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2018 GMC Terrain: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer GMC Terrain, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 GMC Terrain Review

The 2018 GMC Terrain represents a complete redesign for this compact crossover SUV, and like other recently overhauled members of this extremely popular segment, the new Terrain has grown up considerably. Not literally mind you — it’s actually a bit smaller on the outside and comparably sized inside — but it’s figuratively a more sophisticated and refined effort. Its cabin is quieter and of a higher quality, its ride and handling are better-sorted and its new turbocharged base engine delivers smooth low-end power with less noise. Like other GM vehicles, the new Terrain also comes with an impressive amount of standard technology including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, multiple USB ports, a user-friendly touchscreen and OnStar emergency communications.

However, there are reasons to closely consider alternatives. Rival SUVs offer larger and more versatile interiors, while also being more engaging to drive. The new diesel engine’s excessive vibrations basically make it a no-go in our book, while the absurd electronic shifter standard on every Terrain could easily be viewed as a deal breaker itself.

So, there is certainly a lot to like about the generally well-rounded Terrain, but it’s not dominant enough in any particular area to make this a one-stop-shopping situation.

What’s New for 2018?

The Terrain was completely redesigned for 2018. See the 2018 GMC Terrain models for sale near you

What We Like

Ample standard tech features with easy-to-use touchscreens; nicely balanced ride and handling; multiple engines choices

What We Don’t

Ridiculous shifter design; less cargo capacity than rival SUVs; accident-avoidance tech only available on top trims; excessive diesel engine vibration

How Much?


Fuel Economy

The 2018 GMC Terrain distinctively comes with three powertrain choices, including a unique diesel engine. All are available with front- or all-wheel drive.

The standard 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque. Both gasoline-fueled engines come with a 9-speed automatic. Fuel economy is estimated to be 26 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in combined driving with front-wheel drive (FWD). All-wheel drive (AWD) knocks those figures down to 24 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.

The performance upgrade is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 good for 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It is standard on the Denali and optional on other trims. Fuel economy estimates for it stand at 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined with FWD and 21 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined with AWD.

The fuel economy upgrade is a diesel-fueled 1.6-liter turbo-4 that produces 137 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. It has a 6-speed automatic. It returns 28 mpg city/39 mpg hwy/32 mpg combined with FWD and is basically the same with AWD. Despite this improvement over the base engine, the price of diesel could result in the Terrain diesel being no cheaper to fuel over the course of the year. On the upside, we have noted that the diesel-powered Terrain tends to get something akin to its estimates, whereas the smaller gas turbo may fall short.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Terrain is available in SL, SLE, SLT and Denali trim levels.

The base SL ($25,000) comes only with front-wheel drive and the base 1.5-liter engine along with 17-inch wheels, automatic HID headlights, LED running lights, privacy glass, heated mirrors, passive entry and push-button start, active noise cancelation, a backup camera, height-adjustable front seats, a 60/40-split folding and reclining back seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth upholstery, OnStar emergency communications and remote services, a 7-in touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, four USB ports (including one Type-C) and a 6-speaker sound system with an auxiliary audio jack and a media player interface.

The SLE ($27,900) is available with any engine as well as all-wheel drive. It adds as standard equipment a spare tire, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and levers in the cargo area that fold the back seat. Not a lot for an extra $2,900, but it does open the door to options. The Driver Convenience package (included with the SLE Diesel), adds remote ignition, a power lift gate, roof rails, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and an 8-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment. To that package, you can add the Infotainment Package I, which includes an enhanced gauge cluster, an additional standard-type USB port, a 110-volt house-style outlet, an 8-in touchscreen, an SD card reader and satellite radio.

The SLT ($31,400) includes the Driver Convenience and Infotainment package items plus 18-in wheels, fog lamps, auto-dimming exterior mirrors and leather upholstery. Its Infotainment Package II adds integrated navigation, HD Radio and a 7-speaker Bose sound system. Its Preferred package (included on the SLT Diesel) adds a hands-free power lift gate, driver-memory functions, a 6-way power passenger seat and a heated steering wheel.

Optional on the SLE and SLT trims, and standard on the Denali is Driver Alert Package I that adds blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems, rear parking sensors and the Safety Alert Seat.

The Denali ($37,600) comes only with the 2.0-liter engine and includes all of the SLT’s optional equipment. It also adds ritzier styling details, 19-in wheels, upgraded interior materials and LED headlights. Optional only on the Denali is the Advanced Safety package that adds a surround-view parking camera and an automatic parking system. The Comfort package adds ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and wireless smartphone charging.

Optional on the SLT and Denali is the Driver Alert Package II that adds forward-collision warning, low-speed automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance and automatic highbeams. Optional on all but the base trim is a panoramic sunroof.


Every Terrain comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, front-side, full-length and side-curtain airbags and OnStar emergency communications (including automatic crash notification, an emergency response button and a stolen vehicle locator). Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning are optional on the SLE and SLT and standard on the Denali. Forward-collision warning, low-speed automatic braking and lane-keeping assist are optional on the SLT and Denali.

The government gave the 2018 Terrain a 4-star overall crash rating, plus 5-star frontal and 4-star side ratings.

Behind the Wheel

The 2018 Terrain is a far better SUV to drive than its predecessor. In particular, its steering is far more precise and confidence-inspiring, while body motions have been reduced. The new Terrain still isn’t as engaging as many of its competitors, but it still strikes a pleasing balance between ride and handling that should appeal to many people.

In terms of engine choice, the base 4-cylinder turbo should be a strong-enough choice for most compact SUV customers. Its low-end torque makes it feel especially stout around town. Opting for the 2.0-liter turbo summons a welcome supply of extra power and torque, and provides the sort of extra performance not offered by top rivals. The diesel engine choice is an intriguing one given its fuel economy enhancement, but the higher price of diesel fuel might wipe out its gains and it constantly sends excessive vibration into the cabin.

Speaking of the cabin, it offers quality on par with most rivals and technology that surpasses them — both in terms of the number of standard features and the touchscreens that control them. Beyond that, though, it’s a mixed bag. The cargo area is on the small side, especially in comparison to the Honda CR-V, and its back seat space is average at best. Headroom can be tight with the optional panoramic sunroof.

Then there’s the electronic shifter. Yes, it frees up space in the center console, but its design of push buttons and pull toggles is a ridiculous attempt at being different for the sake of being different. It’s a constant annoyance.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Honda CR-V — Arguably the benchmark in the segment. It provides unmatched interior space and versatility, ample features for the money, strong performance and fuel economy and a nicely balanced driving experience.

2018 Mazda CX-5 — The CX-5 stands out with its sport handling, sophisticated ride, luxurious interior and snazzy styling. It’s definitely worth a long look.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox — If you like what you’re reading about the Terrain, but would prefer a different look, the Equinox is mechanically related to the Terrain. It has many of the same pros and cons, minus the Terrain’s electronic shifter.

Used Jeep Grand Cherokee — If you’re looking for an SUV with more rugged capabilities and a fancier interior (and especially if you’re seeking a diesel engine), the Grand Cherokee is a superb choice. It costs considerably more, though, so seeking a used model is recommended.

Autotrader’s Advice

We would recommend the SLT, as you get the same equipment as an SLE with options, but with leather upholstery and bigger wheels. Opting for the Driver Alert Package II is furthermore recommended. In terms of engine, either of the gas engines would be fine given your performance and fuel economy preferences. We’d skip the diesel engine.

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