Grinding Gears Garage tests the 2013 GMC Terrain Denali

Images courtesy GMC

Crossover utility vehicles are to the new millennium what minivans were to the late ‘80s and early ‘90s – all the rage. It seems, however, that many of their designs blend together, especially when friends get together and try to describe one they don’t know the name or brand of. “It’s that one with the round face and kind of rounded roofline, you know, the one that looks like an over-inflated sport hatchback…” or something like that.

GMC’s latest – the Terrain – sought to step apart from that confusing landscape.

The GMC Terrain is another core ingredient to GM’s “recipe for success” and is based on the crossover utility platform shared by the Chevy Equinox and Cadillac SRX. The only common body parts however are the roof and windshield.

The big news for Terrain for 2013 is the inclusion of the Denali luxury trim package that brings enhanced styling inside and out while also adding a very responsive, direct-injected 301hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine under the hood.

At GMC, Denali could almost be a separate brand as the automaker has sold more than 500,000 units with the moniker since 1999 and Denali models now account for some 17 percent of all GMC sales. GMC even expects Terrain customers to up that stat to 20 percent for this model line.

Recently we were zipping around town in the new Terrain Denali and enjoying all that power and opulence in a small crossover. In fact, If GMC were to remove the badging from the vehicle one might just think they were riding around in a new Cadillac as the Denali package brings Terrain up to that level.

On-road we found the Terrain very quiet and very smooth – what a modern CUV should be and where the new benchmark standard should be set – while offering plenty of comfort and convenience.

The beefy shoulders may seem a carryover from the now defunct Hummer division but enhance the stance of the Terrain and set it apart from the current CUV pack. The Denali chrome is apparent fore and aft in the Terrain from the large mesh grille to the twin exhaust finishers at the rear and thanks to new Terrain-specific dual-flow shock dampers the ride and handling experience is even further upscale.

And who doesn’t love a contrast-stitched interior?

Terrain Denali buyers can opt for the base Ecotec 2.4-liter I4 engine that sees 32 mpg highway while still enjoying the comfort of a six-speed gearbox but I would recommend the V-6 at a tradeoff to 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.

New technologies added with the Denali package include a very cool rear cross traffic alert that I took advantage of the very first time I was backing out of my driveway. A red alert symbol came up on the rearview camera display and even showed which direction the traffic was approaching from.

When my wife is not riding with me in the Terrain, onboard forward collision alert tells me when I am approaching the vehicle in front a bit too rapidly (although GMC’s technology does not follow up with a slap on the arm).

Pricing for the 2013 Terrain Denali is very reasonable considering where competitive models are priced today. Base MSRP for our tester is $34,525 with our GMC rolling in at $38,090 that included the larger engine (along with stylish 19-inch wheels and tires) and new Color Touch navigation display.

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