L’UNIVERSELLE GMC TERRAIN
By Casey Williams
In 1955, GMC created a front-drive “mini-van” it named L’Universelle for its supposed ability to carry and do almost anything. Designed as a combination of the GMC Suburban Carry-All and VW Bus, L’Universelle was a forward-thinking display of style that could have beat Chrysler to the party by 30 years. Power came from a 180-HP Pontiac V8, placed behind the driver to improve handling. Like so many cool concepts, GMC never produced the van and it passed on to automotive heaven after the Motorama season. Its spiritual successor arrives as the 2010 GMC Terrain.
Like its older and larger sibling, the Acadia, Terrain is a car-based crossover that drives like a sport sedan, but leaps poor roads and brings its haul from the home store like an SUV. Based on the German-engineered Saturn Vue architecture that also underpins the Cadillac SRX and Chevy Equinox, Terrain jumps up about four notches in style and refinement from the outbound Pontiac Torrent it replaces. Styling is based on several recent concept vehicles with deeply sculpted fender flares, chiseled front facia, and cheese grater grille with flashy chrome surround. More chrome covers the rear bumper and connects the high-mounted taillamps. Terrain looks like it could slog it out on backwoods trails then shower up for a night at the club.
Looking ready for cyberfest, interior forms follow trends set by the full-size Acadia. Two-tone seats and door inserts add flair while large red-lit analog gauges, perfect-sized steering wheel, and center console gear selector add some sport. Everything has the feel of a concept car that was designed to be practical. Rearview cameras come standard. Bluetooth connectivity, USB audio inputs (directly connects iPODs to the car’s controls), touch-screen navigation, programmable power liftgate, XM Satellite Radio, and DVD-based rear entertainment system are all available. Heated leather seats are like a warm hug on a cold winter’s night.
As a response to customers, GMC offers the Terrain with a 182-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that is rated 32-MPG on the highway (22-MPG city). For more oomph, drivers can choose the available direct-injected 3.0-litre V6 that generates 264 horsepower and achieves 17/25-MPG city/hwy. Four-cylinder owners will delight in GMC’s first use of Active Noise Cancellation technology, which detects sounds in the cabin and generates counteracting waves through the speakers for a nearly silent driving experience.
I’ve driven models with the four-cylinder engine, and it has plenty of guts to get on down the road, but the V6 is superb. You give up a little in fuel economy, but gain 80 much-appreciated horses. If you want to run with the big-lunged German crossovers from BMW and Mercedes, go for the V6. To conserve fossils, the four-cylinder is plenty of powerful and über efficient.
Driving the Terrain is also impressive. Steering responses, thanks to rack-and-pinion and a four-wheel independent suspension system, are swift and sure. Step on the four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and the wagon hauls itself down from speed quickly. Optional all-wheel-drive (front-drive is standard) and electronic stability control love slick roads. Overall refinement is way above the Torrent, and much more than anybody will expect in a compact GMC crossover. This is a vehicle, like the Acadia, that changes everything you think you know about GM SUVs.
“We wanted to carve the GMC Terrain away from the pack and establish its identity as a powerful, fresh crossover SUV with a confident and strong stance,” said John Cafaro Jr., director of exterior design, Global Crossover Vehicles. “Everything about the Terrain communicates a sense of tailored toughness and passionate craftsmanship.”
Cafaro knows something about confident vehicles with passionate craftsmanship – he designed the C5 Corvette. From first glances, he and his team did a great job with GMC’s newest crossover, which competes against the Ford Edge, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Murano, and Hyundai Santa Fe. Terrain is universal in its capability to carry person and stuff great distances inside a shell that does Motorama proud.
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