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2019 GMC Terrain

$25,000 - $39,500
Price Range (MSRP)
GMC Terrain

2019 GMC Terrain Test Drive Review: Your One-Stop-Shop For Luxury And Utility

by Gabe Beita Kiser

There are a number of car companies out there with three-letter monikers that found a way to make it big despite the inherent clunkiness of that naming structure. BMW is the example that first comes to mind, followed by Mercedes' in-house tuning division, AMG. But none take advantage of the terse sounds three syllables make when bunched together as well as Gee-Em-See, known by normal people as GMC. General Motors' work truck division is known best for providing customers with utmost utility sprinkled with bits of chrome and leather seats to make sure the construction crew knows which truck is the site supervisor's.

But as the SUV market gathered heat, The General saw that it could bring GMC's brand hallmarks down to the passenger car level. 2010 saw the cute and cuddly Terrain come to market with its masculinity implied by trapezoidal wheel arches and blocky proportions, while femininity was exuded through its compact dimensions. And while the Terrain's external dimensions changed and got softer with 2018's release of the crossover's 2nd-generation, the basic recipe hasn't been altered one bit.

2019 GMC Terrain Changes: What’s the difference vs 2018 Terrain?

The 2019 GMC Terrain forms part of the second generation launched late in 2017 as a 2018 model. For 2019 the Terrain has received minor updates. On the outside, GMC has added the sporty-looking Black Edition package (only available on SLE and SLT trims) which consists of a blacked-out grille, large 19-inch wheels in, you guessed it, black, and various black exterior trimmings. Cars with the larger eight-inch infotainment display get an upgraded rearview camera for the new year. The active safety package GMC calls the Driver Alert 2 package, available for the Denali and SLT trims, has been updated with a 360-degree camera, pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control.

Pros and Cons

  • Powerful turbocharged engines
  • Diesel fuel economy
  • Good infotainment system
  • Composed handling
  • The diesel engine is slightly unrefined
  • Gear selection on nine-speed auto isn't brilliant
  • Curious interior design features
  • Options are expensive

Terrain Exterior

The GMC Terrain is a small to midsized SUV that looks exactly that. The Terrain's side profile could be mistaken for any other unoffensive suburban SUV in the flooded US market. The only redeeming factor would be the grille and winged headlight setup that gives the Terrain a touch of individuality. For 2019, GMC has given the grille a small makeover and now sports a handsome layered chrome design. The unique winged headlights come with HID headlamps and LED daytime running lights as standard. The rear liftgate is a manual affair, but there is a powered option available on higher trim levels, as well as a power sunroof. The base model Terrain is fitted with 17-inch machined aluminum wheels, but these grow to 18 inches for the SLT models, and 19-inch alloys are also available. For 2019 GMC has introduced the Black Edition appearance package which turns the vanilla-looking Terrain into a junior VIP cruiser thanks to a blacked-out grille, blacked-out wheels, and black exterior bits.

2019 GMC Terrain Front Angle View
2019 GMC Terrain Side View
2019 GMC Terrain Rear Angle View
See All 2019 GMC Terrain Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The GMC Terrain falls somewhere between the small and midsized crossover SUV classes but leans more towards the midsized class thanks to its five-seater status. The Terrain measures 182.3 inches in length, 65.4 inches tall and 72.4 inches wide. The wheelbase of 107.3 inches is short when compared to its rival from Ford, the Edge, which rolls on 112.2 inches. With a 6.9-inch ground clearance, the GMC Terrain, even in all-wheel-drive configuration, won't be winning any offroad rallies. The compact design and a selection of lightweight engines help the GMC Terrain to keep the weight down, but it's competitors are even lighter still: The Terrain has a curb weight of 3,449 lbs in its lightest format, which is 175 pounds heavier than the Chevy, but 103 pounds lighter than the Ford Escape. In its heaviest iteration, the AWD Denali tips the scales at 3,801 lbs.

Exterior Colors

Despite how the hot rays of the Arizona sun are absorbed by any shade darker than silver, GMC sent us an Ebony Twilight Metallic Terrain complete with the Black Edition package, one of two new appearance options that subdues the grille, side window trim, mirror caps, side and rear lettering, roof rails, and wheels with a shade of jet black paint. The package's effect is to take the new Terrain's domesticated lines and give it a bad boy persona - even the thinned-out window at the side of each rear panel appears to blend into the body so that it's hard to distinguish between the heavily tinted glass and black metal.

