2016 GMC Terrain AWD Denali

The Terrain is a small SUV.

The Terrain is a small SUV. Its cousin is the Chevy Equinox. But whereas the Equinox is somewhat soft and curvy, the Terrain is more angular, especially in the areas of the fender forms, suggesting that this is a vehicle that means business.

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There are sometimes questions as to whether GM might look at the tremendous success that FCA is having with Jeep (through December 2015, Jeep posted 27 straight months of year-over-year sales increases, which is nothing to sniff it). You can almost see the Terrain as where GM might go in creating its own Jeep-like brand.

Here are a few things I suggest they do.

· Most notably: Use some ultra-high-strength steel for the A-pillars. The ones now are massive, so much so as the one of the passenger’s side can block the driver’s view in the general area, which is particularly vexing when pulling out of a parking space or while making a right turn.

· Add audio for purposes of warning, not entertainment. Most automatic tailgates have an audible beep that provides an alert when it is opening or closing. (Higher-end crossovers have a chime.) Let’s face it: a tailgate is a rather large piece of steel and glass, so when it is in motion, there really ought to be a warning for those who might be distracted while trying to find that can of soup that may have rolled out of the grocery bag in the cargo area.

· What time is it? If you have the navigation screen on the display and want to know what time it is, you’d better be wearing a watch. There is no clock or digital display elsewhere on the IP. Should you have the main or audio screen on, there is a digital time display. Otherwise. . . .

· Up the ante. On the interior materials. Presumably “Denali” signifies an upper trim level. Yet the knobs, buttons and surfaces are really not-top-grade. The designers and color and materials folks ought to look at the execution of something like a Hyundai Santa Fe, even at entry levels. Yes, the Terrain has leather. But is almost seems as though the Denaliness of the vehicle is predicated on things like the grille, lighted sill plate and exterior satin chrome treatments. Yes, you often buy a vehicle for its exterior looks. But you live with what’s on the inside.

· Power up. As in the front side glass. They’re express down, but you have to hold the finger lever to get them to go back up.

That said. . .

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During my time with the vehicle, there was an early dumping of seven inches of snow in my vicinity, snow that came down almost as though it was rain. And I can say that I felt sufficiently smug (and snug) in the Terrain, which was ideal for those conditions, especially when the heated seat was activated. For getting around town it was nice as given its small size: all-wheel-drive drivers sometimes don’t realize that due to physics, if you’re driving something with massive mass, you’re still more likely to skid when going into turns than you are in something like the Terrain.

Still, this small SUV segment is more competitive than ever, with really fine products available from seemingly every manufacturer.

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Funny thing, though: the Terrain is selling well, with its numbers  this year up over last by 6.7%.

However, look at it like this. Through 2015, there were 112,030 Terrains delivered.

The number of Jeep Cherokees?  220,260.

Over at Ford, they moved 306,492 Escapes.

Toyota sold 315,412 RAV4s in 2015.

And Honda moved a whopping 345,647 CR-Vs.

Denali trim or not, there is a lot of room to move up.

Selected specs

Engine: 3.6-liter, DOHC, V6

Material: Aluminum block and heads

Horsepower: 301 @ 6,500 rpm

Torque: 272 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Steering: Hydraulic rack and pinion

Wheelbase: 112.5 in.

Length: 185.3 in.

Width 72.8 in.

Height: 66.3 in.

Passenger volume: 99.6-cu. ft.

Cargo volume behind rear seat: 31.6-cu. ft.

Curb weight: 4,204 lb.

EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 16/23/18 mpg