Home Reviews The new Compact Challenger – 2018 GMC Terrain

The new Compact Challenger – 2018 GMC Terrain

The new Compact Challenger – 2018 GMC Terrain

The 2018 GMC Terrain brings in a whole new styling package on the new platform and tops it off with a spanking new interior and feature package. We drive the car and find it brings some much needed competition to the segment

Author: Raj Warrior

There is a lot of action happening in the compact SUV segment this year as carmakers chase the better margins offered by the crossover over regular sedans. From the General Motors stable itself, this is the 2018 GMC Terrain is the second small SUV that we are reviewing – having done the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox launch for the region in Salalah.

The GMC Terrain manages to tread a separate path despite sharing the same D2XX platform that spawned the Chevrolet Equinox. It replaces the American first generation of the marque, although for the region it represents the third generation due to the GM-Daewoo sourced actual first generation Terrain. To avoid confusion, we’ll just call it the all-new Terrain for now.


The all-new GMC Terrain comes to the market with the new edgy styling that characterises the new breed of GMCs. We have seen the use of light embellishment, strong new grille design and sleek profile with a butch overtone on the GMC Acadia at the beginning of this year and the Terrain is no different. But don’t mistake it – the crossover looks like nothing else before it, belying the contention that there are only so many ways to style a SUV.

Here the differentiation between the regular run of the mill Terrain and the Denali version becomes that much striking on the Fascia and that’s largely because of the preponderance of shiny chrome on the latter. The grill has been widened and given more depth, while the headlights serve to bookend the presentation with LED DRL piping that bracket the outer edges of the fascia. Then you add in the chrome strip along the lower bumper and the whole fascia coalesces into a very face-like emoji.

The profile is just as striking. We really like the way in which the GMC Terrain stands apart from the Equinox – while the dimensions are the same, the Terrain manages to look more agile and racier largely because of the treatment between the C and D-pillar. It looks a bit like the way Toyota and Lexus are using black inserts. Here the blacked out glass is rimmed by chrome on top and the body panel that rises like a tailfin of a 1950’s Harley Earl design.

The tail is also quite cohesively done, with a dropping roof and spoiler and large tailgate carried off by the squatter glass of the rear windshield. The taillight assembly serves to bracket the rear panel in a similar fashion to the front – emphasising the LED signature of the Terrain.

Interiors and Seating

2018 All-New GMC Terrain SLT Interior

Now if you thought the exteriors were dramatically changed, you have to wait for the interiors to be visible. There has again been a sea change in presentation, on the back of a much better choice of materials and fit and finish. GMC has also picked up the finer points of the common General Motors design signature pioneered by Cadillac and delivered a console that is fit for a higher grade car. The Terrain benefits from the move to do away with the gearshift lever. Unlike on Lincoln where the method has become standard, we don’t expect it to spread across the range. Here the gear selector sits at the bottom of the centre stack and uses switches that need pulling to activate. Handily enough it is designed to be operated with gloves on.

As for the infotainment stack – you get a large display with integration to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, OnStar where available and the instrument panel is a combination of traditional analogue dials with a large central digital display. The steering also gets a fancied up three spoke layout with chrome edging.

Depending on the variant you select the interiors get different types and flavours of treatment, including to the choice of the plastic deployed on the touch surfaces. However the basic centre stack varies only in the change on the top display screen. The two lower bays get air-conditioner and the gear selector. Of course there is the generous availability of multiple USB charging ports, a wireless charging bay for mobile phones and a two panel panoramic roof with screen and opening.

The seats are generously laid out yet there is a nice, large cargo bay at the rear with 838 litres behind the rear seats and as much as 1792 litres with the rear seat folded. Of course the car also gets the latest hands-free opening of the tailgate, which can also open only part way if needed due to low roof height in the garage.

The car also debuts the driver alert package with vibrating seat, six-way power adjustment for the driver’s and front passenger’s seat with memory function. The driver alert package includes lane change alert, blind zone warning, rear cross traffic alert and rear park assist with camera.

2018 GMC Terrain Infotainment

The infotainment system doubles up as the active noise cancellation system and if you take one of the higher specs you get the 7-speaker Bose system as well. Sound quality is excellent, even when the source is an XM satellite radio station.