Buyers seeking a more upscale look will be happy to know that the Terrain's Chrome package has the opposite effect of its Black Edition counterpart, contrasting best with shades of deep red or elegant blue to make the crossover look like a luxury vehicle.

A total palette of ten hues is available for the 2019 Terrain, with limited availability based on trim selection. Colors available across the range include the free option of Summit White, as well as the $495 Quicksilver Metallic and Ebony Twilight. The Denali gets extra availability of Graphite Gray, Satin Steel, Smokey Quartz, Red Quartz, and Blue Steel, all at an additional charge, while the SLE and SLT trims get the broadest palette, adding Sedona Metallic and Blue Emerald to the mix.

Terrain Performance

Performance can be described as adequate at best. In base trim, the GMC Terrain will sprint to sixty in 9.3 seconds, which feels quick enough around town, but runs out of steam as it climbs up the gears. The optional 2.0T engine is more potent, with 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque enabling a 6.5-second sprint time. The fact that all three engine options are turbocharged should attract buyers who are looking for a more fuel-efficient alternative to the naturally aspirated V6 that lacks low down torque and consumes loads of fuel, something that makes urban driving more pleasurable. Not unique to the Terrain, but an appreciable aspect nonetheless are the two choices of drivetrain available. Front-wheel-drive is the default, but all-wheel-drive can be optioned for a fee.

2019 GMC Terrain Gauge Cluster
2019 GMC Terrain Engine
2019 GMC Terrain Exhaust

Engine and Transmission

Three engines are available for 2019. The entry-level Terrain SL, as well as the SLE and SLT trims, are fitted with a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 170 hp and 203 lb-ft and comes paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The more powerful 2.0-liter turbo engine, optional on the SLE and SLT and standard on the Denali, delivers a beefy 252 hp and 260 lb-ft while making use of the same nine-speed auto box. For maximum miles per gallon, and some decent torque, new owners can opt for the turbodiesel engine on SLE and SLT models; a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with variable valve timing that churns out a mighty 137 hp and a useful 240 lb-ft of torque.

Our week at the wheel of the 2019 Terrain was spent behind the SLT trim's optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which replaces the old model's V6 to become the range-topping option in the lineup. The engine exhibited slight lag when starting out from a stop or when accelerating hard with low crankshaft momentum (RPM), but once the turbos were coursing with horsepower-summoning oxygen, the four-banger came alive and slapped a large helping of thrust down the throat of the 9-speed automatic. Like most GM powertrains, the automatic shifted seamlessly and typically found itself in exactly the gear it needed to be in, though the engine's combination of smooth acceleration (once the power is on) and marshmallow-like connection to the throttle thanks to the turbo makes the experience feel more antiseptic than exciting. For a crossover like the Terrain, that's more than fine, especially when it can traverse steep and slippery driveways with using its optional all-wheel-drive system.

  • Engines
    1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Flex-fuel (FFV), 1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Diesel, 2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4, 2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Automatic, 9-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

While the Terrain's $25,000 starting price makes it hard to rank it alongside luxury competitors like the BMW X3, our tester's $40,000 price tag did indicate that the crossover should at least convey some level of refinement to the driver. In that pursuit, it half succeeded, half failed. The GMC does a decent job of remaining highly controllable, with steering that's as linear and direct as a German military general but softer than margarine. The suspension insulates road imperfections well but feels two-dimensional, making the Terrain ride like a simple and passive beast, like a box on four wheels rather than an intelligent forward-thinking machine. But that simplicity makes it easy to predict how the Terrain will react on the road. Getting into its groove is easy, but not rewarding. On the highway, the Terrain's light and uncommunicative steering and easy maneuverability can complicate things, making the crossover feel twitchy and unsettled with slight steering inputs. That feeling is exacerbated by the GMC's large blindspot, a symptom of the thin rear-quarter windows. Around town and in the parking lot, though, the Terrain's driving style shines by fading into the background and allowing the driver's mind to wander.

