What it is: The Terrain Denali is GMC’s luxuriously trimmed car for the every person. The base Terrain starts at $25,000 whereas the Denali is $37,800, a full 50-percent premium for upgrades. The 2019 model does have some improvements over the outgoing version, mostly in additional safety-focused technology. Higher definition rear-vision camera, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree surround vision, and emergency front-pedestrian braking are now available and come highly recommended. The Advanced Safety Package ($745) offers surround vision and automatic parking assist while the Driver Alert Package II ($745) offers adaptive cruise control and automatic braking. Both are no-brainers when buying the Terrain Denali.
I was tepid about the 2018 version of the Terrain Denali, and I feel the same about the 2019 version. The only engine available is still a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo that produces 252 horsepower and provides plenty of acceleration. It is paired with a nine-speed automatic that does its job, but feels lethargic (at the boost of fuel economy I’m sure). The interior is good, not great. It is a firm step down from German or Japanese luxury manufacturers, but well above what you find in a standard car.
I railed against the shape of the windows on the side of the car as they appear pinched, but they’ve grown on me. I think the paint color you choose makes a much bigger difference than typical cars. Eight choices are available, and I would stick to the white, gray or red options. The brown and blues don’t impress me much.
Most buyers in this segment aren’t looking for a particularly rewarding driving experience, but the Terrain Denali provides just that. Buyers want a slightly elevated driving height and extra cargo room and the Denali provides that as well, so I guess there’s no harm, no foul.
MPG: 23 combined/21 city/26 highway (for AWD version)
Price: $43,550 as-tested.
Upsides: New safety tech available.
Downsides: High price.
Wrap-up: The Terrain Denali does its job, but it doesn’t go above and beyond. Low $40s will get you in to a Mercedes, BMW, etc. so this is dangerous territory for the Terrain Denali. Cars like the Acura RDX offer comparable features to the Terrain Denali at roughly the same price. If you are 100 percent dedicated to buying an American-offered car, then this is a fine choice, but there are better choices out there.