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Cars of Summer: It's Like Being in an Airplane

For most people, summer is driving season – day trips, road trips, drives to the beach, festivals, fairs, visiting friends and commuting in the bright sunshine. This summer, U.S. News is putting the cars we test through their summer paces and giving you tips and advice for making the most of your summer driving. In this installment, the 2011 GMC Terrain heads to Lewes Beach, Del. to relax by the seaside.

The 2011 GMC Terrain makes a good beach buddy.

When Ranya, one of my friends who traveled to Lewes Beach, Del. with me for a weekend trip, realized the 2011 GMC Terrian had a DVD entertainment system, she exclaimed, “It’s like being in an airplane!”

Amenity-wise, the Terrain gets a business-class rating because the rear seats are wide, comfortable, two-toned black and grey thrones that have a bird’s-eye view of the two DVD screens that every passenger wants. Ranya, Elise and Anne sat in the back, and while none of them are taller than 5’6”, they weren’t cramped. But they did get cold. There are no rear-seat temperature controls, and with the sun pouring into the front seat most of the trip, someone was always too hot or too cold.

The girls had plenty of rear-seat leg room.

After some time in the SUV, the girls noticed more quirks that demoted the Terrain’s initial evaluation to economy-class. They said the cup holders were too small and shallow for Starbucks. Marianne, my front seat passenger and DJ, had the same problem with the one on the side-door panel. The side-door pocket for papers and folders was also shallow, and my folder threatened to flop out. 

The Terrains trunk holds a cooler, three compact beach chairs, a beach umbrella and four totes.

The Terrain’s trunk reminds me of over-head airplane storage bins that look small, but surprise you with how much you can fit inside. We fit three compact beach chairs, a medium cooler, four tote bags and a beach umbrella in the back.

We noticed a few more features we disliked. Anne, who sat behind the front passenger seat, said the window sill was too high for her to rest her arm on. I drove the entire time, and the Terrain’s window sill actually gave me problems when we headed back to Washington, D.C. On Route 50, I almost hit a Mini Cooper Convertible because the Terrain’s high right door sill blocked the Cooper’s yellow exterior, and the black convertible top blended into the night. As I began to change lanes, the yellow peaked through, and I quickly changed my direction.

Despite the Terrain’s strange proportions, it’s a great day-trip vehicle. Just remember to triple-check your surroundings before changing lanes.  

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