2018 GMC Terrain Denali Test Drive: Touring Yellowstone in Style

How is it possible that I have never been to Yellowstone National Park? Until a recent media drive for the 2018 GMC Terrain Denali, if you’d told me about traffic jams caused by bison crossing the road or that steam from geysers could be thick enough obscure everything around it, I’d have only given you a blank look.

2018 GMC Terrain Denali Test Drive: Touring Yellowstone in Style

But all that recently changed.

Along with a few other auto writers, I was invited to test the smallest (relatively speaking) GMC SUV in and around Yellowstone National Park. Sunshine, mud, snow, and rain … I found out firsthand that the 2018 GMC Terrain could handle it all!

Similar to the test drive I participated in for the 2017 GMC Acadia Denali, the Terrain event was not the usual 3 or 4 hours of driving that most brands allow. From the moment that Kev and I arrived at the Bozeman, Montana airport, the Terrain drive was all about giving us plenty of time to really get to know the vehicle without any time spent hearing marketing speak or other propaganda; GMC allowed the car to speak for itself.

Once Kev and I had loaded our luggage in the back and got into it for our drive, there were certain things that stood out about the Terrain. As expected, the interior was luxurious  — this was the top of the line Denali edition, after all — but it was more than that. For instance, I had never used a shifter that looks like this …

2018 GMC Terrain Denali Test Drive: Touring Yellowstone in Style

Park and neutral were a simple push of a button; reverse and drive were activated by pulling the button up the same way you do an automatic window’s button. The removal of a shifter in the middle of the lower console frees up space.

Armed with a route book that would get us to our next destination, Kev and I were turned loose to make our way to Collective Yellowstone, the campground we were staying at for the night.

2018 GMC Terrain Denali Test Drive: Touring Yellowstone in Style

Before we get into the drive, I should talk a bit about the Terrain’s appearance. Being a Denali, it’s got a distinctive grille that’s not present on the regular GMC version; the car itself is lovely —it looks rugged yet luxurious. The Terrain is a larger vehicle than most cars, yet it still has a streamlined appearance with plenty of ground clearance for all but the roughest terrains (no pun intended).

The Terrain Denali we drove had a luggage rack on top, chrome flashes to break up any perceived monotony of a single color exterior, and it sat on 19″ ultra-bright machined aluminum wheels. The Terrain also features LED headlamps, LED signature daytime running lamps, and LED signature tail lights. Most welcome was the full-length sky-scape moonroof (with powered sunshade), which opened the top of the vehicle so that driving through the mountains was a five-sided viewing experience (lovely).

It took about an hour’s drive to reach the campsite, which turned out to be located in a remote part of a ski resort area, and during that drive we watched the weather turn from briskly cold yet sunny to rainy and ultimately to full-on snow. Evidently, Montana had a bit of an unexpected cold-snap while we were visiting, and I honestly couldn’t have been happier about that. I get to do so many media drives in perfect weather, so being able to test a vehicle through rain and then snow really illustrated how well the Terrain could handle. Here’s a video of the drive to the campsite that I made; watch how the weather changes as we go. The Terrain handled mud and snow perfectly; the SUV has AWD, and it felt very able on whatever road or conditions we encountered.

I get to do many media drives that occur in perfect weather, so being able to test a vehicle through rain and then snow really illustrated how well the Terrain could handle. Here’s a video of the drive to the campsite that I made; watch how the weather changes as we go. The Terrain handled mud and snow perfectly; the SUV has AWD, and it felt very able on whatever road or conditions we encountered.

The 2018 GMC Terrain Denali is loaded with enough safety and convenience tech to satisfy anyone; the usual luxurious safety accoutrements are there — lane change and blind spot alerts, rear cross traffic alerts, keyless open and start, dual zone climate control, heated and ventilated seats (as I mentioned), lane keep assist with lane departure warning, forward collision alert, and low-speed forward auto-braking. But there were other less usual things like the 360º surround vision that showed everything around the vehicle from all angles when backing up, wireless device charging, and an 8″ infotainment and navigation screen. The car comes with SiriusXM and OnStar, but it also has Apple Carplay and Android Auto capability built-in. The heated steering wheel was nice, too. I especially liked the safety alert that would show when you stopped the SUV — reminding you to check the back seat when you stopped the car. If that keeps one parent from forgetting that their child is with them when they get out, it’s worth seeing the alert anytime you stop the car and there is something in the back seat.

