Full disclosure: GM wanted me to drive this vehicle so bad that my Alternator in my Pontiac and I developed creative differences in the role of it charging the car’s battery. As such I was offered this as a loaner vehicle.
Let me start off by saying the cross-over market interests me as much as the current rash of musical movies that rip off on beloved fairy tales (the answer to that is surprisingly not very interested). I know very little about this segment, and I also generally don’t like the SUV market in general.
With that out of the way, I went into this experience with an open mind and I expected to see why this segment is exploding like a toddler’s diaper after a surprisingly spicy dinner. The honest truth is that at least in this case I still don’t understand the appeal.
I have spoken to a number of people who prefer SUVs or Cross overs. One thing that seems to be pretty common is that they like to feel higher off the road as it gives them a more “commanding” view of the road ahead. Presumably so they can see over and around other cars. The Terrain doesn’t really provide that. I’ve driven Suburbans/Tahoes/Expeditions and this doesn’t give that school-bus feel. In all truthfulness it didn’t feel much taller than a bigger sedan. Which is a plus in my book but a potential negative for the target audience. Which actuall leads into my next point, normally when I’m driving an SUV I am kind of ambiguous as to the actual exterior dimensions of the vehicle that I’m driving and that leads to uncertainty and an increased risk of bumping into shopping carts and lightpoles. I suspect this is common due to the number of Camry bumps I see on SUVs. I didn’t have that feeling in this vehicle, it felt more sedan-like.
Probably the next area that draws people to these cars is the increased fuel economy over a full size SUV. That appears to be true, I was averaging around 27 MPGs which is probably a lot better than most SUVs. However, I would like to point out that I get around 24 in my Mustang which is hardly a fuel sipper. I think this area is kind of a compromise area for the buyer.
The interior is an area that’s pretty subjective. Some people have a medical condition that causes them to compulsively fondle every square inch of the dashboard and interior and then complain that its not soft enough. If you’re one of those people then this won’t meet your requirements.
Most of the surfaces you touch in the normal operation feel sturdy and glued/attached/fashioned together properly. NVH was pretty amazing. Perfect for ensuring nothing interrupts your Coldplay. The seats were firm and have that feel that chairs have when they are trying to promote proper posture. I can’t vouch that it’d be comfy for long distance travel. The interior did feel roomy and airy. Actual useable interior volume however didn’t feel appreciably larger than a full-size sedan. I had the pleasure of affixing a baby carrier and base which was easy in this vehicle but compromised useable space as much as a sedan.
As you can see it has an info-tainment hacking console in it. I HATE all info-tainment consoles. This one didn’t help change my view. One of the first mistakes I made with this vehicle was starting my drive to work before adjusting the radio. The controls were not intuitive and as such I had the option of listening to Fox News Radio or nothing on the way in to work. I selected Nothing. Its not that I hate Fox News Radio, I just don’t want to hear talking in the morning. Unfortunately I think the info-tainment is tied into the drivers information center so before I set off for home I had to make sure I had the correct dials showing on the dash. Personally all I want is an AUX cable for my smart device. At least this vehicle had knobs for the air conditioning.
Now we can get into the least important part for the target audience (Oppo-nots) and the most important for Oppnaughts, driving dynamics. Before we go any further, I have two cars in my garage (normally) and neither has under 400 BHP, but I assure you that it didn’t affect my feelings here.
Acceleration is abysmal. Its not dangerous but its really slow. This is a vehicle that an GT86 can handily beat off the line (HAHA). But seriously, its slow in the way that you actually need to change your mindset when you’re driving. In a normal car there are moments where you see a gap in traffic that you can exploit, or if you hurry you can make a green light, or make a quick right (or left if you’re in one of THOSE countries) before a bunch of cars arrive. In this vehicle it simply doesn’t happen. Your acceleration is essentially the same at 3K RPM as it is at 5K. I didn’t even bother with a redline because the sound is so depressing. The flow of traffic in my area is usually between 75-85 MPH and it felt like it took a bit of effort on the cars part to maintain that. The speedometer goes to 140 but that seems REALLY optimistic. I think the Terrain is like 180 BHP at just under 2 tons, which explains a lot. I think it could really have used an extra 30 or so BHP. This is one of the slowest cars I’ve driven.
As far as handling goes, it was surprisingly decent. I didn’t feel like I was going to fall over in the turns. I didn’t take the Terrain canyon carving but I did attempt a couple round-abouts in a brisk manner. The Terrain did a decent job of controlling body roll. The suspension is suitably soft, easily smoothing out the road imperfections. The seats were decently bolstered so I didn’t accidentally become a passenger instead of the driver. The steering feel is can be most easily compared to a Microsoft Sidewinder peripheral (no force feedback). The brakes were firm, which was good considering how many stupid snow-birds are here right now. Its as if there are no road rules in Iowa.
In closing, I haven’t come any closer to understanding the appeal of cross-overs. It does a decent job of transporting people and doing so in comfort but I don’t see that it provides anything in a way that makes up for the loss of fuel economy and performance that you could get in almost any modern sedan.