Review 2010 GMC Terrain FWD: Driving it makes you feel comforted, treated, and coddled

General Motors only made two mistakes when building the GMC Terrain.

1. They designed it to look like a beefy truck (which it is not).
2. They gave it a far too macho name. “Terrain” reminds many of difficult to traverse obstacles on off-road paths.

Other than that, I found the GMC Terrain a brilliant, tall, long wagon.

The 2010 GMC Terrain comes standard with FWD and a 182 horsepower (which makes 172 lbs feet of torque) 2.4 liter, direct injection 4-cylinder Ecotec. It’s a great motor. Other than mid to high rpm chatter, the 2.4 is surprisingly brisk and (in FWD) extremely frugal. With all of the recent Colorado snow, I was unable to duplicate my 0 to 60 mph time of 8.9 seconds – but I feel that’s about right at our altitude. I would imagine the V6 to be nearly a second faster.

It’s no rocket but has more than adequate power around town.

If you are looking for more power, there is a 264 horsepower, 222 lbs feet of torque 3.0 V6 (which I have yet to test). In all honesty, the 4-banger did a great job around town and unless you need to tow more than 1,500 lbs (the V6 can pull up to 3,500 lbs) I think the direct injection 2.4 liter Ecotec I-4 is a good choice.

GM says their GMC Terrain can achieve up to 32 mpg on the highway – and I believe them. Despite my poor and apprehensive driving, I averaged a surprising total of 22 mpg combined. Remember, that total is through snow, slush and every moron in the state clogging roads and driving like they are trapped in molasses.

Commuting was a breeze and as a parent, I love the huge door-openings, rear seats that slide several inches and overall ease of height when loading a baby seat inside. This vehicle was ideally set-up for families. I know the Lambda platform in the bigger GMC Arcadia is a bit higher off the ground and slightly less accessible.

The reason this truck is so comfy to enter is – frankly, because it’s NOT a truck. Yes, designers went overboard attempting to make the Terrain look like it could battle the Sahara, but that’s an illusion. Malls, highways and occasional bad weather are as rough as it gets for the GMC Terrain’s ability. Look at the lower parts of the body, especially the nose and you’ll see my point. These clever lower ground effects and skirts are made to coax wind to deflect in the most efficient way. This in turn drops the tip of the nose to about 6 inches from the ground.

Not very off-road friendly indeed.

Don’t let that stop you from sampling what is a rather brilliant interior setup. GM is finally getting interiors right. Yes – there are a few cheap (they might call them “light weight” plastics), but it is well trimmed and well executed.

There is enough room in the massive armrest holder to drop in a fair sized laptop. The seats are comfortable and I enjoyed the contrasting materials both on the seats and the dashboard. Most controls are well placed with the minor oddball addition of redundant (or unnecessary) climate control buttons. I simply love having the rear view monitor integrated onto the rear view mirror.

Headroom is great as is legroom on all seats.

The electronic power steering tells you little of what the front wheels are doing or what the road conditions are. Still, it’s an easy machine to wheel around in and road grip is competitive. My passengers never complained about the ride and the noise canceling technology (which emanates from the speakers to defeat/mute detected noise) worked beautifully. This was a quiet ride indeed.

Even with FWD only, the traction control system did a surprisingly good job keeping me alive when my logic shut down (which is often). The VERY long wheelbase was well controlled and offered an excellent highway ride. Hard bumps could be felt, but no more so than competing vehicles from Honda, Toyota, Ford and Nissan.

Let me put it this way. On New Year’s Eve, my friend and I discovered we needed more party favors. I was agitated and opted to allow my evil alter-ego to drive. Bounding all over slush, snow and ice while driving at ballistic speeds, the Terrain behaved better than I expected. Even when I overcooked a turn and began a 4-wheel slide, all was serene inside. I simply let go of the gas and brake while allowing the Terrain to find its own groove. I was impressed and bet the AWD model is far better in Denver’s winter muck.

In fact, I know that GM has built a competitive soft-road, tall wagon that can truly be matched against the best in its bracket. I also believe that the Chevrolet Equinox is slightly better as there is no truck-like pretense in its smooth shape, but that could just be me. Either way, I was comforted, treated and coddled driving what I initially expected to be a humdrum crossover.

Bottom line?

If General Motors keeps building exceptional cars like this, we will no longer have a brunt for so many automotive jokes. Good job General Motors.