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2019 GMC Terrain Denali Test Drive Review

Some of the hottest segments in the automotive landscape right now continue to focus on compact crossovers and luxury vehicles, so it only makes sense that a growing number of new models check both boxes. That is the case with the 2019 GMC Terrain Denali, which offers a luxury twist on GMC’s entry-level CUV. The GMC Terrain shares its platform with the Chevrolet Equinox and Buick Envision, and the Denali trim looks to position this compact crossover higher up the luxury food chain.

Following last year’s introduction of the second-gen Terrain, the 2019 GMC Terrain Denali received a handful of tweaks to its list of equipment, and we spent a full week with this stylish and luxurious compact CUV to see how it stacks up with an ever-increasing number of competitors.

2019 GMC Terrain

2019 GMC Terrain Denali Exterior
The second-gen Terrain is an extremely stylish crossover, but the Denali treatment takes things up a notch with the signature Denali chrome grille, LED headlights, color-matched lower body trim, satin chrome trim, dual exhaust outlets and 19-inch machined aluminum wheels with painted grey accents. Interestingly, the only standard color available on the 2019 GMC Terrain Denali is Summit White – all other colors, including this tester’s Blue Steel Metallic, are considered premium colors and require an extra charge ranging from $495 to $595.

In a sea of compact crossovers, the second-gen Terrain does a great job of standing out. Up front, the large grille and C-shaped headlights make this instantly recognizable as a GMC, while the standard LED taillights tie the design together mimicking the shape of the headlights. Even GMC’s application of the over-used pinched C-pillar looks unique on the Terrain and does a good job of hiding the rear quarter windows. One odd part of the Terrain’s design is the roof rack cross rails that this tester was equipped with. Although it adds plenty of utility, the $270 option looks more look like an aftermarket cargo system.

2019 GMC Terrain

2019 GMC Terrain Denali Interior
GMC’s unique, truck-like attitude carries over into the cabin with an upright center stack, large knobs and a tall center console; this cabin definitely looks and feels more like a truck than the Equinox. There are some drawbacks, though. While all of the touch points are soft and covered in a high-quality material, there’s also a lot of hard plastic for a small CUV topping $40,000. The biggest downfall of this interior is push-button shifter, which really doesn’t open up any more space in the center console area and is not very intuitive to use. The good news is that the tall, flat roofline opens up a lot of interior space opening up plenty of room for five passengers and their gear. With the rear seats up, the Terrain offers 29.6 cubic feet of cargo volume and there’s even a decent amount of space hidden under the load floor, and with the rear seats and passenger front seat folded flat, this cabin can swallow 81 cubic feet and gear measuring up to eight-feet long.

The Terrain Denali heaps on the style inside with this tester’s light platinum/taupe cabin accented by brushed metallic accents. GMC also packs in plenty of luxury with perforated leather seats, heated front seats, seven-speaker Bose audio system and standard hands-free power liftgate. Opting for the $450 Comfort Package adds on ventilated front seats and heated rear seats. The Denali is the only 2019 GMC Terrain trim level to offer integrated navigation, but all lower trims do come standard with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and GM’s OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot.

2019 GMC Terrain

2019 GMC Terrain Denali Powertrain
The 2019 GMC Terrain has one of the broadest powertrain offerings in the compact CUV market including the base 1.5-liter turbocharged gas engine and a 1.6-liter turbo diesel engine, but the Denali comes standard with a 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected gas four-cylinder rated at 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque; this engine is also optional on the SLE and SLT trim levels. This engine is paired to nine-speed automatic transmission, which is controlled using the aforementioned push-button shifter. With this powertrain combination, the Terrain Denali has EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 21 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway*, and the 2.0-liter engine also requires premium gasoline.

The 2019 GMC Terrain is smaller and lighter than the previous Terrain, and it also delivers a more refined driving dynamic. There are no chassis or suspension changes for the Denali trim level, so the smooth and quiet ride is a testament to the ride quality of the entire 2019 Terrain lineup. The nine-speed transmission feels great and at no point felt like it was over-searching for the right gears, and at the same time, it delivers surprisingly quick shifts during hard acceleration. When properly equipped, the 2019 Terrain has a 3,500-pound towing capacity rounding out its credentials as a perfect choice for anyone looking for a compact crossover that is as capable as it is stylish.

2019 GMC Terrain

2019 GMC Terrain Denali Safety
The 2019 GMC Terrain received a five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Denali trim comes standard with Driver Alert Package I, which includes Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Park Assist and Safety Alert Seat. New for 2019, the $745 Driver Alert Package II now adds Adaptive Cruise Control and Front Pedestrian Braking to the existing safety features like Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Following Distance Indicator and IntelliBeam headlamps. This tester also had the $745 Advanced Safety Package bringing Automatic Parking Assist and HD Surround Vision to the party.

2019 GMC Terrain

2019 GMC Terrain Denali Overall
After spending a week with the 2019 GMC Terrain Denali, it isn’t surprising that a third of GMC’s sales come from Denali-badged models. This advanced crossover does an excellent job packing a lot of luxury and technology into a small and stylish package. The 2019 GMC Terrain has a starting price of $25,000**, while the Denali starts at $37,800**. This pricing is comparable to compact CUVs from traditional luxury brands including the Lexus NX, Acura RDX, Audi Q5 and Cadillac XT4, and our well-equipped, AWD tester took things a step further with an as-tested price of $43,400.

Make sure to visit your local AutoNation GMC dealership and test drive the 2019 GMC Terrain Denali today!

* Based on 2019 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

** MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

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