There is something comforting about driving the 2017 GMC Terrain Denali. Maybe it is its sturdy, monolithic appearance or its smartly designed interior that makes the buttons and controls feel as though they are all in just the right place. Or it could be its smooth, sure-footed ride.
It is likely a combination of all of the above and the result of eight years of improving and refining the popular compact crossover SUV since it was introduced in April 2009.
The exterior of the Terrain is bold and striking. Its blocky stature, bulging fender wells and sharp body lines give it a decidedly macho appearance. Other reviewers have labeled it “squared-jawed” and “polarizing.” One thing is certain, in a category where it can be hard to tell one brand from another without reading the nameplate, it definitely stands out.
The Denali trim adds lots of satin chrome bling (door handles, side mirrors, roof rack, side rails and moldings) and a unique mesh grille.
In contrast to its hard-edged exterior, the Terrain Denali’s interior is luxurious and functional. It also has generous amounts of leg and elbow room, both up front and in the rear seating area, which belie its compact SUV classification.
The heated premium leather seats with contrasting side panels adjust eight ways and the rear bench seat can slide forward or back 8 inches, depending on your need for more rear seat leg room or more cargo area capacity.
The dash and center stack are tastefully designed and solidly constructed with high-quality materials. I found the small sun visor above the 7-inch touch screen to eliminate glare – an especially thoughtful touch.
Comfort-tuned suspension gives the Terrain a plush, smooth ride, soaking up bumps and vibrations. GMC has also added several noise-canceling features, reducing wind and road noise to a minimum and creating a quiet environment inside the cabin.
In addition to GM’s OnStar with automatic crash response and navigation, the Terrain Denali is equipped with about every safety and technology feature under the sun. Forward collision, lane departure, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts; rear-vision camera; 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot and hands-free smartphone integration are all standard.
There are two engine options offered on the terrain. My test model was equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, which performed solidly on the local freeways and surface streets. It generates 182 horsepower and gets an admirable 31 mpg on the highway.
The other choice is a 3.6-liter V-6 that puts out an impressive 301 horsepower, taking the Terrain from zero to 60 in 7.1 seconds and increasing its towing capacity from 1,500 to 3,500 pounds. If you own boat or a trailer or are planning to load up your Terrain and head for the mountains, the larger engine would be the way to go.
The 2017 GMC Terrain Denali is a compact SUV that is more than capable of going off-road, especially with the larger engine and available all-wheel drive. But the real story here is comfort. With its smooth ride and plush, roomy interior, you’ll arrive at your destination peaceful and relaxed, no matter how rough the road.