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First drive: 2012 GMC Terrain

updated 09:55 pm EST, Thu November 10, 2011

GMC's latest gadgetry

Many vehicle companies have begun to focus on technology integration for their latest models. Electronista had a chance to try out the latest gadgetry in GMC's 2012 Terrain, a midsize crossover SUV that serves as a downsized successor to the Envoy. In our test drive, we were able to take advantage of GMC's latest navigation system, lane guidance and Pioneer speakers.

GMC invited us to take one of the new Terrains from Manhattan and drive up to the Haviland Hollow Farm, a picturesque indoor/outdoor polo facility located in Putnam County approximately an hour and a half north of the city. We paid close attention to the weather forecast, which called for heavy snowfall in the region, though we did not know that it would actually build into the record-breaking Halloween nor'easter.

Driving out of Manhattan in good weather gave us a chance to familiarize ourselves with the built-in navigation and other features handled by the Terrain's touchscreen interface. We've dealt with many navigation systems that have trouble making sensible recommendations in Manhattan and in the general vicinity, forcing the driver to fight with traffic congestion that any local would have easily avoided, however the Terrain's GPS utility guided us out of the city and into the backcountry without any problems.

As we delved into the touchscreen interface, as first-time Terrain drivers attempting to traverse through one of the most hectic cities in the US, we were surprised to hear an occasional chime from the vehicle computer. We quickly learned that the "lane departure" warning system was enabled, providing visual and audio alerts when we began to drift from the center of our lane. Considering the number of distractions below our road sight line--wether switching music tracks or attempting to set the climate control--we welcomed the modest notifications that quickly brought our eyes back to the road.

After arriving at Haviland Hollow, GMC treated us to a spectacular meal from Chef Sam Talbot and a demonstration of the Terrain's towing capabilities. The SUV easily handled a small trailer loaded with two ATVs, though buyers must acknowledge that the 2.4-liter four-cylinder powertrain is only rated for 1500 lbs. while the six-cylinder option steps up to 3500 lbs. GMC markets the Terrain as a replacement for the Envoy, however anyone who needs to handle a significant haul will need to purchase the high-end Acadia for its 5200 lb. towing capacity. The body-on-frame Envoy, in contrast, is rated for 5,800 lbs. capacity.

Talbot's culinary creations and the polo demonstrations were truly enjoyable, however we felt the urge to get back on the road as six inches of heavy maritime snow weighted the trees in the first few hours of an enduring storm. On the way out, the Terrain's computer-controlled AWD system would prove much more important than any bells and whistles that we played around with on the way in.

As we left the polo farm, we navigated back to the small highway that had brought us out to our original destination. Staying on the highway was clearly a top priority, however the urge to take a bathroom break superseded the desire to stay on track.

The snow continued to pile on the road surfaces, derailing a U-Haul rental that was attempting to get up the same on-ramp that we would need to follow to get back onto the highway. The heavy snow bucked trees across our intended route, forcing us to rely on the Terrain navigation to get us to the nearest big-box retailer for relief and resupply.

After leaving the store, relieved and resupplied, we attempted to navigate back toward the highway that lead back to our own vehicle in a parking lot in Manhattan. After grinding to a stop only half way through the two-mile journey back to the highway, and waiting for more than an hour in a line that never moved unless someone ahead decided to sacrifice their position and turn around, we decided to follow the backroads listed on the GPS navigation system.

Most of the locals appeared to be following the main routes, dismissing the side roads as impassable. Rather than waiting for the impassable roads to become passable, which probably took the remainder of the evening, we decided to entrust the Terrain to take us through the belly of the beast.

The route that appeared on the navigation system sent us through several miles of backroads to get to the next highway on-ramp in the direction that we needed to go. As soon as we entered the road, we knew that it was a high-risk situation. At least 20 trees were down each mile, along with power lines strewn across the road in one spot.

Luckily, most of the downed trees did not block both lanes of traffic, however some of the taller trees diverted half of the Terrain onto a ditch slope and forced us to power through the mud/snow slush to retain control. The route remained a single lane at best, through every section, though the Terrain easily grabbed into the record snowfall.

We eventually blasted through the backroad and found our way back to the highway, which was still constrained down to a single lane as trees fell across the second and third lanes. The Terrain's stability control system enabled us to make up for lost time after getting back on the highway, powering past locals who struggled to gain traction in the thick snow that was only occasionally cleared by a rare snowplow.

As we pulled into a Manhattan parking lot to swap the Terrain for our own 4WD vehicle, we paused for a sigh of relief. The Terrain had made our trek out to the polo farm enjoyable and comfortable, and made our trek back from the farm manageable and safe.

We did not expect the Envoy's successor to satisfy our gadget desires, however the Terrain proved that GMC has placed a focus on technology as it moves forward with its latest models. The crossover SUV provides many of the latest in-vehicle technology features that are currently available on the market.

by MacNN Staff



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