GRAND PRAIRIE, Tex. -- In the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, we're taking Wildlife Boulevard to push the throttle on a new crossover utility vehicle for the GMC brand of General Motors.
Badged as Terrain, GMC's latest CUV scoots down Wildwood with strong torque flowing from the optional V6 engine installed in our tester.
All of the engine's power goes to turn the front wheels which also steer this vehicle. Having the front wheels both turn and steer -- when combined with a stiff unitized structure and lively suspension -- makes Terrain uncommonly agile, but that's the big idea behind GM's design for the easy-driving CUV.
The typical sport utility vehicle is constructed on the chassis of a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) truck with the body structure stacked on top of a flat platform. Because chassis and body are two separate parts, the joined structure is inherently weak and, no matter how tight the welded joints, it twists and bends when set in motion. Such a design guarantees sloppy handling traits -- and a truck's rough ride quality.
Yet Terrain foregoes the SUV's body-on-frame structure in favor of a monocoque platform which unites chassis and body in one cohesive unit which remains extremely rigid when moving down the road.
Terrain's platform is similar to the monocoque structure of a front-wheel-drive (FWD) car.
And, unlike some wagons rigged with a solid rear truck axle and crude leaf springs, Terrain carries out-of-the-ordinary suspension components -- independent struts up front with tuned coil springs and direct-acting stabilizer bar and a four-link design in back with coil springs and trailing arm, a stabilizer bar and hydraulic link bushings -- to deliver car-like smooth ride sensations.
Steering is a rack and pinion design with variable assistance. With the base four-cylinder engine aboard, an electric power steering (EPS) system replaces the hydraulic apparatus used with the optional V6 plant.
Brakes include a large disc at every wheel with linkage to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) plus StabiliTrak, GM's electronic vehicle skid control system.
Stretching more than 15 feet long and six feet wide, GMC's new CUV looks crisp and shapely with two passenger doors on each flank of the elongated cabin and a hatchback lid hanging off the tail.
Plan for the five-seat cabin pitches a pair of comfortable bucket seats on the cockpit 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. In the rear-most position the legroom is easily the best in class.
With the rear bench up, the flat-floored cargo bay has 31.6 cubic feet of stow room.
With the back bench folded down, that rear bay expands to 63.9 cubic feet.
GM brings two new high-tech engines to the 2010 Terrain featuring dual overhead cams (DOHC), electronic throttle control (ETC), direct injection (DI) technology and variable valve timing (VVT).
The 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.
Standard plant for all Terrain trims is the Ecotec 2.4-liter cast aluminum in-line-four engine which develops 182 hp at 6700 rpm and 172 lb-ft of torque at 4900 rpm.
The federal EPA sets fuel economy numbers for this 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.
Optional engine for Terrain's top three trims is a cast aluminum 3.0-liter V6 which generates 264 hp at 6950 rpm and 222 lb-ft of torque at 5100 rpm.
When rigged with the V6, Terrain's EPA fuel economy figures tally to 17 mpg City and 25 mpg Highway with FWD, or 17 mpg City and 24 mpg 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.
All four-cylinder editions of Terrain roll on standard 17-inch aluminum wheels wrapped by 225/65R17 all-season blackwall tires.
The V6 issues bump up to 18-inch aluminum rollers with 235/55R18 all-season blackwalls, but 19-inch aluminum wheels are also available and capped by 235/55R19 treads.
We steer both FWD and AWD versions of the 2010 Terrain on two-lane roads and multi-lane freeway slabs lacing through Grand Prairie and neighboring communities in the Dallas Metroplex and discover that these easy-driving vehicles deliver sure-footed traction on pavement along with a car-like smooth ride quality.
Equipment aboard every Terrain includes the four-channel ABS and StabiliTrak, a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), curtain-style air bags plus cabin appointments like power controls for windows and door locks and exterior mirrors, air conditioning, a remote keyless entry device, even a rearview camera.
Terrain SLE-1 comes with cloth seat upholstery, the Multi-Flex sliding rear seat, a Driver Information Center, USB port and an audio package with AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3/WMA.
Terrain SLE-2 brings premium cloth on seats, eight-way power controls for the driver's seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, automatic single-zone climate controls, Bluetooth connectivity and a Pioneer audio system with eight speakers and subwoofer.
Terrain SLT-1 adds perforated leather on seats with heated front seats, a remote starter and 18-inch aluminum wheels, while SLT-2 gets power controls for the liftgate, a sunroof, Rear Parking Assist and a chrome package.
GMC's MSRP chart for the 2010 Terrain commences at $24,250 for Terrain SLE-1 FWD.