As an automotive writer, I've notice that some of my colleagues downplay the popular models. This is not an usual stance among critics of any kind, including music and movie reviewers. They tend to view anything too successful with suspicion. Small label performers are always more authentic than chart toppers. Art films are more enlightening than Hollywood blockbusters. And top selling vehicles aren't always the best.
Sorry, but I think the 2019 GMC Terrain challenges that doctrine. In a week of test driving, I found it to be a stylish, comfortable, capable, well designed compact crossover SUV. It should be at the top of the list for anyone shopping for such a vehicle.
But when the Terrain was completely redesigned last year, the automotive press hardly seemed to notice. Mazda's decision to offer a turbocharged engine in its aging CX-5 crossover SUV seemed to generate more buzz. But the current Terrain offers a choice of three turbocharged engines, including one of the only diesels still on the market.
The same reaction greeted the redesign of the mechanically similar Chevy Equinox last year. The new Toyota Rav4 has attracted more attention, although part of that is because it is available as a hybrid.
But the bottom line is, consumers aren't all that influenced by the reviews. Both compact General Motor products are everywhere these days. And for good reason. Although they may not be the "best" in any category (as defined by the critics), they meet the needs of most buyers who are looking for practical, safe day-to-day travel and aren't obsessing over the best "handling" or interested in serious off-road driving.
My 2019 test Terrain was an upper level SLT version with the most powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, all-wheel-drive, a ton of safety features, and the new Black Edition package that includes an all-black exterior and 19-inch black alloy wheels. The original blocky exterior is now almost sleek, except from the blunt corporate front end and squared-off wheel wells. The look is tough but chic.
The interior was just as nice, with special leather front bucket seats that were wider, and more comfortable, than most competitors. The out-of-date dash has been replaced with a contemporary design that features easy to find and use controls. The upgraded infotainment system is among the best GM has ever offered.
On the road, the 2019 Terrain was easy to drive, with a supple suspension that made it feel like a larger vehicle over broken pavement. The T2.0 engine had plenty of power, although it was a little noisy under heavy acceleration, but not a deal breaker.
A good feature for Pacific Northwest resident was the adjustable traction control dial on the center console. Like much more expensive SUVs, it allows drivers to easily adjust the all-wheel-drive system to conditions from dry pavement to mud and snow. Not surprisingly, acceleration is best in the two-wheel-drive setting, when all the power is directed to just the front wheels. But when the weather or road conditions gets worse, a simple twist of the dial is all it takes to gain confidence.
The Terrain also included a low gear and Hill Descent Control for those willing to leave the pavement in search of adventure.
One thing that took some getting used to is the Electronic Precision Shift, which is a line of push and pull buttons for the transmission. Other manufacturers are doing similar things with their transmission shifters, including Acura, Honda and Ford. They all free up space on the console, even though they are not intuitive. But they aren't deal breakers, either.
The 2019 GMC Terrain may not be the most hyped compact SUV on the market, but it is no slouch, either. Last year's complete redesign keeps it competitive in today's hottest vehicle segment. It deserves a serious look by anyone checking them out.
2019 GMC Terrain AWD SLT
Base price: $32,600
Price as tested: $40,750
Type: Compact crossover SUV
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0 inline 4 (252 hp, 260 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Overall length: 182.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,756 pounds
Final assembly: San Luis Potosi, Mexico
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