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2019 GMC Terrain Denali set to compete against top mid-size SUVs in the luxury segment


On the road the Terrain Denali displays an impressive balance between ride and handling.
On the road the Terrain Denali displays an impressive balance between ride and handling. - Richard Russell

GMC is trying to capture a slice of the growing mid-size luxury utility vehicle segment. It has positioned the Denali trim level of the new Terrain to go up against the likes of Audi, BMW, Lincoln, Mercedes, Lexus and Infiniti.

“Lesser” trim levels of the new GMC Terrain are fitted and priced to compete with the heavyweights in the compact ute segment — Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, its Chevy Equinox sibling, and a dozen others.

Denali has become a sub-brand. The name has been attached to GMC products for a decade. It started as an up-level Yukon, and has since morphed into every GMC product. Denali models are hugely profitable, costing little more to build, but carrying a much higher price tag than lower trim levels. Terrain process start at $33,200, well-equipped and competitive with the other players in the class.

The Denali version starts at $42,200 putting it above the top trim levels from Honda, Toyota etc. But that is $5,000-$12,000 less than similarly-sized luxury vehicles. General Motors expects 10 per cent of all Terrains will wear the Denali badge.

In making a Terrain into a Denali, GMC has taken advantage of the new Terrain which has been sized to appeal to buyers in this segment. The wheelbase has been reduced by 8.5 cm, it is lower, and about 175 kilos lighter. Yet it retains almost as much interior volume as the previous Terrain.

The Denali gets a signature satin chrome grille and numerous other add-on accents like body-colour trim, and a dose of chrome. It also boasts unique 19-inch alloys, and LED headlights. Inside there are the expected upscale finishes and real aluminum trim. A couple of the surfaces are covered in hard plastics, which seems out of place. Fit and finish are exemplary and GM’s IntelliLink infotainment system has become one of the best in the industry, in terms of ease of operation.

 The 2019 GMC Terrain Denali starts at $42,200.
The 2019 GMC Terrain Denali starts at $42,200.

The Terrain boasts a unique transmission gear selector — a row of four buttons at the base of the centre stack. Three of them are to be pushed — Park, Neutral and Low, while you pull on the Reverse and Drive button. Pushing the “low” button drops two gears. You can also toggle it up or down to shift up or down. Think of it as the world’s smallest shift paddle. The whole setup is strange and off-putting, but you will likely become familiar with them.

By eliminating a bulky shift lever, space has been freed up on the centre console. And used wisely.

Both front and rear seats are heated and covered in soft leather. There is plenty of room for a pair of full-size adults in the rear seat, and 864 litres of space behind. Lower the seat backs and you get almost 1,800 litres of space. The front passenger seat back also folds flat allowing objects as long at 3.7 metres to be accommodated with the hatch closed. The liftgate is power operated, which is a good thing in poor weather as the button to open it is at bumper level and often covered in dirt or ice.

The V6 offered previously in the Terrain, has been discontinued. The new Terrain is available with three turbocharged engines shared with the Equinox — 1.5- and 2.0-litre gasoline units and a new 1.6-litre diesel. The Denali gets the 2.0-litre engine coupled to a new nine-speed automatic transmission. The only thing missing about the V6 is its silky smoothness and pleasant sound. The weight reduction allows the turbo 2.0 to provide more than adequate power.

On the road the Terrain Denali displays an impressive balance between ride and handling. The new platform is 35 per cent stiffer allowing the suspension to do its job without having to cope with a bending or twisting vehicle.

The Terrain Denali is a considerable improvement over the outgoing model. The Denali name has not achieved the same level of respect and recognition as the big names in the luxury world. But, the price advantage should help.

 The 2019 GMC Terrain Denali is powered by a 252-horsepower (260 lb.-ft. of torque), turbocharged, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine.
The 2019 GMC Terrain Denali is powered by a 252-horsepower (260 lb.-ft. of torque), turbocharged, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine.

The specs

  • Model: 2019 GMC Terrain Denali AWD
  • Engine: Turbocharged, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, 252-horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
  • NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 11.2 / 9.0
  • Length: 4,630 mm
  • Width: 1,839 mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,725 mm
  • Weight: 1,724 kg
  • Price: $42,000 base, $46,640 as tested, including freight
  • Competition: Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4
  • Options on test vehicle: Block heater, $150; Pro Grade Package, $3,795

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