2013 GMC Terrain Denali


There are formulas for everything. The formula for water is H2O. Table salt? NaCl, sodium chloride. There are mathematical formulas: E=mc2, HP =RPM x TQ / 5252 . There are formulas for reality television, the probability of extraterrestrial life, radio morning show hilarity and New Coke. Well, there used to be one for New Coke, but you’d be hard pressed to find it now. Other than that, another formula that exists somewhere is the one for luxury small SUV. It was first written on the back of one of those “You have been preselected for this 0%” credit card offers that we all used to get three or four of a week, but its probably a PDF file by this point. Whatever the storage media, someone on the Denali team got ahold of it and put it to pretty good use.

[one_third] “It can do that and hit its EPA rated 16 mpg city, 23 highway and 19 combined with little effort other than not driving like Ricky Bobby.”[/one_third]

As the top dog of the Terrain lineup, the Denali’s base MSRP of $34,525 bags you a front wheel drivetrain pulled along by GM’s workhorse Ecotec 2.4L DOHC I-4 with 182 horsepower and 172 foot-pounds of torque. Add in all-wheel drive and it pushes the price up to $36,275. Our test truck had the optional 301 horsepower / 272 lb.-ft. of torque DOHC V6 package ($1,750 including 19″ rims) as well as AWD, a combination that accelerates well and makes a nice sound but isn’t exactly muscular. That comment is more personal preference than complaint, though. While there’s no kick in the rump when you floor it, unless traffic is the kind that comes out of turn four at a buck fifty one, its claimed 6.7 second 0-60 time will let you merge at will. It can do that and hit its EPA rated 16 mpg city, 23 highway and 19 combined with little effort other than not driving like Ricky Bobby. On a couple 25 mile test loops of my own on Northwest Jersey’s rolling hills and I-80, I reached 19.9 combined on the Driver Information Display.

When you do get the itch to hoof it a bit, standard traction control assists by limiting wheelspin (along with the low torque and AWD) and StabiliTrak adds virtual driving skills when the surface gets iffy or you forget you’re at the corner. Both systems are capable of being defeated, but its not something you’ll feel compelled to do since it rarely interferes in daily driving. The storm formerly known as Hurricane Isaac was on tour of the northeast for a couple of days while I had the Denali and its wet weather performance was assuring. I saw the StabiliTrak light flash once in a hydroplaning circumstance. The TC light flickered occasionally accelerating away from a corner and that was pretty much it. Having a quality basic suspension makes it easier for the nannies. With upgraded dampers and a fairly wide stance, the Terrain Denali handles very well without excessive lean or brake dive. There was no real noise from the 19 inch Hankook tires in cornering situations and grip felt good at turn in. At higher speeds you might feel a bit of understeer, but at the limit of the law there aren’t any handling gremlins.



Had there been any mildly catastrophic events I would have been safe with its 4-star overall safety rating, half-dozen air bags, 4-wheel discs with ABS, previously mentioned StabiliTrak and TC, and its external sensor array of backup camera and rear parking assist plus forward collision, lane departure, blind spot and side traffic alerts.

Beyond its powertrain and safety equipment GMC’s latest Denali badged offering is chock full of the features any premium crossover shopper could look for. I was comfortable in its bolstered 8 way heated power seats with lumbar adjustment, the passenger side exclusive to Denali, and by its automatic climate control. I was entertained by its 8 speaker audio system which receives almost everything except smoke signals and pure thought. I was connected via Bluetooth and Intellilink voice control to my Android phone and the navigation system. I was directed by one audio and two visual prompts from that navigation system on how to get where I was going. I was coddled by all its luxury and convenience details: the jet black leather with contrasting french stitching, the smoked mahogany trim, the dual action sunroof, the ambient lighting and backlit Denali sill plates, the steering wheel controls, the automatic tailgate and the two memory settings for the drivers seat position. I was assisted by its split folding rear seats, its up to over 61 cubic feet of cargo space, and optional trailering package. I was dazzled by its Denali appearance package with its redesigned head and taillights , satin chrome trim and… and.. sigh. No, I wasn’t. I’m sorry.

It’s not you, Terrain Denali. It’s me. The truth is I just don’t like the big chrome grille shell or the fortress like bodysides. Or how the wheel opening is so large above the low profile tires that I can see all the industrial plastic panels in the wheelwell which, BTW, is not an upscale look unless you’re a Range Rover or GC with actual off-road ability and mud dripping from spots the manufacturer didn’t know mud could get to. I think the rear end is a bit …bland. I think that the head and taillight redesign is a very subtle change, and that’s one part of the issue in my mind. There’s plenty of flash, but none of the eye candy works to differentiate the Denali from the rest of the uplevel trims, unless you park them side by side. The satin chrome is hardly a noticeable difference from more than 20 feet away and even then, it looks like hazy chrome and there’s just too much of it. This might have been a good time to go with a darker treatment. So, obviously, I’m not a huge fan of the exterior of the Terrain Denali, but looks are subjective. What works for me is crap to someone else and I have to call it as I see it. One thing I do see is that there are plenty of Terrains on the road already. Sales numbers trump page views, so its GMC FTW on that account.



My only other issues are minor, but fairly annoying on a 40K dollar luxo- ute. The dual action sunroof pops up a few inches like usual, then, instead of sliding outside the roof to fully open, it retract into the roof. Why is the two way roof controlled by two toggles? Why do I have to close the current position on its switch before changing switches to open it to the other? Why cant I just push the open toggle for the other position and have it go there without further input from me? Isn’t that the point of luxury? To get what I want when I want it? Or at least the point of body control modules? OK, no more complaints in the form of a question.

I lied. Why did the navigation system refuse to accept my own hometown name? Every time I tried to put in Vienna it forced me to Ocean View, which I’m sure is a nice town, but its just not where I wanted to go. That auto fill feature isn’t helpful, sometimes. On a vehicle whose primary target is women, I was surprised that some of the convenience tools weren’t a little more convenient. For instance, the split folding seat back. Maybe the sliding rear seats made it too hard to engineer, but shouldn’t those folding seatbacks fold flat? If you have to carry something long and fragile, like an antique mirror, you’ll need to bring something along to support the center. Sorta detracts from the utility. Additionally, I’m 5’10” and I had to climb through the truck to flip both seat backs down. Maybe the addition of a handle on the end of the 60 side where it meets the 40 side will make it more convenient. Maybe.



Oh, while you’re adding stuff, add some ambient lighting in the back seat area, OK? Between the Jet Black leather and Smoked Mahogany wood trim it gets real dark back there when the lights go out. William Hurt wont ride back there anymore, it scares him, but our tester didn’t have the optional DVD monitors. At least he had plenty of room.

Ultimately, none of my gripes add up to a bad opinion of this truck. The GMC Terrain Denali has good performance and decent economy , and it has all the gadgets and goodies to be comfy, connected and safe along the way. Its really too bad I don’t like the outside more, because the experience inside and on the road is a pleasure.

Photo Credit:  Copyright 2012 Dan Abrams / Car Fanatics Blog

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