Terrain Gas Mileage

Thanks to a large number of variables in the engine and drivetrain departments, the gas mileage of the 2019 GMC Terrain will vary. The base model, fitted with the turbocharged 1.5-liter engine, powering only the front wheels will deliver 26/30/28 mpg city/highway/combined, dropping to 24/28/26 mpg for the AWD version. The least efficient engine in the range is the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder in AWD guise which returns 21/26/23 mpg, while the title of the most efficient engine goes to the diesel. This little 1.6-liter unit can be stretched to achieve 28/39/32 mpg with a light foot. Unfortunately, the GMC Terrain is fitted with a relatively small fuel tank, measuring only 14.9 gallons. This gives the Terrain an estimated fuel range of between 366 and 499 miles.

The paradox of the turbocharger is that it's put in place in order for the engine to get better fuel economy without sacrificing the power that drivers crave. But as one is familiarized with the acceleration that the engine delivers once turbo lag is overcome, it's hard not to start pushing the throttle deeper at each green light to more quickly get into the power band. Still, that didn't impede on our ability to attain 23.7 mpg over our week with the 2.0-liter turbo-equipped Terrain, putting it just over its combined 23 mpg rating. Some of that has to do with the fact that once those green light dashes were over with, we spent most of our time cruising up and down suburban desert roads in the Terrain, hardly surfaces that encourage speedometer-ripping speeds.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    14.9 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 26/30 mpg
* 2019 GMC Terrain FWD SL

Terrain Interior

The interior of the 2019 GMC Terrain takes on a more rugged look and feel that is slightly at odds with the flowing lines of the exterior. Standard features include single-zone climate control, two 12-volt power outlets located in the front and rear of the car, keyless entry, a rear vision camera, and a 3.5-inch driver info display, but premium tech such as wireless phone charging and a Bose sound system are available on higher trim models. It's generally attractive, but the controls seem awkwardly placed. Space is also lacking, primarily for taller occupants when equipped with the option of a sunroof. It's not the worst cabin in the segment, but there are certainly better offerings from rival brands.

2019 GMC Terrain Dashboard
2019 GMC Terrain Front Seats
2019 GMC Terrain Rear Passenger Seats
See All 2019 GMC Terrain Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

Inside of the Terrain, roominess is the name of the game. That's because the GMC's box-like dimensions translate to ample amounts of headroom, 40 inches up front and 38.5 inches in the second row to be exact, and legroom, with the front seats boasting 40.9 inches of legroom and the rear seats hanging on to 39.7 inches. Unless the second row is completely full, occupants will also feel like they have enough room at either end, and despite the dull grey cloth headliner standing in place of a moonroof, the cabin does feel like it has just the right amount of natural light coming in.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

Despite the room, the Terrain's cabin is not exactly an inviting place to be. Like GMC's trucks, space and ruggedness are prioritized over comfort. Rubber floor mats, a control panel of buttons and switches standing in for a conventional shifting mechanism, leather and metal trim surfaces, all of these make the Terrain's interior feel more like a truck's than an upscale crossover's. The upscale portion is aided by heated leather seats and a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, but while most of the cabin feels well-put-together, squeaky interior trim pieces gave the Terrain the familiar feel of old GM quality. The interior color scheme, made up of dark leather and grey on our test vehicle, looked bare and ensured that our Terrain didn't feel quite like a $40,000 SUV.

Terrain Trunk and Cargo Space

The Terrain struggles to compete with its rivals in terms of outright cargo space but makes up for it by incorporating unique storage solutions that keep its head above water. With all the seats in an upright position, the GMC Terrain offers 29.6 cubic feet of space, which is disappointing when compared to its peers. The Ford Escape gets 34 cubic feet, while the related Chevrolet Equinox gets 30 cubic feet behind the second row of seats. With the second row folded flat, the Terrain's cargo space grows to 63.3 cubic feet, a number that's once again overshadowed by its competitors, but the Terrain does have a flat-folding front seat, which makes loading large items more practical than most.

Personal storage is excellent and clearly shows that GMC had families in mind during the design process. There are door pockets and small storage areas scattered around the interior, and front passengers will have no problem storing their smartphones and other personal items in the cutouts provided above the glovebox and shifter.

2019 GMC Terrain Trunk Space
2019 GMC Terrain Maximum Cargo Space
2019 GMC Terrain Dashboard

Terrain Infotainment and Features

Features

The standard features list isn't a long one, but GMC has focused on including some of the most important ones. Higher spec models get some truly premium items that lift the Terrain up in terms of perceived quality and comfort. The base model gets keyless open and start technology, HID headlights with daytime running LED, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a single-zone climate control system. Heated front seats, dual climate control, remote start, and interior accent lighting becomes available when you step up to the next trim level. LED headlights, a hands-free liftgate, memory seats, and a premium sound system are reserved for the top-of-the-line Denali. Features are logically spread over the entire range; there's a wide selection of optional parts and tech features that allow new owners to customize their Terrain to their specific taste. A range of driver-assistive technology is also present, with rear park assist, forward collision alert, automatic parking assist, and lane-keep assist all available on higher trims.

