Stabilitrak stability control with roll mitigation, traction control and antilock disc brakes are also included. The base stereo is a six-speaker system with an in-dash CD player with MP3 playback. As with the Outlook and Enclave, I really like the fact I could also store favorite radio stations from different bands on the same memory set. So instead of having to switch to the satellite radio band when I want to switch from a favorite FM station, all I needed to do was push one of my preset memory buttons.

    My test model also featured a dual skyscape sunroof ($1300 option) that allowed the front one to fully open and the rear sunroof came with a power sunshade, much to the fascination of my children.

    Another love-it-or-hate-it option included a head-up display ($300) which displays your current speed, tachometer and radio station (plus artist for satellite radio) in the windshield as kind of a hologram. It’s a nice feature that will probably help those with a lead foot as that digital speed display is in your face and you’ll immediately know you’re speeding. You can choose to not show the display or move it up or down for optimal viewing angle.

    For those looking for a crossover with bold and aggressive looks, the GMC Acadia may just be your ticket. It drives much more like a car than a large Size SUV, yet boasts just as much — or more — passenger and cargo carrying capacity than those big SUVs. GMC’s strong truck heritage certainly comes across when looking at the front grille, yet the exterior lines and styling are distinct and eye-catching enough to ensure you’re not only getting where you want to go with plenty of room, but with plenty of style.

    Quick Facts:

    Base price: $33,225
    Price as tested: $36,879
    Horsepower: 275 hp @ 6600 rpm
    Torque: 251 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm
    0 to 60: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: No
    Towing: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Fuel economy: 18/26 mpg city/highway