New Car Review: 2011 GMC Terrain

Front 3/4 view of white 2011 GMC Terrain
The 2011 GMC Terrain.

As easy as it is to take potshots at badge engineering (taking one vehicle, putting a different grille, taillights and nameplate on it and calling it something else), think about what it must be like to be a corporate cousin of a big volume brand like Chevrolet. You need product or your brand won't survive, and the fact, even prior to the great recession and Carpocalypse, is that the bucks aren't there to build unique vehicles for each brand. Platform sharing...and the more blatant badge engineering...are the only way to go.

That's GMC's lot in life and has been for decades. They finesse it by positioning themselves as more upscale...a good play for Acadia, Yukon and Yukon XL..a mixed bag when it comes to Sierra pickups, and for the Terrain? Well, it's gotta be a tough sell.  Or so you'd think. The Terrain actually sells mid-pack among 12 compact crossovers (the other 11 being the Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, Jeep Patriot, Jeep Compass, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-7).

Rear 3/4 view of white 2011 GMC Terrain
The 2011 GMC Terrain rear view.

Not that there's anything wrong with the Terrain. It's just that in the small crossover segment, there's only so much you can do to differentiate it from its sister under the skin, the Chevrolet Equinox.

GMC sent us a loaded Terrain SLT-2 AWD (all wheel drive). $31,650 base price, and after $6,435 worth of cargo management packages, navigation, audio system upgrades, swapping the 2.4 liter 4-cylinder for the 3.0 liter V6, the rear seat entertainment system, 19-inch wheels and trailering equipment, the bottom line (with $810 destination charge) was $38,895.

That's $2,010 more than the similarly equipped 2010 model we tested last year, and also a couple grand less than loading up a 2011 Equinox in similar fashion would cost you.

The 2011 GMC Terrain interior.

And there's the trouble. It really is an Equinox. Is the GMC nameplate or the blockier, arguably more masculine stying of the Terrain worth $2,000?  For a few thousand people a month, the answer is yes.

2011 GMC Terrain AWD SLT-2

Base price: $31,650.

As tested:   $38,895.

Likes: Room, comfort.

Dislikes: High price as tested, low-ish gas mileage.

EPA estimates: 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway.