Review: 2013 GMC Terrain Denali – Some of Old and Some of New

2013 GMC Terrain Denali AWD V6

The Terrain crossover took GMC into the mid-size crossover market back in 2010.  It has been a successful move for the brand and the 2013 model year sees the addition of the GMC Terrain in the luxurious Denali trim.  The Terrain attracted 50,676 buyers in the first half of 2013 and is enjoying a 8.7% year-over-year growth.  Lets take a look at what makes this crossover appealing and how it can improve.

STATS Starting Retail Price As Tested Price HP / Lb-Ft
2013 GMC Terrain Denali AWD $36,675 $42,490 301 / 272
EPA Rating MPG As Tested MPG
Rating: LEASE IT! 16 /23 Combined 19 Combined 19.5

First Impressions

The 2013 GMC Terrain Denali has a bold presence with a healthy helping of chrome.  The interior is comfortable but is a little tight.  I also noticed a strange mix of old and new throughout this vehicle.  This includes the mechanical components and the interior features (more on this later).


The GMC Terrain is not afraid to show off its industrial rectangular and trapezoidal design elements.  It definitely has a love it or hate it appearance, and I am glad GMC was not afraid to make this crossover stand out in the crowd.  The Denali trim adds a unique chrome grill, satin chrome 18 inch aluminum wheels, and powerful looking dual rectangular exhausts.

2013 gmc terrain denali dash interior cluster

Driver’s seat is comfortable and served well on a longer trip.  Most of the interior materials are of high quality and well laid out and put together, except for the hard plastic visor protruding from the middle of dash to shade the smallish main touch screen.  I found the red pixel dot-matrix information center in the middle of the gauge cluster look and feel about 10 years old.  Whoever designed the user interface on the center stack seemed to have placed the buttons in a random arrangement.  The HVAC controls are straight forward, but figuring out the entertainment and navigation system features is very difficult.  The redundant buttons on the touch screen partially solve the problem, but the screen is small and the visor makes the top of the screen difficult to access.  The Terrain still uses the old fashioned ignition key, when nearly all competitors have switched to fashionable push-button start.


The GMC Terrain Denali comes in not one, but four powertrain combinations.  This test vehicle was a top of the line 3.6-liter direct injected V6 with 301 HP and 272 lb-ft of torque.  It is backed up by a 6-speed automatic transmission sending power to all four wheels (AWD).  However, you are not forced to configure your Terrain Denali this way.  You can also have the V6 with FWD and squeak out an extra MPG across the board.  And if fuel economy is on top of your priority list, then you can go for the 2.4-liter 182 HP four cylinder.  The straight four is also available with a selection of FWD and AWD.  Choice is always good and this was a smart decision by GMC.

The new direct injected V6 is plenty powerful, but it’s being let down by the now old-fashioned 6-speed auto.  The transmission works well while at speed, but can be a little reluctant to launch.  There are no paddle shifters and the gear lever mounted manual gear selector is hard to reach.  This transmission thinks it’s smarter than the driver, and it will not hold gear in manual mode.

2013 gmc terrain denali profile fenders


This Denali is a competent handler.  We took it for a Rocky Mountain drive and this Terrain seemed to hunker down and take the canyon roads with confidence.  The steering feel is not the best, but it still makes for an enjoyable driving experience.  Likewise, the suspension finds a nice balance between comfort and performance.  In most situations it favors the comfort setup as should be expected from a luxurious Denali model.  However, the front and rear independent suspension controlled the body lean and inspired confidence in fast corners.  This is an area where the Terrain shines.


Starting Retail Price City/Hwy MPG HP / Lb-Ft Cargo cu-ft
2013 GMC Terrain Denali AWD $36,675 16/23 301/272  63.9 / 31.6
2013 Acura RDX AWD $35,720 19/27 273/251 76.9 / 26.1
2013 Audi Q5 2.0T $35,900 20/28 211/258  57.3 / 29.1
2013 BMW X3 xDrive $38,850  21/28  240/260  / 27.6
2013 Cadillac SRX $45,200 16/23 308/265 61.1 / 29.8
2013 Ranger Rover Evoque $43,145 20/28 251/240 51.0 / 20.3
2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 $39,090 19/24 302/273 54.7 / 23.3
2013 Volvo XC60 $40,650 17/23 300/325 67.4 / 30.8

The premium midsize crossover segment is crowded.  The 2013 GMC Terrain Denali V6 is one of the more powerful in the group and its starting price is on the lower end of the scale.  Notice how the GLK350 seems to laugh at the Terrain by bettering its output HP and Lb-Ft by one.  Terrain’s V6 is also one of the hungriest.  Many of the competitors are choosing to downsize and turbocharge their engines to gain efficiency.  The numbers suggest that the Terrain has the largest cargo area with 31.6 cu-ft behind the second row.  However, be warned that the cargo space is narrow with enclosures on both sides.

2013 gmc terrain denali rear hatch

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the 2013 GMC Terrain Denali a Lease It!  The test vehicle sticked at $42,490 and included many extras like a sunroof and dual screen rear seat entertainment system.  Considering the power and the luxurious appointments, this Denali represents a good value.  When you start adding options to many of Terrain’s competitors, it’s pretty easy to get into the $50K+ range.

The Terrain is an interesting bland of old and new.  It was designed in GM’s pre-bankruptcy era and most of the older elements are unfavorable.  However, the direct injected V6 and suspension/steering setup show GMC’s strong engineering competency.  If they can sort out the user interface, the transmission, and the fuel economy – then it would be a Buy It.  For now, I can only give it a Lease It.

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Andre Smirnov
Andre Smirnov

Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, writer, reporter, and software engineer. He has been a contributor at TFLcar since 2011. When not working or spending time with the family – you can find him tinkering in the garage or simply ‘going for a drive’.