Review: 2013 GMC Terrain Denali a Luxury Crossover with Fascinating Technology


The 2013 GMC Terrain Denali has a distinctive grill that makes it stand out from the competition.

By Keith Griffin
It’s a pleasant surprise when a GMC Terrain Denali is delivered to my door for a couple of reasons: Denali is the crème de la crème trim level of the GMC lineup and, frankly, I have driven one GMC in the last five years.

So, it’s nice to see GMC paying attention to New England again and it’s just as nice to have spent a week behind the wheel of the Terrain Denali. It’s an impressively comfortable, smooth riding crossover utility vehicle that just soaks up the miles.
For 2013, the Terrain Denali gets a more powerful 3.6-liter V-6 with 301 horsepower and 272 lb.-ft. of torque. The best part is it gets the same EPA-rated fuel economy as the previous 3.0-liter V-6 at 16-mpg city and 23-mpg highway. It has the zest for spirited acceleration on highway on-ramps but doesn’t jump when the light hits green like some power crossovers can do when empty.
The base GMC Terrain Denali comes with a 2.4-liter, Ecotec four-cylinder engine with 182 horsepower with an EPA-estimated highway fuel economy rating of 32 mpg (on the front-wheel drive version) and more than 500 miles of highway-only cruising range per tank. It’s going to be the better choice if you’re a road warrior who chews up lots of miles. Once you’re up to speed you will appreciate its fuel-sipping nature.
The 2013 GMC Terrain Denali will practically scream at you with a visual aid if you’re about to strike the car in front of you.
One of the best features on the 2013 Terrain Denali is in the safety category. It’s the forward collision alert. It sits mounted atop the center stack on the dashboard. Follow at a safe distance and things stay green. Start to drift too close and it switches over to yellow. Venture too close through inattention and its blares a warning. I found it amazingly reassuring during heavy traffic.
The forward collision alert and the lane departure warning system use the industry’s first single-camera crash-avoidance system to visually and audibly warn drivers when a collision is imminent or the vehicle crosses a lane marker. Also standard are Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which help avoid collisions by using radar to watch spots the driver may not be able to see – and provide visible and audible warnings.
The Rear Cross Traffic Alert should actually be called the mall parking lot protection system. It lets you know when you’re backing out if unseen cars are coming your way. Frankly, it’s a system much more useful on sedans that get blocked by tall vehicles but it’s still a nice level of protection that is going to significantly reduce the amount of side accidents in parking lots. (I didn’t experience it on the Terrain, fortunately, but I have seen it demonstrated on Ford products and it works amazingly well.)
The Terrain Denali doesn’t skimp on other safety features. They include:
• six standard air bags including dual frontal air bags, head curtain side air bags and pelvic/thorax seat-mounted side air bags;
• standard four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution;
• StabiliTrak electronic stability control, traction control and rollover mitigation; and,
• standard rear-vision camera that helps drivers identify objects behind the vehicle.
The interior of the 2013 GMC Terrain Denali is well appointed and, more importantly, intuitive.
You can’t really consider all-wheel drive a safety feature but it does add confidence to the driving experience. The Terrain Denali is available in either front wheel drive (standard) or all-wheel drive as an option. The model loaned to me for a week by GMC had all-wheel drive.
All this luxury – and GMC’s Denali trim is really about luxury – does not come at a prohibitive price. The base Terrain Denali can be had for $36,275 with the four-cylinder engine. As I said above, road warriors would actually do better with this engine – and even soccer moms who don’t need lots of power around town.
The V6 engine is a $1750 option. Carrying lots of people and/or cargo on a regular basis? Than this is the engine for you. It came in handy on a sojourn to the Big E recently when we packed three adults and two kids inside. Fortunately (or unfortunately if you ask my 7-year old) we didn’t bring a lot of stuff back with us from the fair.
The Terrain Denali comes with a new for 2013 color touch navigation radio, with touch-screen control that incorporates all of the IntelliLink features like Pandora radio that syncs with your smartphone, and more. It can also read music directly off a flash drive if you don’t have a smartphone with Bluetooth.
The 2013 GMC Terrain Denali features dual exhaust for power and a power liftgate for ease of loading.
Color me a huge fan of the 2013 GMC Terrain Denali. It’s nice to see the company finally making an effort to get vehicles back in the New England press fleet. The Terrain is really a crossover with the right amount of luxury that New Englanders should strongly consider.
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  • Wheelbase: 112.5 inches
  • Length: 187.8 inches
  • Width: 72.8 inches
  • Height: 66.3 inches
  • Curb weight: 4188 lbs.
  • Engine: 3.6-liter, V6
  • Horsepower: 301 @ 6500 rpm
  • Torque: 272 @ 4800 rpm
  • EPA estimated mpg city/highway: 16/23 AWD
  • Base price: $36,275
  • As-tested price: $40,425
  • Also consider: (a comparative vehicle) Kia Sorrento, Ford Flex, Dodge Durango

Images (c) GMC