Powertrain and Chassis

2018 GMC Terrain Interior

The next huge change for the GMC Terrain is its choice of engines and gearbox. The Terrain is now powered only by 4-cylinder turbocharged engines, including a turbo-diesel that is currently only US-bound. The two engines it comes to the Middle East with are the 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre turbocharged direct injection units that are already destined for the Chevrolet Equinox. However, there is a slight difference in the tuning of the smaller engine as it offers peak torque slightly lower down the band in the Terrain. This difference is completely linked to the choice of the nine-speed gearbox instead of the Equinox’s six-speed.

The larger engine gets the nine-speed gearbox too, although there is a difference in the gear ratios. In terms of power, the 1.5-litre unit is rated at 170hp and delivers its peak torque of 275Nm, while the 2.0-litre unit is more suited to a hard ride with its 252hp and 353Nm of torque.

Ride quality has also improved by leaps and bounds. The Terrain gets an adequately damped ride, with some degree of give. Ride quality is much closer to a European ideal, but that doesn’t make it harsh at all. The combination of MacPherson strut and Four-link independent rear is quite effective. The electric power steering sits well in the mix – it gets a variable assist pattern that makes high speed driving very direct and tracks well with the natural front-wheel drive pattern of the AWD.

The vehicle is available in both pure FWD and AWD modes, with the centre console mounted controller allowing you to set the manner in which the AWD reacts to the environment. However, don’t expect hardcore off-roading in lots of slippy sand. Not if you don’t know what you are doing.

Driving Impressions

We love the new Terrain. It has the compact dimensions that put it in the sweet spot of a useful daily commuter. It is just around the size of a regular C-segment car, with some height and attitude thrown in. And it brings a feature package wit the driver assist package that makes it better specced than competition like the Volkswagen Tiguan.

The smaller engine is a useful means of getting the entry market sewn up, although we consider the nine-speed to be actually very useful to get the best from the engine. You can press down on the accelerator and feel the gearbox respond quickly, with a slight bump in the third and fourth cogs. The larger engine has so much more usable torque and that translates into a normal state where it is usually a cog higher than you would expect. But the response is quick and the torque comes in on the mid-range and stays available while the bulk of the shifting happens.


If you were in the market for a small SUV or a nicely kitted out crossover then the GMC Terrain sits in that sweet spot where you can’t afford to ignore it. It will have significant competition from across the stable with the Chevrolet Equinox offering almost similar kit with different levels. But you can’t get as bold or in your face as with the Denali specced GMC Terrain. We like the aggressive styling, its colourful choice chrome, paint and blacked out windows. And did we mention the chrome?

The Terrain is very American in its projection of an identity, outdoing the Japanese and Koreans in delivering a crossover with features, presence and just plain ‘it’s interesting’ stamped on it. And it seems built to a new standard, that may make you like it even over the European crossover. Tough choice, we know, but you do need to visit the showroom and see for yourself.


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2018 GMC Terrain

Carguide IDGMTE00016GMTE00017
ModelTerrain SLE/SLTTerrain Denali
Model Year20182018
Wheelbase (mm)27252725
Length Width Height (mm)4652 x 1843 x 16614652 x 1843 x 1661
Engine1.5-litre Turbo DOHC DI inline 42.0-litre Turbo DOHC DI inline 4
Power HP@RPM170 @ 5600252 @ 5500
Torque Nm@RPM275 @ 2000-4000353 @ 2500-4500
Gearbox9-speed Hydra-Matic 9T459-speed Hydra-Matic 9T50
Fr SuspensionMacPherson strut with coil springs, direct-acting stabilizer barMacPherson strut with coil springs, direct-acting stabilizer bar
Rr SuspensionFour-link independent rear suspensionFour-link independent rear suspension
BrakesFour-wheel disc with ABS and ESCFour-wheel disc with ABS and ESC
Wheels17-inch and 18-inch19-in. aluminum standard
TyresP225/65R17 and P225/60R18P235/50R19
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Raj Warrior is the managing editor of Carguide.me and has been a part of the Middle East’s automotive landscape from the past 16 years. He has run top rung car magazines in India and Oman and is often referred to as the Automan of Oman, due to his long association with the magazine. A love of mechanisms and technology adds to his forte and contributes a mix of technical and lifestyle based assessment to his writing. An avid photographer, as comfortable on a motorcycle as he is in cars, Raj is driven by his love affair with all things on wheels and brings his passion to all his automotive ventures. Raj has chosen Oman as his home base because he loves the country, its friendly people and its great driving and riding roads.

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