2021 GMC Terrain

By December 30, 2020

The 2021 GMC Terrain is a five-seat crossover with available all-wheel drive. Its sleek looks and contemporary design make it more of a family wagon than a rugged SUV. It’s unchanged for 2021 other than the addition of blind-spot monitors as standard equipment.

The Terrain is available with two engines, both turbocharged 4-cylinders, either a 1.5-liter version making 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque, or a 2.0-liter 252-hp turbo-4, both mated to a smooth 9-speed automatic transmission. As might be expected, acceleration is moderate with the 170-hp engine and steady with the bigger 252-hp engine.

The all-wheel-drive system requires the driver to engage the rear wheels for traction with the press of a button. The handling is crisp and the ride is tuned for the street, not trail.

The front-wheel-drive Terrain with the 1.5-liter turbo-4 earns EPA ratings of 26 mpg city, 30 highway, 27 combined, which drop to 25/28/26 mpg with all-wheel drive. The 2.0-liter models with all-wheel drive are rated at 21/26/23 mpg, or 22/28/24 mpg with front-wheel drive.

In safety, the NHTSA gives it five stars overall. Standard safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors. Adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera system are optional on the top two of four models.

Model Lineup

The Terrain comes in SL, SLE, SLT, and Denali models, with prices ranging from about $27,000 to more than $40,000.

For $27,000 the base Terrain SL comes with power features, cloth seats, keyless start, 17-inch wheels, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The SLE costs about $31,000 and offers options for features such as remote start and a larger touchscreen.

For about $34,000 the SLT adds dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, and heated front seats. The 2.0-liter engine is available on the SLT for about $3,000.

The Denali costs about $41,000 and adds 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, and navigation.

Options include a sunroof, Bose audio, power seats, a power tailgate, and adaptive cruise control.


A big gaping grille and square headlights suggest old-school ruggedness, while the wagon-like body flows toward a more modern design. The black pillars appear to “float” the roof, a visual trick employed by other crossovers. The Terrain can look chic or sinister, depending on whether its trim is chrome or black.


The Terrain’s instrument panel has a pickup-truck look, with blocky shapes and rugged-looking controls. But even the SL and SLE look good, higher-grade finishes such as the metallic-trimmed vents, while the large standard touchscreen presents a bright and crisp interface. While we’re not fans of the push-toggle transmission selection, we recognize it saves space that’s used for small-item storage in the front.

The Denali offers a more luxurious look, with grained wood trim and leather upholstery with contrasting stitching.

The front is fairly wide, with 54.4 inches of hip room, and the front seats get heavy bolstering and power adjustment on most versions, SLT and Denali.

The Terrain seats four comfortably, A fifth will fit for very short trips. The back seat feels flat, but leg room is great, at nearly 40 inches.

The Terrain has 29.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, which don’t fold completely flat; when they’re down there’s 63.3 cubic feet of cargo space.

Driving Impressions

The Terrain’s two turbo engines pair with poised manners and a slick 9-speed automatic to give it very good road manners, and some off-road traction.

WIth 203 lb-ft of torque, the Terrain’s 1.5-liter turbo-4 has enough thrust to make city driving pleasant, but it gets a little breathless when passing uphill on freeways. The 252-hp turbo-4 is worth the extra cost; it’s stronger in all circumstances, and can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

The steering is predictable and not too heavy, and the Terrain’s suspension tuning delivers a ride that is smooth and composed, even with the larger 19-inch wheels.

The available all-wheel-drive system is a part-time setup that must be switched manually into all-wheel-drive using a console-mounted knob.

Final Word

The 2021 GMC Terrain dodges blocky SUV styling and delivers an urbane crossover driving experience. It’s best in higher grades, with the more powerful engine.


—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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