2013 GMC Terrain Denali

A new Denali version of the GMC Terrain highlights the 2013 model year, but there’s more to this vehicle than the bling. It also has a more powerful V-6 engine and it’s a Top Safety Pick from the insurance industry.

Denali cues include a more pronounced and chrome-heavy grille, a Jet Black leather interior with soft-touch materials and French stitching, a mahogany steering wheel, embossed logos, illuminated sill plates, heated eight-way front seats, a rearview camera and a standard sun roof.

Nice details, to be sure, but the real proof of this vehicle’s mettle is an available new 3.6-liter engine that delivers 301 horsepower and 272 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine has 14 percent more horsepower and 22 percent more torque than the smaller outgoing engine, yet delivers the same fuel economy at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the road, for a combined 19 mpg. Those fuel economy numbers don’t set the world on fire, but keep in mind this is a big, roomy and heavy SUV, weighing as much as 4,204 pounds.

If you want better mileage, the standard engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that will get you 32 mpg on the highway with a range of more than 500 miles. But that engine produces significantly less horsepower at 182. Both engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Terrain comes in FWD and AWD, and in SE and SLE trims in addition to the Denali.

Automakers are constantly adding power and mpgs to new engines as the industry approaches higher federal mileage rules. As a result, vehicles are getting smaller and lighter. The Terrain, though, has an overall length of 187.8 inches and a width of 72.8 inches, which gives five passengers plenty of room to spread out. There’s just as much headroom in the back seat as there is in front (39 inches), and nearly as much legroom (front 41 inches, rear 37 inches). Cargo space is 63 cubic feet behind the front seat with second-row seats folded flat. The second-row seats also can slide fore or aft nearly 8 inches, adding capacity behind those seats or more comfort for those in the second row.

Four state-of-the-art safety features are standard equipment on the 2013 Terrain Denali: forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind spot alert and rear cross traffic alert. Those systems are some of the reasons the Terrain earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s “Top Safety Pick” award for 2013.

On the road, the Terrain is a roomy and comfortable machine with room for five people and their gear. The new V-6 engine gives the Terrain everything it needs power-wise, and the SUV is surprisingly agile and planted on the road, even in hard turns. Brakes are adequate, steering is linear but without much road feedback, and the suspension is appropriately stiff.

Inside the cabin, the Terrain’s top model has a “floating” center stack with warm ambient lighting. GMC’s Intellilink is the onboard communications system, combining with OnStar to integrate smartphone capability into the vehicle’s systems. Voice command capability allows the driver to initiate phone calls or manage media systems without taking eyes from the road.

GMC also has a new navigation system this year, a color touch system with a 7-inch display that integrates audio and navigation displays. Pioneer handles the sound, and a rear-seat entertainment system is available.

Our AWD test vehicle, painted in Iridium Metallic with a Jet Black interior, had a manufacturer’s suggested price of $36,275. The 3.6-liter engine added $1,750, navigation with Intellilink added $795 (a bargain), a cargo package added $235 and a trailering package added $350. With freight, the vehicle touched $40-grand.

With final assembly in Canada, the 2013 GMC Terrain is a solid offering with a strongr new engine and Denali upgrades.