The exclusive interior refinements and trademark chrome bits on which GMC has built the Denali name are coming to the GMC Terrain compact crossover for the 2013 model year. Considering Denali variants represent a full 18 percent of total GMC sales, the decision to Denali-tize the Terrain was about as predictable as a Michael Bay film.

Big news affecting every 2013 Terrain model is the introduction of a new direct-injected V6 engine, which delivers a 14-percent horsepower improvement over the current V6 while maintaining current fuel economy figures.

During our lengthy jaunt through the windy roads of Northern Michigan, the Terrain Denali’s powertrain improvements coupled with a modified front suspension eliminated the majority of our grievances with the 2012 model’s lackluster driving characteristics. While our experience earlier in the year with the outgoing 3.0-liter engine provoked feigned but uniform concern that GMC might have accidently equipped our Terrain V6 with a 4-cylinder engine, the new torque-rich 3.6-liter leaves no doubt about the number of cylinders residing under the hood.

Highway ride, however, was noticeably firmer in the Denali than in standard trims, likely a result of the larger 19-inch wheels and lower profile tires.

For 2013 the Terrain also offers a new Forward Collision Alert system, which utilizes a forward-facing camera to detect lane markers and vehicles in the lane ahead. Forward Collision Alert provides three preset distance settings, and warns the driver visually or audibly when the vehicle breaches the preselected distance. Snapping roughly 14 frames per second, GM’s camera-based pre-collision system is a more affordable alternative to considerably more expensive radar-based setups. Despite the performance similarities, Forward Collision Alert does not include an adaptive cruise control function.

As is the case with all GMC Denali models, the Terrain Denali boasts the signature honeycomb chrome grille complemented by a multitude of distinctive chrome add-ons and of course, chrome wheels. Since the days of tastelessly saturating vehicles with flashy chrome bits are nearing an end, GMC designers endowed the Terrain Denali with classier, satin-finished chrome pieces. Both wheel choices also receive the satin treatment, with 4-cylinder and V6 models riding on 18- and 19-inch alloy wheels, respectively.

Inside, high-contrast red stitching borders the soft-touch upper dash and perforated leather seats, while the center stack houses a high-resolution touch-screen featuring GMC’s new infotainment system, Intellilink. Virtually identical to Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system both in functionality and architecture, Intellilink includes a host of in-car multimedia and entertainment offerings such as Pandora Internet radio, Stitcher live radio, Gracenote music data and Nuance conversational voice recognition. Navigating the Intellilink system is simple thanks to large discernible icons and tidy graphics, but the touch-screen’s recessed position makes it difficult to reach.

The 2013 GMC Terrain Denali carries a starting price of around $36,000, comparable to many small luxury SUVs. Adding all-wheel drive and the new 301-horsepower V6 will tack an additional $3,250 to the bottom line. Although the Denali upgrades yield a significant cosmetic improvement over the basic trim levels, luxury nameplates like the Acura RDX and smaller Infiniti EX offer superior interior materials and better overall ride quality for a similar price (but far less satin-finished chrome).


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