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A white 2021 GMC Terrain AT4, which wins in comparing the 2021 GMC Terrain vs 2020 GMC Terrain, is parked in the snow between other 2021 GMC AT4 models.

Changes are Coming for the 2021 GMC Terrain

When starting your search for a compact SUV, it’s important to look not just at the most recent model year but also the previous model year, where you might find better deals for what is essentially the same SUV. And there’s no better place to look than here: the 2021 GMC Terrain vs 2020 GMC Terrain. The Terrain is an excellent example of this because it’s relatively new in its current generation, so no matter which model you choose, you know you will be getting the latest technology and engineering from GMC. Plus, it’s a stylish, comfortable, and well-appointed SUV.

The 2021 GMC is indeed a carryover from the 2020 model year after undergoing a significant redesign. But there are also some notable changes to look out for in your search. And these changes, particularly one addition to the lineup, make this a tough decision. The upcoming model year brings a new trim to choose from: an AT4 model has been announced for 2021. This model slots just below the Denali trim and features a more rugged design, as well as serious off-road capability to go along with its rugged good looks. This is an SUV that now has the ability to tackle the most difficult of “terrain.” So let’s take a more in-depth look at what separates these model years and see if the addition of the AT4 model, and other changes to the lineup, might be enough for you to consider a 2021 GMC Terrain.

AT4 Trim

The 2021 model year brings the addition of GMC’s AT4 off-road package. Luckily, GMC decided it was time to make an AT4 model for the Terrain. So now, if you’re looking for a compact SUV with the built-in family utility that is also adventurous enough for weekend warriors, the AT4 model has everything you could possibly want in an SUV. This is a really exciting addition to the Terrain lineup. The AT4 trim includes a revised front end with new headlights and a black chrome grille, so not only does it have the look of a serious off-roader, it has the adventurous spirit as well, able to take you far away from your on-road responsibilities.

The AT4 model will feature underbody protection and all-terrain tires, so you will have the peace of mind off-road to have fun with your Terrain. Adding these features show how committed GMC is to outfitting the Terrain with the appropriate off-road features. The Terrain is now designed for people with active lifestyles who want their vehicles to match their adventurous spirit. And with 260 lb-ft of torque, and lots of and power in its 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 with 252 hp, you truly have the ability to take your Terrain just about wherever you want to go. This is the kind of engine that inspires on- and off-road confidence.

Performance with the Terrain

A grey 2020 GMC Terrain Denali is driving away from a city.

For the 2020 model year, there is a choice of two engines, with both engines turbocharged and featuring excellent gas mileage, as well as available with optional 4-wheel drive. With the standard engine, you can expect 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque. This engine is a great option as it also gets incredible gas mileage at 26/30 MPG and provides plenty of power for a compact SUV. You can’t go wrong if you are looking for a daily driver or an SUV for commuting to work. Your family will appreciate the fuel-sipping efficiency, and you will have plenty of pick-up when passing on the highway or carving your way through the backroads. If you are looking to tow heavy or often, though, you might want to consider the optional engine.

The other engine you’ll find available for the GMC Terrain is a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder with 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. This engine has a lot of torque, which is excellent for towing and off-roading. It can tow up to 3,500 lb., so if you need to occasionally tow, the added utility will be appreciated. And with the Terrain’s nimble driving manners, you will definitely be able to have fun with this surprisingly powerful engine. Both engines are available with a nine-speed automatic transmission and standard rear-wheel drive, while all-wheel drive is optional on the SLE and above trims.

The 2021 Terrain is expected to feature the same powertrain options but with the AT4 model coming standard with the 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder. So you’ll be ready to hit the trail right off the factory line. While no changes are expected to the overall powertrain options, the two powerful and fuel-efficient options from the previous year are more than sufficient to compete in the compact SUV segment. So no matter which model year you choose, you will be able to enjoy the rare combination of power and efficiency.

Staying Safety

GMC Pro Safety comes standard on all Terrain models for 2020. This is GMC’s state-of-the-art suite of safety tech, so you can expect this to be standard for the 2021 model year as well, which is great news for your family. The suite includes emergency braking, forward collision alert, lane-keep assistance with lane departure warning, following distance indicator, front pedestrian braking, and IntelliBeam headlamps.

Keep in mind, this is all standard, and you even have the option to add an extra layer of safety to your crossover. Additional features include Driver Alert Package, which contains camera-based adaptive cruise control, side blind zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change alert, rear park assist, and safety alert seat. These are the kind of safety features that show how committed GMC is to making the latest in safety tech available to everyone.

If you move up to the Denali trim, you’ll add the Driver Alert Package, where you will benefit from even more protection. This package adds front park assist and rear park assist. This active technology helps you park your vehicle while avoiding nearby objects during low-speed maneuvering, whether you are pulling in or backing in. Avoiding crashes in these tight situations can often be impossible, and this feature guides you in and out without having to worry about a trip to the body shop.

A grey 2020 GMC Terrain is parked outside a brick building.

Terrain Technology

The 2020 GMC Terrain is loaded with the latest technology: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot are all standard for the Terrain. While the SL and SLE models come standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, the SLT and Denali trims include an 8-inch touchscreen. The Terrain’s infotainment is easy to operate and responsive to commands with clear graphics and logical menus highlighting this system. Your family will appreciate how user-friendly this set up is. The SLT trim adds satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start, power-adjustable/heated front seats, leather upholstery, and self-dimming side mirrors, while also incorporating Bluetooth phone and music streaming into the infotainment. Other options include Bose audio, drivers-side memory settings, navigation, a 360-degree camera system, and wireless device charging. The Denali trim also offers heated outboard rear seats, ventilated front seats, a self-parking feature, and automatic high beams, so luxury abounds, as expected, with the Denali trim.

Too Close to Call

With the GMC Terrain, you have a unique opportunity to find a fantastic deal on an SUV that has everything your family needs. Whether you are looking for an off-roader or a commuter, a luxury SUV or a sporty SUV, or both, the GMC Terrain is loaded with value. Now it’s up to you to decide which model year makes the most sense for your family.