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FLIRTING WITH LUXURY: Well-appointed 2019 GMC Terrain AWD SLT Black Edition packed with creature comforts, delivers poised and calm highway demeanor

GMC likes to tout its versions of Chevrolet-based trucks, SUVs and crossovers as “professional grade.”

The implication is that GMC’s products are in some ways superior to their kindred offerings, when in reality they’re much more alike than different. Still, interior upgrades, styling changes and some minor mechanical revisions do lend credence to what is basically a marketing slogan.

Consider the 2019 GMC Terrain, all new for the 2018 model year, the upscale cousin of the Chevy Equinox. While the Chevy carries a more conventional design, the Terrain sports eye-catching details with highly stylized head- and taillights, a pronounced grille and a version of the current regrettable “floating” roofline design.

The new version has shrunk a tad over five inches from its antecedent, putting it more squarely in the compact category. Still, it’s impressively capacious inside its comfortable cabin.

The interior’s materials are a busy mix of textures and materials. The seats in our SLT model were wrapped in nice perforated leather. The well-bolstered, power-adjustable front-row buckets included adjustable lumbar and height. But lots of plastics of various quality subtracted from the premium feel GMC is shooting for.

Fit and finish on our Mexico-assembled SLT skipped some attention to detail expected at our tester’s price point. For example, a piece of ill-fitting metal steering wheel trim left a raised sharp edge that repeatedly caught on a finger, while a couple of dash and door panels didn’t quite line up tightly.

Otherwise, the Terrain’s cabin is a comfy and quiet space, with logically placed and well-designed controls and displays. Infotainment and climate functions are particularly user-friendly. Plenty of storage nooks, crannies and beverage holders should keep the family happy and organized during holiday traveling.

Mechanically, the Terrain offers the same motors as the Equinox: two turbocharged gasoline four-cylinders and a four-cylinder diesel option. Our SLT was propelled by the bigger of the two gas powerplants, a spunky 2.0-liter delivering 252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This engine has plenty of brawn for passing and towing (when properly equipped). The bigger engine does diminish the car’s fuel ratings —21 mpg city/26 highway — and premium fuel is recommended.

The Terrain, unlike its Chevy counterpart, features a nine-speed automatic transmission versus a six-speed autobox. It’s an excellent tranny, shifting smoothly through the gears and never getting confused about which cog is best for any given situation. Too bad about the gear selector though, a series of confusing pull-to-engage buttons aligned low on the center of the dash.

Driving the SLT highlights the vehicle’s refined chassis, tuned largely for comfort. On twisty secondary roads, the suspension shows little interest in sporty handling, but at reasonable speeds it corners competently. The steering, too, is direct but delivers scant road information to the driver.

The Terrain has the latest safety and driver assist features available, but all of them, including several of those that are becoming standard on even economy vehicles, are lumped into a pair of extra-cost packages that plump up the vehicle’s bottom line.

Sporty handling, premium surroundings and top-flight assembly just aren’t high on the GMC Terrain’s program. But it’s a competent, comfortable, stylish, near-luxury crossover perfect for transporting a family of five over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house for the holidays. If that meets your needs, take a spin in a Terrain.

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