Having been launched nearly a decade ago in 2009, the first generation GMC Terrain had grown long in the tooth. Still, it wasn’t trundling along towards old age. In those nine years, GMC has sold more than 700,000 of these crossover SUVs globally, making it one of the brand’s best-selling models. So, more than replacing an ageing, jaded model, the all-new 2018 Terrain’s mandate was to build on its predecessor’s success and grab an even bigger share of the lucrative segment.

Gone are the boxy design elements, replaced here by a bolder, curvier styling language, which apparently previews the design direction the brand will take with other future models. A large chrome grille takes centre stage up front, while boomerang-shaped LED headlights and running lights add more charisma to the Terrain’s countenance. Our Denali-spec test car gets body-coloured lower trim and door handles, a generous helping of chrome in the roof-mounted rails, wing mirrors and the moulding along the sides and 19in bright machined aluminium wheels.


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Photos: Anas Thacharpadikkal

And surprisingly, GMC has gone against the trend of supersizing new models by actually reducing the Terrain’s dimensions in every way. With an overall length of 4,652mm, width of 1,843mm, height of 1,661mm, the new Terrain is shorter, narrower and lower than the model it replaces. At 2,725mm, it’s also got a slightly shorter wheelbase. These differences are marginal though, and do not in any way affect the practicality or utility of the vehicle. But it does add to the overall tautness in styling.

The new Terrain’s interior has also been spruced up, but is not as major an upgrade as the exterior is. There are more soft-touch materials on the instrument panel and doors and cabin noise and vibration have been contained well. Seats are well-padded and contoured and in the Denali version, come with contrast stitching, piping and special logos etched on the headrests. Front seats are heated and ventilated, and are very supportive even on long drives.


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The cabin has also received a styling upgrade, and relocation of the shift controls has freed up more space in the front

The biggest change inside though, is the relocation of the transmission controls. The shift lever has been ditched in favour of a set of buttons placed on the centre console. While it is true that this decision has freed up a significant amount of storage space in the middle and adds to the overall sense of roominess, I found the system counterintuitive. Neutral, Park, and Low are controlled by push buttons, while forward and reverse gears are activated by toggle switches to prevent accidental shifts. Although I got kind of used to it over a few days, I never got comfortable with it. However, in this segment, and among the buyer group targeted by GMC, this need not prove a deal-breaker.

With flat-folding seats, including on the front passenger side, the Terrain’s versatility in terms of cargo carrying is among the best in class. And the many shelves and cubbyholes leave lots of space for oddments.

Powertrain options have also changed with this new iteration. Both the available engines are turbocharged four-pots, one displacing 1.5 litres, and the other 2.0 litres. The Denali comes fitted with the larger engine as standard, which, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, puts out 252bhp and 353Nm of torque. That’s plenty for a crossover of this size and heft. It also handles well for a family hauler, offering decent grip and minimal body roll. The steering is well-weighted and quick to respond, and the brake pedals are firm and confidence inspiring. Ride quality is satisfactory, though not the best in this class.


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The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is refined and peppy, and offers enough power and torque to haul the Terrain around with ease

But the Terrain, especially in Denali trim, doesn’t shortchange buyers when it comes to available safety and convenience features. These include radar and camera-based adaptive like Surround Vision, Forward Collision Alert with Following Distance Indicator, Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Seat Reminder that alerts drivers to check the back seat as they exit their vehicles.

The 2018 GMC Terrain is a definite upgrade over the model it replaces. While prices start at Dh94,500 for the base trim, the Denali starts at 139,900, which is rather steep for a vehicle in this class.. But if it falls withing your budget, what you get is a vehicle that is as well-equipped and capable as any of its rivals.