2016 GMC Terrain Denali Measures Up, and More!

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 CUV designs blend together, especially when friends try to describe one they don’t know the name or brand of. GMC’s latest, the Terrain, sought to step apart from that confusing landscape.

2016 GMC Terrain Denali/Images by David Goodspeed

The Terrain is now the second-best selling model in the GMC stable (behind Sierra) and is another core ingredient to GM’s “recipe for success.” It is based on the crossover utility platform shared by the Chevy Equinox and Cadillac SRX, but the only common body parts are the roof and windshield. A few years ago GMC added the Denali luxury trim package to the model. Denali brings enhanced styling inside and out while also offering a very responsive, direct-injected 301hp V-6 engine under the hood.


Upgrades for the 2016 model year include new front and rear fascia, new grilles, new power dome hood design, new 18- and 19-inch aluminum wheel designs, revised center stack instrument panel with new storage shelf and control graphics, new interior materials, and updated technologies.


The beefy shoulders may seem a carryover from the now defunct Hummer division but that design cue enhances the stance of the Terrain and sets 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.


The base engine for the Terrain Denali is the Ecotec 2.4L I-4 DOHC with direct injection that produces 182hp and 172 lb. ft. of torque. We, of course, enjoyed the larger 3.6L V-6 powerplant. All Terrain models arrive with a six-speed automatic transmission and the model comes in front or all-wheel drive running gear.


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. And for the times when my wife is not riding with me, 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 and the recital of my first and both middle names).

Pricing for the 2016 GMC Terrain Denali is very reasonable considering where competitive models are priced today. Base MSRP for this tester was $35,725 and after a few add-ons the final window sticker came to $41,315. Fuel economy for the I-4 is 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway for FWD models with this AWD tester rated at 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. The list of standard and available amenities for Terrain and especially the Denali package is quite lengthy and quite impressive, just about everything but the kitchen sink and perhaps the dealer can even help you with that.


Driving the GMC Terrain Denali is a quiet and comfortable experience and when the need arises for power there is plenty at the pedal. The crossover rides very smoothly and very stable and handles quite well when the road begins to curve. If GMC were to remove the badging from the Terrain Denali one might think they were riding around in a new Cadillac as the Denali package brings Terrain up to that level.

The 2016 GMC Terrain Denali is what a modern premium CUV should be and it certainly measures up against competitors in its class and even the class above it!

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About the Author

David Goodspeed
David was editor of AutoworldToday at Today Newspapers in the Dallas suburbs until its closing in 2009. He was also webmaster and photographer/videographer. He got started doing photography for the newspaper while working as a firefighter/paramedic in one of his towns, and began working for the newspaper group full-time in 1992. David entered automotive journalism in 1998 and became AutoworldToday editor in 2002. On the average, he drives some 100 new vehicles each year. He enjoys the great outdoors and as an avid fly fisherman, as is his spouse Tish. He especially enjoys nature photography and is inspired by the works of Ansel Adams.