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Bigger isn’t always better — or at least that’s what we’re taking away from the debut of the all-new 2018 GMC Terrain, which the automaker unveiled ahead of the Detroit auto show.

With its squared-off wheel arches and boxy fender flares, the GMC Terrain had previously been (for better or for worse) the most butch-looking offering in a segment of wind tunnel-tested, all-wheel-drive-equipped jellybeans.

That’s no longer quite the case: There’s a hint of the outgoing model in the new crossover’s wheel arches, but it’s more compact and a little more conventional-looking overall. The floating roofline (popping up everywhere from the Nissan Murano to the Aston Martin DB11) seems to be one of the new model’s defining design features; how it impacts rear visibility remains to be seen.

Terrain-buyers will have the choice of four trims — SL, SLE, SLT and extra-plush, 19-inch-wheel-equipped Denali — and will enjoy a slate of high-tech features, including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto comparability and an onboard 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot that can handle up to seven mobile devices at once (despite there being only five seats in the vehicle). You can upgrade the 7-inch touchscreen to an 8-inch model and tack on a suite of safety features, but GMC has not yet broken down all the various option bundles.

Mirroring its 2018 Chevrolet Equinox platform-mate, the Terrain offers three engine options: a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four (170 hp/203 lb-ft), a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four (252 hp/260 lb-ft) and, interestingly, a 1.6-liter turbodiesel (137 hp/240 lb-ft). The first two are paired with two slightly different nine-speed automatic transmissions, while the diesel gets a six-speed auto. Both front- and all-wheel drive will be offered.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox SUV slated for diesel upgrade

Like the redesigned GMC Acadia, the new Terrain shrinks a bit, with a 107.3-inch wheelbase and 182.3-inch overall length; compare to the 112.5 and 185.5 inches of the previous generation.

Small SUVs and crossovers are hot right now, but will this thing feel cramped inside? We won’t know until we spend some time aboard, but GMC claims the Terrain, now classified as a compact SUV rather than a midsizer, is nearly as roomy as its predecessor (there’s actually a little extra front headroom this time around) while offering only slightly less cargo volume — we’re talking 63.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, a loss of 0.3 cubic feet. That’s roughly 1.5 soccer balls, for what it’s worth (yes, we did the math). Plus, the front passenger seat folds flat in case you need to tote a kayak or something.

The big payoff is substantially reduced curb weight; with the base 1.5-liter engine and front-wheel-drive configuration, the 2018 Terrain weighs a stated 3,327 pounds, while the base FWD 2017 Terrain came in at 3,792 pounds. Fuel economy figures have not been released, but we’d bet there will be notable improvements there, too. And while corner-carving has never been the Terrain’s strong suit or mandate, if its trimmer, lighter incarnation is a little more fun to drive, so much the better.

The 2018 Terrain goes on sale summer 2017; expect pricing, fuel economy figures and first drive impressions in the coming months.

2018 GMC Terrain SLT and Denali debut before 2017 Detroit auto show

The 2018 GMC Terrain SLT (left) and Terrain Denali. Smaller, lighter and with the option of a 1.6-liter turbodiesel.

Graham Kozak

Graham Kozak – Graham Kozak drove a 1951 Packard 200 sedan in high school because he wanted something that would be easy to find in a parking lot. He thinks all the things they’re doing with fuel injection and seatbelts these days are pretty nifty too. Read more »
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