GMC: Terrain Hits Sweet Spot for Size But Denali Blows Value Proposition

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2013 GMC Terrain Denali

The GMC Terrain is one amazing vehicle.  Why, you might ask?  GM can’t seem to make enough of them.  Even as the Terrain ages, it is still selling incredibly well.  It was really the first vehicle where GM made the first good effort at interior design with a well-crafted centerstack, tons of 2nd row legroom, and features galore.  Does slapping the Denali name on the Terrain make it the ‘must have’ in the Terrain lineup?  Not exactly.

The Terrain added the Denali trim for the 2013 model.  Adding a better looking cut-and-sew instrument panel, Denali embossed seats, and big 19-inch chrome-clad wheels helped the Terrain move into the upper echelon of luxury and price.

 2013 GMC Terrain Denali

The Denali trim is the creme de la creme for GMC models.  Often pushing right up against what you might find on a Cadillac, the Denali line has really helped the GMC brand make a name for itself within all of GM’s brands.

The Terrain Denali is an outstanding vehicle.  I like it.  I like it as a crossover, and the Equinox twin.  I think the Denali trim makes the Terrain lose some of the value that the Terrain offers.  The model I drove had a V6 engine and was loaded to the gills with features, pushing the price tag to $42,000.  For that kind of money you can net yourself a decent Audi Q5, a Murano LE, or even a much larger Chevy Traverse.

2013 GMC Terrain Denali

You see, the Terrain starts out at $25,000 for a four-cylinder base model.  I think the four-cylinder is the way to go here.  The four-cylinder, although not GM’s newest, is more refined and gets far better real world fuel economy.  The steering feel is better with the four-cylinder.  The noise seems more isolated with the four-cylinder.  The four-cylinder costs less.  I think you get my point.  The four-cylinder is the way to go and Terrain buyers know this.  About 85% of them opt for four over six cylinders.

By achieving 31 MPG with the four-cylinder on the EPA’s test cycle, the Terrain is able to hit the same fuel economy as the upcoming Jeep Cherokee that is equipped with a nine-speed automatic.  The refinement of the Terrain four-cylinder is really apparent when up against the Terrain with a V6.

 2013 GMC Terrain Denali

OK, so now that I’ve beaten up on the V6, it’s time to look at how the Terrain does as a Denali.  I know the front doors say Denali and it has that now trademark cheese grater front grille, but the Terrain Denali feels like less of a change when compared to a Sierra Denali or Acadia Denali.  For $42,000 it should have keyless start and entry, air conditioned seats, heated rear seats, HID headlights, and LED taillights.  The $17,000 jump over the base Terrain is a bit of a shocker to me.  Don’t get me wrong, the Denali is one blinged out Terrain but I think it misses the mark for value, which is why the Terrain is such a perennial hot seller.

As a former Equinox owner, I’ll be the first to tell you that the Terrain and Equinox represent a major shift in the way GM thought about interior design and refinement.  That being said, the Terrain is best in four-cylinder form and even better in lower priced trims.  The Denali here just doesn’t seem all that, um, Denali-ish in this application.

 

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