Infotainment

Though the Terrain's 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system can feel small, GM's system boasts a user interface that's easy to use. The screen is quick to react and intuitive, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also loaded on board to make the onboard navigation redundant. OnStar's onboard 4G LTE WiFi hotspot helps ensure occupants are never deprived of data with which to stream music through the premium Bose sound system. Overall, GM's tech suite does a wonderful job of stuffing the latest features into a package that's simple, doesn't feel intimidating, and can be used on the fly

Terrain Problems and Reliability

From 2018 to 2019, the GMC Terrain has been recalled four times, two of which pertained to 2019 models. These included recalls for insufficient welds on the head restraints as well as the insufficient coating on the rear brake caliper pistons. GMC backs the Terrain with a standard three-year/36,000 mile warranty, which includes corrosion, drivetrain, rust-through and maintenance warranties as well as a roadside assistance plan

Terrain Safety

One of the most significant selling points of any family orientated SUV will always be how safe it can keep its occupants in case of a serious accident. The 2019 GMC Terrain is a safe car, at least according to the IIHS and NHTSA. The IIHS gave the Terrain the best possible marks in most categories, but it failed to impress in the headlight department. The NHTSA seems to give a similar rating: the GMC Terrain scored a perfect five out of five stars on their rating scale, with only rollover protection scoring four out of five stars - the latter standard for crossovers and SUVs.

Key Safety Features

Standard safety equipment onboard the 2019 GMC Terrain is basic for its class, and active safety tech is reserved as optional for most models. Standard safety features include a rearview camera, ABS, tire pressure monitoring, stability control, and traction control, along with dual-stage front passenger airbags, rail airbags, and front and rear outboard airbags. Optional active safety features include pedestrian braking, adaptive cruise control, low speed forward braking, lane change assist with blind-spot assistance, and lane-keep assistance.

Verdict: Is the 2019 GMC Terrain a good SUV?

The GMC Terrain finds itself in an awkward place in GM's lineup because, in theory, it ranks above the everyman Chevrolet Equinox but underneath the luxurious Cadillac XT4. However, given that the Equinox can be loaded with luxury features and easily surpass the Terrain's $25,000 starting price, and that an XT4 stripped to the bone can be had for a little over $35,000, the Terrain resides in a niche that's technically covered by GM's other small SUVs. It therefore justifies its existence by pandering to customers who want a vehicle that's more luxurious than an Equinox but more utilitarian than an XT4 - the exterior design alone reinforces that narrative. If that's the car you're looking for, the Terrain is not a bad place to look. Just be sure to shop around because even though the Terrain's shortfalls don't outweigh its better attributes, there are plenty of other small SUVs that can do what this GMC does.

What's the Price of the 2019 GMC Terrain?

The GMC Terrain starts off with a base price of $25,000 for the FWD SL which is $900 more than the entry-level Ford Escape. The FWD SLE is the next car in the lineup and costs $28,100. The AWD SLE comes at a slight premium and costs $29,800. The SLT is at the higher end of the model range and in FWD configuration will cost you $30,900. Next up in terms of pricing is the first diesel in the lineup, the FWD SLT Diesel, which is priced at $31,800. The AWD SLT is next up and will set you back $32,600. The AWD SLE Diesel costs $33,600, the FWD SLT Diesel is $33,700, and the AWD SLT comes in at $35,500. The range-topping Denali comes in FWD and AWD specification and will set you back $37,800 and $39,500 respectively. All prices exclude licensing and registration, as well as a $1,195 destination freight charge.

2019 GMC Terrain Models

In total, there are six trims to choose from, with engine options and drivetrain configurations being the most significant differentiation. The basic structure is broken down as SL, SLE, SLT, and Denali, with diesel sub-trims for the SLE and SLT trims.

The base model goes by the name of SL and is fitted with the turbocharged 1.5-liter engine, HID headlights, a rearview camera, and single-zone airconditioning. The SL is only available in FWD.

