Yes, There Will Be a Terrain Denali!

Photo (c)2012 General Motors

Remember our old friend the GMC Terrain?

You know, that buffed, squared off two-row crossover that yielded two pieces on here and a two-page spread in Lavender magazine? The one that conquered Interstates 90 and 94, and the first snow of the Twin Cities' so-called winter…that one! Well, General Motors' mainstream two-row crossover provided the biggest surprise of the week for us in the auto journalism business.

A month ago at the Chicago Auto Show, a few of us journos were milling around the GMC stand after the 2013 Acadia was revealed to the universe. The discussion focused back at the Terrain and what we would love to see from its smallest and second most selling product. Once the word "Denali" came up, the ideas flowed just as a dam was opened up along the Mississippi River.

In my reviews of the Terrain, I mentioned how the SLT-2 models I drove were equipped short of a Denali-level model. Yet, no one gave any indication that GMC's top end sub-brand was even considered for the two-row crossover.

We could dream, right?

What is a Denali? It is the name for any GMC product that dares to offer a level of luxury and content equal to a Cadillac at a lower price point. Denalis are the reason people buy products, such as the Yukon, the Acadia and the Sierra pickup.

At an event in New York City – a month before the opening of the city's auto show – a conversation came true. The sheet was lifted on the 2013 GMC Terrain Denali.

What is so special about creating a Denali version of the Terrain – aside from its chromed, signature grille denoting the top end of the line? For starters, the Denali will be available with all drivelines available on the current Terrain. It will be the first Denali offered with a four-cylinder motor.

If the SLT wasn't luxurious enough, the Denali elevates the experience with French stitching on the dashboard, smoked mahogany wood trim work, power adjustments for both driver and front passenger, revised headlamp and taillight treatments and plenty of indicators telling the world it's a Denali. In other words, this will be one luxurious small crossover.

On the technology side, the Terrain Denali will offer a collision alert and lane departure warning system standard. Many such systems use a series of cameras or radar technology to assist in these features. GM states that their system will be the first in the industry to do this with a single camera. The system also uses radar to cover the side blind spots and cross-traffic from the rear.

Considering how many of us drive crossovers and SUVs, there are plenty of drivers who simply have a different perspective on their vehicles in terms of everyday traffic. These aids sound brilliant, but understanding how they work and how to utilize them in your daily driving make these features more valuable. The Terrain Denali is a start for GM to offer this next level of active safety technology on other products across all brands.

The reveal provided the biggest surprise of them all. The familiar FlexFuel 3.0litre High Feature V6 will be supplanted by the larger 3.6litre version. Power scales up to 301HP. This will not be exclusive to the Terrain Denali – this will be offered as an option across the Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox lineup for 2013.

Over time, I've come to appreciate the Terrain and Equinox as formidable entries in a competitive segment amongst crossovers and SUVs. They're really fantastic. Yet, the game has changed again. The prospect of a four-cylinder Terrain Denali comes at a time when consumers have girded for the big fuel pump spike this summer. There is a run on four-cylinder versions of the popular crossovers at present, which makes the Terrain Denali a highly anticipated product for consumers not wanting to jump into the upper echelons of the segment – namely the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and the Range Rover Evoque.

Certainly, I welcome the Denali trim level for the Terrain. If will help further sales of the model and the brand. Knowing that you can get it in the four-cylinder model or the newly installed 301HP 3.6litre V6 offers two kinds of experiences to enjoy the Denali at its lowest price point amongst all GMC top-line models.

It all probably means something, that dreams do come true. Maybe someone was listening back in Chicago as we discussed what a potential Terrain Denali would look like. Was GMC on the mark? I believe so. I suppose we called this one correctly.

It's not a dream anymore. This one is going to be real.

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