It’s not every day one gets sent to Hilton Head to kayak and gulp down freshly-caught shrimp, all while getting around in a sexy new whip. Last month I got to do all of the above during an unforgettable GMC-sponsored press trip to South Carolina that took the concept of “test driving” to new heights.
At the centerpiece of the mini vacation was a 2018 GMC Terrain Denali, parked outside Savannah Airport and ready to impress its temporary owners for two days. That it did. My companion Steve and I fell in love with the muscular car at first meet during our hour-long drive to check into Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island (FYI: I viewed the car from a passenger’s perspective during the duration of the trip, and Steve was the driver).
Some of the perks that stood out right away happened to be some of the new additions for 2018, like an expanded center console with pass-through storage underneath and side-by-side cupholders (I take proper room for his-and-hers Starbucks very seriously). Before our kayaking adventure, another feature for 2018 came in handy: a fold-flat front passenger seat and flat-folding rear seat, enabling an entire boat to slide into the length of the vehicle.
The redesigned, second-generation of GMC’s premium compact SUV has a two-liter turbo engine with a new nine-speed automatic transmission. For such a small engine living under its hood, the performance sped past expectations. Steve thought it handled like “a big V-8 engine.”
Meanwhile, as I was on deadline typing away in the passenger side, I simultaneously soaked up another feature of the car: an OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot (the car includes a three-month/3GB data trial). And more devices can get in on the action, too; there’s a signal for up to seven, from cell phones to my lap top. And how many times have you been driving—especially on remote road trips—and encountered slow service? The car has an amplified antenna that ensures the strongest signal possible.
The car can also function as a big active hot spot up to 50 feet away. We put that perk to work during our group picnic lunch at the scenic Bluffton Oyster Factory Park (fun fact: It’s the last commercial fresh oyster shucking house on the East Coast).
In short, the Terrain is a super device-friendly car. There’s a 110-volt power outlet, four data/charging and two charge-only USB ports. And a slot built into the glove compartment is the perfect home for a phone while it’s charging up.
When aesthetic overlaps with function, you know you’re dealing with a manmade piece of equipment that’s built by a well-oiled company that’s been running over a century. A glass moon roof hovers above both the front and back seats, enabling all passengers to soak up views. We agreed the clear ceiling really opened up the car, brightening up what can sometimes be boring road stretches.
There’s also heated leather-trimmed seats throughout—even for back passengers—which is a rare perk even for a high-end car. For hot summers, a cooling seat feature ventilates sticky bums. And never wear clunky gloves while driving again; the steering wheel is also heated. We didn’t have any free hands to open up the trunk while loading in our luggage, but that was no problem: Wave a foot under the motion-activated trunk to trigger it to open.
Blind spot assistance means if a trailing vehicle’s moving in a blind spot on the right side, the right side of the driver’s seat vibrates to alert you of the car. And a lane departure feature means if you start to drift, that side of the seat vibrates.
While the car is parked and still in gear, if a pedestrian walks along one the side, that side of the seat would shake. While we were waiting outside for our to-go lunch order from The Cottage in the artsy town of Bluffton, a passer-by heading to the farmer’s market walked by us and Steve got a moving reminder.
Another modern-day marvel in the world of safety features is a 360-degree camera—providing a real-time bird’s eye view of the Denali and its surroundings.
Sold on the Denali yet? A lot of North America already is: Terrain sales have exceeded 700,000 since the first-gen model went on sale in 2009. You too can join the club for around $40k.
Headed to Hilton Head? Here are some can’t-miss spots:
Any of Sonesta’s dining areas are good bets, and they’re known for their burgers. Saddle up to the pool bar for a mean margarita.
For top local seafaring fare like oysters, shrimp, and soft shell crabs transported from the dock to the table, Hudson’s is a prime spot to take in Port Royal Sound views and low country eats. It employs the largest–and one of the only two remaining–fish fleets in Hilton Head.
Grab a paddle and get a hands-on crash course of the native coastal habitat via a kayaking adventure at Shelter Cove Marina. Led by a trained interpretive naturalist, the educational session-slash-workout includes a tour of the changing tidal creeks (and potentially some dolphin spotting). I learned a crazy fact that oysters change from male to female over the course of their lifetime
This post is in partnership with GMC . All opinions are my own.