The next trim is the SLE which is available in FWD and AWD and can be optioned with the 1.5 or 2.0-liter gas engines, as well as the diesel. The SLE trim includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, traction select modes, and optional active safety systems.

The SLT sits near the top of the trim options in terms of features and comes with an upgraded infotainment screen, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and LED taillights.

The Denali sits right at the top and offers the most standard features: you can expect to find a heated steering wheel and front seats, rear park assistance, a hands-free power liftgate and LED headlamps as standard.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
SL
1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Flex-fuel (FFV)
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$25,000
SLE
1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$28,100
SLT
1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$30,900
SLE Diesel
1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Diesel
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$31,800
SLT Diesel
1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Diesel
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$33,700
See All 2019 GMC Terrain Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

New for 2019 is the Black Edition appearance package, available on SLE and SLT trims, that adds black-painted mirror caps, 19-inch black alloy wheels, a blacked-out front grille, and roof-mounted side rails, all for $995.

The SL can be optioned with the Drivers Convenience Package which gets you an eight-way adjustable driver seat, remote start, and dual-zone climate control, all for $1,375. The Infotainment Package 1 costs $895 and includes an eight-inch display with navigation, an extra 12-volt power outlet, and two USB data ports. A must-have for lower-trim cars is the $495 Driver Alert Package which adds rear park assistance and rear cross-traffic alert as well as lane change assistance and blind-spot monitoring.

The SLT is available with the Preferred Package that costs $1,250 and gets you memory front seats, a six-way front passenger seat, lumbar control, and a hands-free liftgate. The Infotainment 2 package includes HD radio and a Bose seven-speaker sound system and will set you back $1,180.

The Denali can be optioned out with heated rear seats, adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, and more.

What GMC Terrain Model Should I Buy?

If our experience with the Terrain taught us one thing, it's that this crossover must be had with the 2.0-liter turbo engine and kept light on the features in order to make up for the engine's price. Our ideal Terrain would be a 2.0-liter SLE trim with front-wheel drive (since our needs dictate the rear wheels aren't going to need power often enough to justify the extra costs) painted in a $595 shade of Red Quartz Tintcoat. The $675 worth of options comes exclusively from the Bright Accent Package, though buyers with larger wallets should consider the Infotainment Package, which we only omitted because it requires adding the $1,375 Driver Convenience package first. In total, our ideal Terrain would come out to $32,310 including the $1,195 destination charge, though the total price drops to $28,810 after recuperating the $3,500 cash allowance GMC is offering on the Terrain.

2019 GMC Terrain Comparisons

2019 GMC Terrain
2019 GMC Terrain

2019 GMC Terrain vs Ford Escape

The Ford Escape is a five-seat crossover SUV that is more urban explorer than off-road conqueror. The starting price of the Escape is $895 less than the Terrain and tops out at $34,120 excluding options. Base models are powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 168 hp and 170 lb-ft. The Terrain's smaller turbocharged unit is the better engine here, but Ford also offers a turbo 1.5 further up in the range. The top of the range turbocharged 2.0-liter offers similar performance figures. Fuel consumption ranges between a combined 24 mpg and 26 mpg. The Escape offers more front legroom and has a better overall cargo capacity and better standard tech options, but the GMC has a more luxurious interior as standard. If it is outright space you're after, the Ford is the best bet, but the GMC has a few clever tricks up its sleeve that makes it a worthy contender.

See Ford Escape Review

2019 GMC Terrain vs Chevrolet Equinox

The Chevrolet Equinox joins the Terrain in the valley of the bland SUV. Both are priced in the mid-twenty to the mid-thirty range, but the Chevy offers a cheaper base model. The mechanically related Equinox is powered by the same turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder which produces precisely the same amount of power in base trim, but you also get the option of 2.5-liter naturally aspirated and 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engines, as well as the 1.6-liter turbo-diesel. Gas mileage ranges between 28 and 24 mpg combined, more or less on par with the GMC. The Equinox has a slightly larger fuel tank, giving it the edge on fuel range. The base model Equinox has a shorter list of standard features in an effort to cut costs over the more premium Terrain, but as you move up the Equinox trim ladder you get all the same equipment for less money. With so much shared between the two, it makes sense to take the cheaper option and buy the Equinox.

See Chevrolet Equinox Review

GMC Terrain Popular Comparisons

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2019 GMC Terrain Video Reviews