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Although larger families gravitate to the midsize and large SUVs with three rows, most drivers seem to like the compact crossover segment of the market. There are many vehicles to look at in that category, with options ranging from actually sporty to just sporty looking. The 2021 GMC Terrain falls into the second category
Although it may not be an off-roading warrior, the Terrain does offer a pleasing exterior appearance as well as two turbocharged engines to choose from. It also has enough space for up to five people to sit comfortably. GMC launched the latest generation, which is only the Terrain's second, back in 2018. For the 2021 model, no major changes have been made.
This means that the Terrain will continue to be available in four trim levels. The entry-level SL is respectable, while the top-of-the-line Denali gives you the amount of luxury you expect from the name. Many drivers will find that they are more comfortable somewhere in between those two options, however.
Choosing the right model is no small task. It is important to not overspend while also not missing out on features that you want or need. The following guide is intended to help make the decision easier.
Compare the 2021 GMC Terrain SL vs Terrain SLE - What is the Difference?
The entry-level SL is a front-wheel-drive SUV and is the only trim not available with all-wheel drive. Underneath the hood is a turbocharged 1.5L four-cylinder engine that will generate 170-horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque. Although the acceleration is not as thrilling as you may like, this engine does an adequate job when it comes to moving the Terrain. A 9-speed automatic transmission is paired to the engine.
This powertrain gives the Terrain a respectable fuel economy. Drivers can expect 25mpg in the city and 30mpg on the highway. This is considered better than average and a major selling point for the 2021 Terrain.
For the entry-level model, GMC gives this crossover 17-inch silver-painted aluminum wheels. There are no options for larger sizes or different styles. An acoustic laminated windshield and active noise cancellation help to isolate the cabin and provide a relaxing ride.
The headlights are automatic, including for the high beams. This model shows off C-shaped LED signature daytime running lights as well as LED taillights. The headlights, however, are high-intensity discharge instead. Side mirrors are both heated and powered for driver convenience.
Both the driver and front passenger get a four-way adjustment and recline features but they are manually operated. Bucket front seats are also standard. While the SL has cloth upholstery, it does up its luxury a bit with a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
One area that the Terrain falls short when compared to the competition involves its cargo space. This is just as true of the entry-level SL as it is of the top-of-the-line Denali. It offers just 29.6 cubic feet behind the second row and a maximum cargo area of 63.3 cubic feet. However, the back seats do fold flat inside all models, which makes it easier to load. The SL sticks with a manual liftgate.
Technology features are in-line with what you would expect from an entry-level compact crossover. A 7-inch touchscreen and six-speaker audio system come standard. GMC's infotainment system is considered one of the more user-friendly options out there and is standard across the board for the Terrain.
The all-important smartphone integration features known as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included also. Amazon Alexa compatibility, which can allow you to control compatible smart devices in your home from your vehicle, is standard as well. Four USB ports and a Wi-Fi hotspot round out your tech features when you choose the Terrain SL.
The other way that technology is used in the Terrain involves its more advanced safety features. Like the rest of the lineup, the SL has automatic emergency braking, a rear vision camera, lane-keeping assist, and forward-collision alert. This entry-level option also has a tire pressure monitoring system as well as Teen Driver, a program that allows parents to limit the Terrain's speed and radio volume when their teenager is at the wheel.
If you choose the SLE model, you once again get the 1.5L turbo engine with no available upgrades. Wheel options are opened up, however, with 18-inch and even 19-inch choices on the table. All-wheel drive is also available starting with this model. Upgrading to all-wheel drive will not impact fuel efficiency in the city but drops the vehicle down to 28mpg highway.
On the outside, the only way you may be able to recognize the difference between the first two trims is by looking at the mirror caps. The SLE's are body-colored, while the SL's are black. Otherwise, there are no standard differences to the exterior.
The SLE is eligible for the Elevation Package. This means the Terrain gets 19-inch black wheels, black roof rails, black badging, and other black accent pieces. The grille for this model is also darker than non-Elevation models. There is also the Bright Package to consider for the SLE, which includes a chrome grille, chrome mirror caps, and a bright rear bumper protector.
Inside, the SLE adds a compass display. The rearview mirror also gains an auto-dimming function. Otherwise, the standard features are more or less identical to those found inside of the SL.
