BAY HARBOR, Mich. -- Along the winding shore of Lake Michigan on Route 119 out of Bay Harbor, Mich., one test-driver is ensconced in the leather-bound bucket of a luxurious crossover utility vehicle -- the 2013 Terrain in new deluxe Denali trim from the GMC Truck Division of General Motors.
Denali -- a name drawn from native Alaska Athabascan people to describe "the High One" of Mt. McKinley, tallest peak on the North America continent -- is the pinnacle edition of the compact-class and five-door Terrain CUV in a Jet Black leather-lined issue loaded with luxury content and rolling on 19-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels bound by P235/55R19 all-season rubber.
The Denali designation for GMC vehicles traces back to 1998 on a tricked-up version of the full-size Yukon SUV, but this new trim variation for the 2013 Terrain stands out with a sophisticated monochromatic color scheme in new tints like Quicksilver Metallic, Crystal Red Tintcoat, Carbon Black Metallic, Summit White and Iridium Metallic.
Focal point is the bold front-end carved in a sculpted block with a sharp rake to the windshield and stepped hood, the forward-tipped grille encased in chrome and corner projector-beam headlamps.
From the side view Terrain Denali displays squared-arch fender flares over the front and rear wheels, muted roof pillars which blend with the tinted window glass and polished aluminum rails on the roof.
The Denali trim applies unique body-colored fascias front and rear, side cladding and low rocker moldings, illuminated front sill plates and a standard sunroof.
Plan for the five-seat cabin pins a pair of bucket seats on the front row separated by a floor-mounted console.
A bench on the second row splits and folds and also slides fore and aft by eight inches to vary legroom. GM's marketeers label this bench as a Multi-Flex seat.
Push the seat back to the rear-most position and the available legroom is easily top of class.
The cabin in Acadia Denali edition features soft-touch Jet Black leather covering seats and door inserts with contrast stitching.
Other Denali-exclusive interior details include smoked mahogany wood trim accents, a soft-touch instrument panel with French stitching, a steering wheel bound in leather with smoked mahogany wood accents, driver seat and passenger seat with 8-way power controls, embossed Denali logos on front seatbacks, a programmable power liftgate, driver information system, red accent lighting in the cabin and the illuminated front sill plates and sunroof.
Also on-board Terrain Denali is an 8-speaker audio kit (AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB) and 7-inch color touch-screen GPS navigation with IntelliLink infotainment system featuring a reconfigurable home screen, intuitive voice commands, Bluetooth smartphone integration, control of streaming internet radio apps such as Pandora and Stitcher, plus iPod controls with Gracenote music database technology.
The structure concealed behind Terrain Denali's chiseled sheetmetal compares to the monocoque structure of an easy-to-drive front-wheel-drive (FWD) passenger sedan.
Suspension elements consist of independent struts up front with new dual-flow dampers for a smoother ride quality, and in the rear an independent four-link design with trailing arm, stabilizer bar and hydraulic link bushings.
Steering is a rack and pinion design with variable assistance. With a four-cylinder engine aboard, an electric power steering (EPS) system replaces the hydraulic apparatus used with a six-cylinder engine.
Brakes include a large disc at every wheel with linkage to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) and traction control system (TCS) plus StabiliTrak, GM's electronic vehicle skid control system.
GM offers two high-tech engines to power the 2013 Terrain Denali, each featuring dual overhead cams (DOHC), electronic throttle control (ETC), direct injection (DI) technology and variable valve timing (VVT).
Transaxle is a fuel-saving Hydra-Matic six-speed electronically controlled automatic. The Hydra-Matic 6T45 mates with the four-cylinder engine and the Hydra-Matic 6T70 applies to the V6.
The four-cylinder engine is GM's Ecotec 2.4-liter aluminum four-in-line which develops 182 hp at 6700 rpm and 172 lb-ft of torque at 4900 rpm.
The federal EPA sets fuel economy numbers for the four-cylinder powertrain at 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway with FWD, or 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway with optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) equipment.
The upgrade engine choice for Terrain Denali is a new 3.6-liter aluminum V6 which generates 301 hp at 6500 rpm and 272 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm.
When rigged with the V6, Terrain's EPA fuel economy figures tally to 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway with FWD, or 16/23 mpg city/highway for AWD editions.
The optional AWD device for Terrain is always engaged and uses a computer to determine how much power to apply at each wheel for maintaining tire traction on slippery roads. Normally it runs in FWD mode for driving on dry pavement. When front wheels begin to slip in wet or icy weather, however, the power shifts automatically to the rear wheels temporarily to keep the CUV moving forward safely on a non-skid trajectory.