2018 GMC Terrain Denali Test Drive: Touring Yellowstone in Style

If you aren’t someone who usually likes to go camping, because you enjoy a non-communal toilet and shower (raises hand), then Collective Yellowstone is a glamping treat. The tents are spacious, with an amazingly comfortable (and heated) kingsize bed in the middle of the room. There was a wood-burning stove in a corner with a stockpile of pine wood, fire starter sticks, and a lighter; there were also portable space heaters on either side of the bed. Even so, the below-freezing temps made it less likely that we would spend much time out of the heated bed when we were in the tent. The bathroom with a shower and septic-connected toilet were located in a teepee just to the rear, attached to the wooden platform our tent was erected upon; there was no heater in the bathroom, so I’m not gonna lie — I didn’t take a shower in the morning (yeah, I’m a wuss). To be fair, though, this wasn’t a four-season campground, so I can’t fault Collective for the surprise weather. In all honesty, the snow made everything that much MORE. As beautiful as the area probably is in the spring, summer, and fall — with snow it was magical.

The following morning, with an even fresher batch of snow on the ground, we loaded all of our luggage into the back of the Terrain and took off for Yellowstone National Park. We were offered the option to go mountain biking, fly-fishing, or kayaking as part of our experience, but since we’d never been to this part of the country before, Kev and I agreed that we’d rather spend as much time driving around as possible.

As we drove through the Yellowstone, we observed steam rising from the various hot springs and (I assume) geysers alongside us. At one point, it was like we were driving through fog, but it was just hot spring steam. We were about 8 miles from Old Faithful when traffic started to come to a sudden halt and we were behind a huge line of cars. Concerned that it would be like that the rest of the way, we were pleased to soon find that the holdup was because park rangers were having to help stop traffic so that hundreds of bison could cross the road; it was truly something to see!

Once we arrived at Old Faithful, we found that we were a bit too early to watch an eruption, but we still had fun walking around the park area.

Continuing on to the Jackson Hole Four Seasons hotel in Wyoming, we observed so much beauty along the way. We passed a sign that mentioned ‘cascades’, so we had to get out and see what that entailed. From a wooden platform built on the side of a cliff, we observed a gorgeous waterfall running down to a river at the bottom (phenomenal).

2018 GMC Terrain Denali Test Drive: Touring Yellowstone in Style

If I could have had an entire week in and around Yellowstone, that would have been just fine with me; there are so many side roads and things to see — one day just wasn’t enough time. Ah well, now we’ll just have to go back (and bring the kids).

The town of Jackson Hole was beautiful, albeit a bit touristy. Kev and I stopped to look in one of the gift stores lining the road, and I was tempted to load up on souvenirs, but I refrained. It was fun to window shop, though.

The Four Seasons turned out to be built on the side of the Grand Tetons attached to a ski resort. I can only imagine how amazing it is to stay there during ski season, as the lifts are right outside the hotel.

As we were enjoying our smooth and sure ride in the Terrain, Kev and I played a guessing game, trying to figure out how much the Terrain might cost. Knowing that it was a Denali, I was expecting something in the mid $50s; his first guess was $60K, but since there was no window sticker in the glovebox (and we didn’t have internet service for much of the ride so I could Google prices), we just weren’t sure. At one point, Kev said that if we ever needed to replace our Yukon Denali XL with something else, maybe we should consider the Terrain; not knowing what the price might be, I laughed and said sure.

2018 GMC Terrain Denali Test Drive: Touring Yellowstone in Style

We were both aiming way too high, price-wise. The 2018 GMC Terrain Denali starts at $39,270; the fully loaded model we drove comes in at $44,350 including a $975 destination charge. That seemed reasonable for the amenities and the tech included in the vehicle. Even better, the Terrain Denali is rated at 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway; the average is listed as 23 mpg.

You can learn more about the 2018 GMC Terrain Denali here.

Disclosure: GMC paid for my travel, room, and meals; there were no conditions or expectations made regarding what I chose to write about with regard to my experience.

About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
I've had a fascination with all types of gadgets and gizmos since I was a child, beginning with the toy robot that my grandmother gave my brother - which I promptly "relieved him of" in 1973. I'm a self-confessed gadget magpie. I can't tell you how everything works, but I'm known world-wide for using a product until I have a full understanding of what it does, what its limitations are, and if it excels in any given area ... or not.