Why The 2022 GMC Terrain Denali Is Only Available In AWD

The 2022 GMC Terrain Denali will come with all-wheel-drive as standard, which is a nice way of saying there will no longer be a front-wheel-drive version. Considering the 2021 Terrain Denali has a FWD option, future buyers may wonder why GMC pulled the plug for the next model year.

Blue 2022 GMC Terrain Denali With All Wheel Drive AWD
2022 GMC Terrain Denali | GMC

Why the top trim 2022 GMC Terrain is only AWD

There are certainly benefits all-wheel-drive, such as faster acceleration and better traction. But even the FWD 2020 Terrain is fitted with a “snow mode” for winter performance. So while AWD may handle inclement weather better in general, the FWD vehicles in GM’s lineup aren’t ill-equipped either.

Two of the biggest drawbacks to an AWD layout are decreased fuel economy and higher service costs. Not to mention a higher price tag from the get-go. But then again, the Denali is the highest trim available on GM’s cars. In other words, it’s safe to assume that Terrain Denali buyers aren’t strapped for cash.

The same could be said for anyone looking to purchase the Terrain AT4 trim, which also manages without a FWD layout. While it’s also geared towards people with more money, GM says the AT4 is more offroad oriented anyways. So having a front wheel drive variant of a rugged trailblazing beast doesn’t make a ton of sense.

The 2022 GMC Terrain Denali will start at $36,000, but throwing in all the features could bump that up to above $40,000. That begs the question: what features are available?

Features and specs of the 2022 GMC Terrain Denali?

Red 2022 all wheel drive GMC Terrain Denali SUV on display
2022 GMC Terrain Denali | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

If you choose to get all the available options, you’ll certainly get your money’s worth. For starters, The Denali is crammed with entertainment and accessibility features. The 8-inch infotainment screen is host to wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and even features a built-in Amazon Alexa. Wireless charging will also be available, as well as a WiFi hotspot. And speaking of screens, behind the steering wheel there’s a head-up display to monitor your speed and the speed limit without taking your eyes off the road.

But unlike all the other Terrain Trims, the Denali comes with GMC’s Safety Pro Plus package. Along with the head-up display, this package includes blind-spot detectors and a rearview camera as standard. And standard across all trims are automatic braking/collision avoidance features, lane keep assist, and a following distance indicator.

And while we’re talking about what’s in the Denali, let’s look under the hood. The 2022 Terrain Denali will feature a small 1.5L turbocharged engine (with start/stop technology) and a 9-speed automatic. That’ll be good for 170 horsepowe, which isn’t a ton. But the 203 lb-ft of torque may help balance things out. And because the engine is small, it gets the Terrain 25 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

One more important note: the 2021 FWD Terrain Denali with the same engine manages just two miles per gallon more on the highway. Even with the mandatory AWD layout, it’s not burning much more gas. So as more complicated powertrains become more fuel-efficient, will FWD SUVs begin to disappear?

Will FWD top-trim SUVs begin to decline?

2022 front wheel drive GMC Terrain SLT SUV
2022 GMC Terrain SLT | GMC

It’s hard to predict the future, but if you think about it, high-trim FWD SUVs don’t make a ton of sense. If someone has the money to spend, they’ll likely go for an SUV with AWD instead. It’s handy to have in slippery situations or snowy states. But according to Edmunds, it doesn’t improve handling and traction like automakers may have you believe. In other words, it’s extra money, which automakers love making people spend.

So, unfortunately, you can’t shave a couple grand off the price tag by getting a FWD GMC Terrain Denali with the 2022 model year. And as the Terrain gets more reliable, it isn’t a bad choice when it comes to reasonably sized and relatively economical SUV.

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