I recently got the full engineering lecture on the new GMC Terrain from Vehicle Chief Engineer for Global Compact SUVs at General Motors, Mark Cieslak, and you tech nerds will love what I found out. And yes, because the front seat now folds down flat like all the back seats, you can slide a 10’ 2×4 all the way in and close the hatchback! Home Depot, here I come.
When designing any car or truck, especially a mid-sized crossover utility vehicle, you can either start by designing a frame that anticipates all the future requirements, or you can take an existing theme and “throw mass at it.” For instance, if, using a frame that later turns out to be say, too flexible for the power plan you’ve decided to use, you simply beef up the frame with more metal – more mass. And then you have a heavier, less efficient vehicle.
“Decades ago, US car makers were basically designing refrigerators on wheels! The consumer was demonstrating very little if any thought to styling,” said Cieslak. “That all changed and for the last three years, we’ve been developing a winning strategy that combines styling with precise engineering.” So with the Terrain, which fits in below the Acadia as GMC’s smallest SUV, Cieslak and his team took a new path. Instead of throwing mass, the GM team created a Precise Engineering workflow where all engineering and design departments (Systems, Platform, Drive Train and Component) coordinated simultaneously to “pre-load” their elements on to a frame that was designed specifically for the end product. With over 30,000 individual parts in a GMC Terrain, this is no small task.
“We began with the exterior styling.” Cieslak explains, “We had specific engineering goals for such innovations as active noise cancellation (which works the way Bose’s noise cancelling headphones work!), aerodynamic efficiency and even the design of the grill, because GUYS LIKE GRILLS!”
You’ll notice the Terrain has a recurring letter, “C” (as in GMC) theme running throughout in both blatant and very subtle ways, from the holes in the grill to the “C” shaped LED running lights. “You’ll get a “layered” feeling to the design.” Cieslak runs his hand over the design photos, “Different design elements come into and out of your view as you walk past the car and maybe you’ll own it for a year and suddenly notice something you’d never seen before.”
What we’re sure you’ll notice, however, is the available 1.6 liter, turbo-diesel, 6 speed, 236 HP, engine that was designed in Turin, Italy, which develops 235 foot-pounds of torque! Want more? Like for towing a 3500 pound speedboat? Opt for the top end 2.0 gas, 9-speed, 252 HP, 260 FP engine and rip up some blacktop! You can also choose between front-wheel, and all-wheel drivetrains.
The interior of the GMC Terrain has also been totally reworked and it seems as if it was done specifically with a Boomer Guy in mind. Credit GMC Design Director, Mike Stapleton (who created the Escalade’s interior) for the nimble balance between rugged and elegant. For instance, Stapleton, working with the engineers, did away with the cumbersome dashboard shifter (You know, the thing the 2×4’s slam into when you hit the brakes!) and replaced it with a push button array that needs no eyes-on to work. Have you ever cursed trying to slide stuff into the cargo area from the back of the SUV toward the front, only to have the stuff hit some folded seat edge or headrest? Stapleton took care of this. With all the seats (including the front passenger seat) folded down, your stuff glides effortlessly with no obstructions.
But Stapleton didn’t stop there. You know all that space below the seats when they’re folded down? Well, now you have “two-tier” storage, with lots of room under the folded-down platform for items you don’t want nosey pedestrians to see when you park and need to stow the luggage and Nikons away safely.
Cieslak, in characteristically candid manner, described how he made his own interior design suggestion, “My daughter always complained about not getting enough air in the rear seat area of the SUV we had a few years ago. So I duct-taped a “noodle” from the ventilator and directed the air from that to young fella’s face! Well, when it came time to design the interior of the new Terrain, I made sure the ventilators could face toward the rear.” And now they do.
The final results of the GMC design team were debuted as a 2018 model on January 8, 2017 at the 2017 North American International Auto Show with such standard features such as a 7-inch touchscreen, LED daytime running headlights and tail lights Available features include WiFi hotspot capability, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, , and safety technology such as surround vision camera system, GM’s vibrating Safety Alert Seat, forward-collision alert, low-speed forward automatic braking, and lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning.
The verdict on the frame-up design strategy? A 34% stiffer architecture with 450 pounds trimmed off the weight and a 10% tighter turning circle. I’d say GM’s new design philosophy is downright Platonic!