LAC BEAUPORT, Quebec – GMC? Here’s what I see in General Motors’ truck brand: a mystery wrapped in ambition, infused with hope.

Let me explain. Now at long last, with the launch of the revamped 2018 Terrain SUV (sport-utility vehicle), we have greater clarity about what GMC stands for, where this striving brand wants to go, how it fits into the ongoing recovery of GM in general, and how Canadians like their SUVs in particular.

The cabin looks like $40,000.

On the latter, Mark Alger, the GMC brand boss in Canada, says we have an powerful appetite for expensive SUVs. “All the growth is in $35,000 and above,” he says, noting that about one-third of all the SUVs Canadians bought last year were in that pricing stratosphere.

The refashioned Terrain starts at more than $30,000 and bounces into the $40,000s if you want a rig capable of towing a modest-sized trailer; Bose sound; ventilated and heated front seats; wireless charging for your devices; LED headlamps; and, the fanciest machined wheels.

Yet Alger argues the whole 2018 Terrain lineup is a relative bargain compared to 2017. Price cuts and added content deliver thousands in extra “value.”

Those buyers will need to find GMC the typical Canadian showroom that also houses, Chevrolets, Cadillacs and Buicks. Chevy’s new Equinox shares the Terrain’s basics, BTW.

The infotainment screen is undersized.

But Chevys are mainstream; GMC trucks are “professional grade,” touted in the latest marketing slogan: “Like a Pro.” (That tagline brought to mind HBO’s latest series, The Deuce, for a brief moment.) Like a Pro is supposed to capture vehicles that are well engineered and crafted – so good they’ll make owners feel like confident, passionate leaders. Alger’s explanation, not mine.

The fact is, this Terrain has absolutely nothing common with the old model, not so much as a door seal. The design, a great improvement over the Transformer-ish collection of corners and angles that was the old model, is a success. Simple, with three clean lines running horizontally –upper, middle, lower. They ties it all together.

Inside, the cabin looks like $40,000. The big notables are rocker switches that replace a traditional gearshift (Park, Drive, etc.) and a new infotainment interface that operates like your smartphone.

This design is a success.

Unfortunately, the touchscreen is undersized by half. Volvo has set the standard for touchscreen size and simplicity in mainstream models, and Tesla’s double-i-Pad-like screen is the overall best in the industry.

The Terrain’s screen does what it should and quite nicely, but it’s closer in size to a Samsung Galaxy Note. Big mistake.

Still, there’s a roomy cabin with generous headroom. Very comfortable in back. The passenger seat folds completely flat so you can load a seven-foot something in there.  The cargo hold is great and the load height at the rear is just right. You can get up to six USB ports, too.

For power, you have three options, all turbocharged: 1.5-litre four (170 horsepower/201 lb-ft), 1.6-litre turbodiesel four (137 hp/240 lb-ft) and 2.0-litre four (252 hp/260 lb-ft).

Lots of cargo room.

The first one is for the budget buyer, the second for the fuel miser (at a $3,000 premium) and the last for the showoff who plans to tow 3,500 lbs or kg. Note: the smaller four-cylinder engines are tow rated to 1,500 lbs.

I quite enjoyed the ride quality, and noise dampening is good. The diesel does not make a racket, and GM says it’s not now and never has cheated on diesel emissions tests, like the Germans. And truly, the design is perfect for a GMC re-boot.

I expect the latest Terrain to do damage to its legion of rivals. That’s it: the GMC mystery explained.

2018 GMC Terrain

Price range: $30,195 – $41,695.

Engines (all turbos): 1.5-litre four-cylinder (170 hp/201 pound-feet of torque); 1.6-litre four-cylinder, diesel (137 hp/240 lb-ft torque); 2.0-litre four-cylinder (252 hp/260 lb-ft torque).

Transmissions: nine-speed automatic for the gas engines, six-speed automatic for the turbodiesel.

Drive: front- and all-wheel.

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.2 city/7.9 for the front-drive 1.5-litre; 8.5 city/6.0 hwy) for the front-drive turbodiesel; (11.2 city/9.0 hwy) for the 2.0 AWD. Gas engines use regular fuel.

Comparables:  Ford Edge, Dodge Journey, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Murano, Toyota Highlander, Subaru Outback, Hyundai Santa Fe, Honda Pilot, Toyota Venza, Mazda CX-9.


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