When the new 2018 GMC Terrain debuted at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, our reaction was decidedly unfavorable. The styling didn't strike a positive note with any of our editors, and a lot of concern was leveled at the Terrain's new push-button shifter.
"I'm shocked the push-button gear selector was approved in its current form." — Mike Hanley
"Then there's the tab/button gear selector that's too far away and a bit too unconventional; for a safety item like the gear selector, keep it simple." — Joe Bruzek
"I'm guessing the button-and-switch gear selector was driven by a desire to save space and then designed by lawyers who thought it would bypass the problems other electronic shifters have had." — Fred Meier
"And for some reason, GMC decided to include a gear selector unlike any that consumers have used before, just to add mechanical dysfunction to styling disaster." — Yours truly
This has apparently worried GMC ahead of the Terrain's launch to dealer showrooms in July. And with good reason — they've taken a big risk in changing something as basic and universally understood as a gearshift lever. To try to get out ahead of this potential negative press, GMC invited a handful of media to General Motors' Milford Proving Grounds in Milford, Mich., to get a deeper look at the Electronic Precision Shifter system, as they call it, and experience how it works.
Plop yourself into the seat of the new Terrain, and the shifter buttons are low and to the right — above where a traditional shifter would be but below the rest of the dash controls for things like the multimedia screen, audio system or climate control. GMC Used Engine ers said they made this switch to try to improve the one thing that's at a premium in a compact SUV: space. Storage space for front passengers, in particular, and the ability to put in a side-by-side cupholder instead of a front-and-back cupholder. There's a lot more storage space under the center console now that there's no shift lever to deal with, so in that sense, it's worked.
Go to engage the shifter for Reverse or Drive, and you'll find that this is actually not just a push-button system — both R and D are pull switches, with recessed areas behind the buttons into which you slip your finger. So while Park, Neutral and Low are push-buttons, the other two are pull-action. GMC said this was the best alternative to a standard shift lever, rejecting the rotary-dial idea as too fussy and difficult to actually find the gear you want.
It basically works like any other push-button transmission. Decide if you want to go forward or backward, put your foot on the brake, and push or pull the appropriate button. It will require more attention than normal at first, but there is the added benefit of the safety features GMC has included with it. For instance, pull into a spot and instead of pushing Park, you can just shut the Used Engine off. As soon as you do, it automatically selects Park. The owner's manual even instructs you to do this as a matter of normal operation, according to the company.
In short, GMC probably doesn't need to worry. The switch to push-button shifters doesn't seem to have negatively impacted sales of the Honda Pilot or any of Acura's new offerings at all; Lincoln is doing it with every new vehicle, as well. While we're wary of anything that Used Engine ers say requires even a little bit of a "learning curve" to operate smoothly in a new car, the Electronic Precision Shifter is unlikely to be the make-or-break feature in a customer's buying decision. And if it goes well here, expect to see it in other GMC vehicles in the future, company representatives told us.
Stay tuned to Cars.com later this summer for a full review of the new 2018 Terrain.