Key West, FLA - Having snagged a rare parking spot near the Hemingway house - the crowing of roosters in the trees and the Jimmy Buffett music pouring from everyone's car radio just adding to the effect - I took a few moments between the beach and Duval Street watering holes to commit to memory my time in the somewhat imposing 2010 GMC Terrain.
With a chrome-slab nose that looks like one of those Union Pacific snow-cutting locomotives and a stature that made parking in South Beach still a tad challenging at times, Terrain (and its brother, the new Chevy Equinox) may not be the image that comes to mind when the word "crossover" pops up.
But, compared to the mainstays of General Motors' lineup of the now-fading '00s, unholy goliaths such as the Suburban, the Tahoe and the Escalade, the 185-inch-long, 3,800-pound Terrain is certainly a smaller offering.
Compared to more traditional crossovers (think Murano, CX-7 and Volvo's XC60), Terrain still feels more substantial, thanks to those chunky dimensions. It's more than commodious for five, complete with a rear seat that slides up to 8 inches, and is stacked to the rafters with classy features.
Cruising through the fantastically intimidating Miami traffic or rolling leisurely all the way along the Overseas Highway to Key West, the Terrain responded in a comfortable way. And I did appreciate its tough, square-shouldered looks, especially while drag racing Dominicans on the causeway into Miami Beach.
Thanks to GM's new and improved information and entertainment system, which includes a backup camera featuring those depth perception bars seen on the Japanese and European models, I was always able to park the Terrain without any problem in even the most miniscule of spots.
Out on the road, it's a comfortably, powerful and poised machine with easy steering and handling, a relaxed status and a good feel. Terrain is available with either a 2.4-liter direct injection Ecotec four-cylinder, producing 182 horsepower, or an optional 3.0-liter V6 making 264 mountain-friendly horsepower; at sea level, the four-banger did an admirable job and was only slightly noisy when I had to floor it to escape the marauding Floridians. Yeesh. No wonder you all come up here for vacation.
All-wheel-drive is another option; in front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder guise, the EPA figures are 22 city and 32 highway, which would effectively beat even the Ford Escape Hybrid (the V6 is rated at 25 mpg on the highway).
In real-world, turnpike testing, I seemed to produce mileage a little closer to the city figure. Your gas consumption might be helped by the "Eco" mode, a hybrid-styled affectation which slows your throttle response and holds the six gears longer; I tried it both on and off and found little tangible difference.
On the inside, the design is certainly fresh for General Motors - lots and lots of abstract, angular surfaces in a mostly black and silver color motif, like a super-gigantic Solstice - with a busy but intelligently arranged center stack.
The aforementioned navi system was pretty easy to fake my way through (with the exception of sending me in a frustratingly endless loop of right turns around the Miami International Airport), and also pulled down live traffic and weather. XM radio, Pioneer speakers, a burnable 10-gig hard drive (hence the "record" button, I guess) and decent Bluetooth connectivity were added perks.
Hoods over the navi screen and instruments helped in the tropical sun; a largish red info screen in the instrument panel (very Pontiac G8-ish) provided an eight-step readout with navigational repeats, trip computer and such.
Cabin layout is comfortable and leathery, with large, well-bolstered seats (large butt indents on the sides), lots of rhomboid shapes, pop-up DVD screens for your rear passengers. A chrome-laden center console with two cup holders features a large shift column (the Terrain's six-speed manual mode is controlled by a thumb toggle switch on the shift lever, a la the Buick Enclave).