2018 GMC Terrain Denali Is Pricey but Good

The compact crossovers at General Motors have undergone major makeovers and they are now better than ever. Given the surge in CUV sales lately these improvements could not have come at a better time for the automaker. We recently tested the all-new 2018 GMC Terrain Denali.

2018 GMC Terrain Denali/Images courtesy GMC

While most consumers will not purchase the top-of-the-line models that we usually receive in the press fleets, we here at Gear Diary do get to examine them for the amount of content the individual automakers provide for certain model lines. Terrain Denali is one of those vehicles, as Denali is quite the high-end vehicle, but then GMC is selling quite a few Denali models across all its vehicle lineups – Terrain included. While my wife and I would not purchase a Denali vehicle due solely to its pricing points, we certainly recommend it to folks who have this on their list of premium compact crossovers and recommend others to put it on their list when shopping this segment.

All 2018 Terrain models are new from the ground up as GMC has not only redesigned the nameplate but given it all of the latest technology and new powertrains as well including – wait for it – the new 1.6-liter turbodiesel option. Terrain also comes with GMCs new Traction Select system as well as option of front- or all-wheel drive running gear. AWD models give drivers the option of FWD mode or the active AWD system as well as off-road and trailer tow selections. We spent our week between FWD and AWD modes as we saw a deluge of late winter/early spring precipitation and the Terrain handled every driving condition beautifully.

Designers have given the new Terrain all new looks both inside and out and packed it to the gills with amenities. Occupants are bathed in premium content along with soft-touch materials while active noise cancellation adds to just how quiet and comfortable Terrain is. Denali, of course, ups the ante with even more premium content along with such features as heated steering wheel, Bose sound system, and hands-free power liftgate – all standard. The new center console includes a new pass-through storage feature underneath and the front passenger seat folds flat to allow for carrying of longer items inside the Terrain. New under-floor compartments in the rear cargo area offer added secure storage.

Let’s take a look at the new powertrain options that GMC offers in the 2018 Terrain. Standard is the new turbocharged 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 170hp and 203 lb. ft. torque. The 1.6-liter turbo-diesel inline four-cylinder optional engine delivers 137hp and 240 lb. ft. torque. Our Denali tester arrived with the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated at 252hp and 260 lb. ft. of torque. We really enjoyed the power this engine delivers especially when that turbo really gets spinning. Sutch power that it will get the front wheels spinning l, but in AWD mode the vehicle lurches with great prowess, just make certain you are ready to do some driving. The gas engines are mated to new nine-speed automatic transmissions while the turbodiesel arrives with a six-speed automatic gearbox. The Terrain can tow up to 1,500 pounds loads with the 1.5L and 1.6L engines and up to 3,500 pounds with the 2.0L.

Let’s talk about the new transmission a little bit – more specifically the new electronic shifter. It consists of a series of buttons (P, R, N, D, and L) mounted above the center console cubby at the bottom of the center stack. I am not a fan of this system in the Terrain. The P, N, and L buttons are push-activated but the R and D functions (Reverse and Drive if you have not figured this out yet), and that is done for safety’s sake but I would much prefer a stalk shifter or a rotary knob. I get they are offering more room in the new center console design with this arrangement but it is not a win for me, especially if you wish to go to L (Low) or manual shift modes which require you to take your eyes way off the road to see where you are placing your finger. Sorry, GMC, no bueno. And while I am ranting, how about a button so I can turn off this annoying (to me) autostop technology? I will sacrifice the 0.25 mile-per-gallon fuel savings this feature may bring.

Safety technology abounds in the new Terrain, especially in our tester that featured the advanced safety package of automatic parking assist and surround vision as well as the driver alert package of driver alert seat, low/speed forward auto braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, forward collision alert, and intelligent auto high beam headlamp control. Heck, the auto high beams have an override button, why not the autostop?

Other cool features in our GMC Terrain Denali include wireless device charging (now that I have my iPhone X), heated and ventilated front seating, Skyscape (panoramic) sunroof with power sunshade, 8-inch GMC infotainment system with navigation and satellite radio, 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, multicolor driver information display, keyless open, keyless start, and rear seat reminder technology to remind you to check the rear seat area if you have opened the rear doors prior to starting the engine on the current operating cycle. Kudos to GM for this cool safety feature.

OK, pricing. As I stated, the 2018 GMC Terrain Denali is out of our price range but the base Terrain models start at around 25 grand nicely equipped. Our tester arrived with a final window sticker of $43,975, which is really not that bad for a premium compact CUV these days. Fuel economy for the 2.0L is rated at 21 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. Around town we got worse than that (18-19 mpg) but on the highway things got saw better than rated. (Note: We spent most of our city mileage in AWD mode so that does change things a bit.)

In conclusion, I have to hand it to GM for the improvements that have been made to the new compact lineup of crossovers, both with Chevy Equinox and here with GMC Terrain. Is this Terrain Denali worth the nearly 20 grand premium over what we recently paid for my wife’s Equinox? No. I recommend shopping the base to mid-level models in both showrooms for the best value but if you wish to impress folks with the bottom line of the window sticker, the Terrain Denali is a great choice.

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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.