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Terrain is Mostly a Smooth Ride


The Chevy Equinox is selling as fast as the trucks arrive, and General Motors hopes its cousin GMC Terrain will have similar success.

In its previous life, Equinox was a compact crossover that had a derivative Torrent sold by Pontiac.

For 2010, Equinox was reborn, redesigned and enlarged. And now that Pontiac is going out of business, Equinox gets a new partner called Terrain, a midsize crossover sold by GMC. GM insists Terrain was earmarked for GMC before Pontiac was earmarked for extinction.

Terrain, like Equinox, is designed to attract consumers moving out of gas-thirsty mid- and full-size SUVs, as well as minivans. Good plan, considering GMC has dropped its midsize Envoy and Chevy its midsize TrailBlazer, and GM and Ford have dropped minivans. Foreign competition includes the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.

We tested Equinox (Chicago Tribune, July 19) and now Terrain, which serves those needing two rows of seats. (Acadia is for those needing three rows.) The only other things Terrain has in common with Equinox are the platform, roof and windshield.

GMC says it caters to higher household-income levels than Chevy, so Terrain comes standard with such goodies as rearview camera, auto-dimming mirror, deep-tinted glass, USB port, floor mats, fog lights, heated mirrors and projector beam headlamps -- all options on Equinox. Terrain/Equinox offer optional heated leather seats, but only Terrain heated cloth seats ($440 with SLE-2).

Front- or all-wheel drive and a 2.4-liter, 182-horsepower 4-cylinder or a 3-liter, 264-hp V-6 are available on both. Both come with 6-speed automatic. The 4 is a member of the 30 mpg club, with a rating of 22 mpg city/32 highway with FWD and 20/29 with AWD. The V-6 is rated at 17/25 with FWD; 17/24 with AWD.

We tested the FWD Terrain with a V-6. GMC says styling is bold, with large, slab side-body panels, raised hood, bulgy fender flares and low-slung plastic bumper and rocker-panel cladding.

The 3-liter V-6 has enough power to pass or tow, but, as with Equinox, a turbo boost (not offered) would help quicken movement from the light. V-6 mileage also falls far short of the 4 for those trying to stretch the weekly fuel budget. And it is surprisingly noisy, growling as if it were a 4. Terrain could use a little more energy -- and quiet.

Ride is smooth without the jarring typical in a midsize SUV. There's some body lean in corners at speed, but standard stability control and traction control keep you in the lane and direction chosen. For off-road use or the Snow Belt, we'd opt for the $1,750 AWD, though at a cost of 3 mpg highway in the V-4 and 1 mpg in the V-6.

Cabin room is very good, especially for those in back, with its abundant space to move head, legs and arms. The rear seat fits two adults or two adults with a child squeezed between.

The rear seats slide fore or aft for more legroom or more cargo space. Rear seatbacks fold flat if even more gear has to be carried. A convenient folding cover prevents objects, from toys to Cheerios, from falling into the no-man's land between the rear seat and cargo hold.

The power ($495) liftgate makes loading and unloading easy, especially when your arms are full. You also can adjust liftgate height to prevent bumps in a low-slung garage. There's room for a laptop in the center armrest, and a covered bin in the top of the dash will hold iPod, cell phone, MP3 player or I-PASS, perhaps the reason for the cabin's four power plugs.

With winter's worst close, standard remote start is welcome, as is that rearview camera, which spots anything behind when backing up or helps in hitching up the trailer. But without a navi system, the screen to see what's behind is a small square in the rearview mirror that needs much more than a glance.

The base 4-cylinder Terrain starts at $24,995. The FWD SLT-1 with V-6 tested starts at $27,450 and includes side-curtain air bags, automatic climate control, AM/FM stereo with CD, satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Add a hefty $1,500 for V-6 and $795 for sunroof.



Wheelbase: 112.5 inches
Length: 185.3 inches
Engine: 3-liter, 264-hp V-6
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
MPG: 17 city/25 highway
Price as tested: $31,030
Add $745 for freight
$27,450 Base
$1,500 3-liter V-6 (2.4-liter 4)
$795 Tilt-and-slide sunroof
$495 Power liftgate
$350 Trailer package
$245 Cargo management package with security cover and net and roof-rack crossbars
$195 Black metallic paint

(+) GMC version of Chevy Equinox
(+) A midsize, five-passenger crossover with AWD
(+) Roomy cabin and cargo area
(+) Optional power liftgate

(-) Mileage
(-) Engine growl


Jim Mateja can be reached at transportation@tribune.com.


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