Once again, the SLE unlocks some more packages. There is the Cargo Package, which simply adds a vertical net and retractable shade to the back of the Terrain. Perhaps more exciting is the Infotainment I Package, which increases the touchscreen size to 8-inches, adds four more USB ports, and throws in a 110-volt power outlet inside of the center console. The Driver Convenience Package will give your Terrain dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, remote start, and more.
The standard driver aids do not change for the SLE. Not surprisingly, there is an extra package that can be added to this model. Choose to go with the GMC Pro Safety Plus Package and you will gain a blind-spot monitor along with adaptive cruise control. It also includes rear parking sensors.
Compare the 2021 GMC Terrain SLE vs Terrain SLT - What is the Difference?
One of the biggest reasons to consider the SLT involves the powertrain. While the 1.5L remains standard, the turbo 2.0L four-cylinder becomes an available option. Choose it and the Terrain makes 252-horsepower as well as 260 lb-ft of torque. This makes the Terrain much more responsive and enjoyable to drive. The nine-speed automatic transmission remains standard.
Of course, with more power comes less fuel efficiency. Front-wheel-drive models are estimated to get 22mpg city and 28mpg highway. Opting for all-wheel drive will mean getting 21mpg city and 26mpg highway.
This is the first trim level to come standard with 18-inch wheels. Two different 19-inch wheel styles are also available. While most of the exterior lighting remains the same, the SLT does get fog lamps.
The big story when it comes to exterior upgrades involves the liftgate. Not only is it hands-free for the SLT, but it is also programmable. This means you can program how high the liftgate will open, something all drivers can appreciate. The hands-free function works by swinging a foot underneath the left side of the rear bumper while carrying the key fob.
Unique to the SLT trim level is the Dark Accent Package. It gives you a darkened chrome grille with a Charcoal insert. It also paints the mirror caps black and adds black inserts to the front and rear fascia.
Upgrades are significant inside. The driver gets eight-way power-adjustment and the front passenger gets six-way. Ambient interior lighting also joins the list as standard equipment. Many of the features added to the SLE in packages, such as heated front seats and dual-zone automatic climate control, become standard for the SLT. A heated steering wheel is also included. An eight-inch touchscreen runs the infotainment system in this trim.
The SLT is eligible for the Infotainment II Package. When this is added to the Terrain, it adds navigation and HD radio. It also throws in a seven-speaker upgraded sound system from Bose.
As far as safety features go, the SLT trim level upgrades from a standard rear vision camera to an HD one. Otherwise, it has the same standard and available options as the SLE.
Compare the 2021 GMC Terrain SLT vs Terrain Denali Trim Level. - What is the Difference?
The first thing to know about the 2021 GMC Terrain Denali is that it will have late availability. It may be worth waiting for, however. On top of having the more powerful engine, the Denali has its own premium suspension with enhanced shock control. It makes the ride of the Terrain even smoother and more enjoyable, even over rough road surfaces.
On the outside, the Denali trim looks somewhat similar to the SLE with the Bright Package. It has lower door chrome moldings, chrome accents on the side mirrors and door handles, and those bright roof rails. This all works with the satin-chrome finish on the grille to add to the sophisticated look of this top trim level.
Inside, the Denali has leather-appointed front seats. Even this top model leaves behind some interior features when it comes to the standard feature list. Still, if you want heated rear outboard seats, ventilated front seats, or a sunroof, the Denali is the only way to get them.
All of the features in the GMC Pro Safety Plus Package are included when you choose the Denali. Optional for only this trim is also an automatic park assist. This feature can help drivers find an appropriate spot for both parallel and perpendicular parking. While the driver is still responsible for accelerating and braking, the parking assist feature will handle all of the steering needs. It will also let the driver know when to shift gears.
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Which Trim to Choose?
With roughly a 13,000 dollar difference between the SL and the Denali, it is important to pick the right model. The SL is an attractive option, but only if you are looking to spend as little as possible. It is worth moving up to at least the SLE so you have the option to customize the 2021 GMC Terrain to fit your needs.
If you are after the sleek Elevation Edition, the SLE is the right choice. Otherwise, move up one more trim level to the SLT. It includes most of the optional equipment for the SLE. More importantly, it allows you to go with the more powerful engine, which is worth the cost.
The Denali trim level of any GMC vehicle is going to be tempting. They put on a good show with the added luxury features. However, the Denali version of the 2021 Terrain does not add enough to the vehicle to justify the jump in price.
Drivers will be happy with their 2021 GMC Terrain if they choose the SLT trim level and opt for the 2.0L turbocharged engine.
• Compare the 2020 GMC Terrain Trim Levels