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It’s about time GMC launched a new. After nine years on the market, the was looking and feeling every bit its age by the time it was put out to pasture. The slightly more luxurious cousin of the , the Terrain sets itself apart by way of beefier exterior looks, exclusive cabin touches and unique technology features to set itself apart.
The differences between the Terrain and its Chevy counterpart are even more apparent when you step up to the Denali trim level, mostly in the way of extra chrome and more standard niceties. The problem, however, is that if you get too carried away checking option boxes, the Denali’s price tag can creep up to uncomfortable heights. In the case of my test car, that means an as-tested price of $44,370 for what’s essentially a nice-ish compact crossover.
With its Ebony Twilight Metallic paint job, theDenali receives a surprising number of compliments. Some on the Roadshow staff aren’t fond of all the chrome slathering the grille, rockers, roof rails, mirror caps and door handles, but the elements really do pop, catching the attention and approval of folks in parking lots and gas stations.
The fresh sheetmetal is certainly an improvement over the, which admittedly is a low bar, but the blockier front end and small rear quarter windows do make a bigger visual statement than the softer . The whole package rides on Denali-specific 19-inch aluminum wheels with grey-painted insets.
Head into the cabin and you’re treated to leather seats with heated and cooled front buckets, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel that is greatly appreciated in winter. Real aluminum trim dresses things up, but disappointingly there is still a lot of hard plastic on the dash and door panels.
Heavy on storage
Storage is certainly not a weak point in thegame with nooks and crannies to stash stuff everywhere. There’s a massive center armrest compartment, door pockets and a slot on the passenger’s side of the dash sized perfectly to accommodate a phone. At the front of the center console sits a sizeable area to hold more belongings, opened up thanks to a new push-button transmission shifter at the bottom of the center stack. While the additional console space is nice, the shifter isn’t very intuitive, requiring a combination of pulling and pushing to select gears.
2018 GMC Terrain Denali: A crossover with a high-chrome diet
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Moving four normal sized adults in comfort isn’t a problem with sufficient space in the front and back seats. To tackle shopping trips, 29.6 cubic feet of space is waiting to swallow groceries and other treasures. Fold the back seats down and space increases to 63.3 cubic feet, handling everything I threw at the Terrain after an expensive voyage to Home Depot.
Rich in tech
As the range-topping model, the Denali comes packed with a substantial technology. Taking care of infotainment is GMC’s IntelliLink system with an 8-inch touchscreen offering navigation, an hotspot and Bluetooth. It’s snappy and visually impressive with clean menu screens and handy hard buttons to easily get to desired screens.
Navigation route calculations happen in short order, the seven-speaker Bose audio equipment sounds crisp and the Wi-Fi hotspot provides a quick data connection. Speaking of phones, IntelliLink also offersand capabilities for the people who prefer hand infotainment management over to their smart devices. And to keep phones juiced up, the Denali can be equipped with a wireless charger.
On the safety front, the Denali gets rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert and an all-important blind spot monitor. That last one is especially important, given themassive blind spots thanks to the aforementioned small, high-mounted rear quarter glass. More safety technologies are optional including low speed forward auto braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning and surround vision camera. All are present on my test car and all work as advertised, though they push the as-tested price into the mid-$40K range.
A capable performer
Elsewhere in the Terrain range, buyers can choose from a 1.5-liter turbo-four or a 1.6-liter diesel engine. But in the Denali, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder offers 252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, easily scooting the all-wheel-drive Terrain off the line and up to speed to pass slower traffic on the expressway. Midrange thrust is punchy with peak torque on tap between 2,500 and 4,500 rpm. The nine-speed automatic transmission happily goes about its business in most circumstances, but does hunt for the right gear at times when downshifting.
The drivetrain combo is estimated to return 21 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. During my week of mostly city driving — not to mention liberal use of the remote start feature during my wintry Michigan week — I observed 22.4 mpg, supporting the EPA’s figures.
Through corners, thefeels athletic with respectable grip and minimal body roll. Steering is weighty and responsive, while brake performance is stout. No doubt the Denali’s larger rolling stock plays a part in delivering better handling reflexes, but it gives up some in the ride comfort department. Impacts from medium to large road imperfections are felt, though the ride is still comfortable enough to handle crummy Midwest roads.
Engine availability is the biggest determining factor when it comes to building the Terrain I’d want to own. The base 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower provides leisurely acceleration. The availablewith 240 pound-feet of torque would normally do the trick, but sadly, it’s kind of pokey.
That leaves the 2.0-liter turbo, which comes standard in the Denali trims. To keep the price tag from climbing too high, I would only option it with all-wheel-drive because of Michigan winters and the $525 comfort package for the wireless charger. All in, my Terrain Denali punches in at $40,820.
Harder to justify
With the Terrain starting at $25,970, which includes $995 for destination, it’s not too much of a stretch to upgrade from the $24,525for the arguably more distinctive styling and nicer interior. The problem is when you reach Denali territory. My all-wheel-drive tester starts at $40,265 and shoots up past the $44,000, which puts it in the sights of the , and . There’s a lot to like about the Terrain, but at that price, the Denali doesn’t make as much sense.
Keyword: 2018 GMC Terrain Denali 2.0 AWD review: ratings, specs, photos, price and more