Is the Third Time the Charm for GMC's Terra4?
By: Michael LevinePosted: 02-03-02 00:01Updated: 02-12-02 15:00

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We last got a peek at GMC's Terra4 concept when we were shown a full size foam mockup in Pebble Beach this past fall. It was also an opportunity to have an in-depth chat with the Terra4's designer, Carl Zipfel, who pointed out many of its innovative and evolutionary design features.

Third in the critically well-received line of "Terra" concepts, including the Terradyne pickup and Terracross SUV, the Terra4 is already impacting future GMC trucks. The freshened 2003 Sierra wears many of the Terra series exterior design cues. And in the coming years many of the Terra4's functional and powertrain features will also find their way into GMC trucks, if not the Terra4 itself as a production vehicle.

Falling right in the middle between Terradyne and Terracross, Terra4 is the ideal GMC strives to achieve when it talks about their trucks being "Professional Grade". A vehicle that can perform to an extreme degree yet still be comfortable, even luxurious, at its core. GMC often compares this ideal to products like Viking stoves and TAG Heuer watches.

Though still outright speculation, production becomes a definite possibility when you consider the following four factors.

First, GMC is in an aggressive effort to differentiate itself from sibling Chevrolet and its Silverado pickup. Exclusives like Quadrasteer on the 2002 Sierra Denali and the 2003 mid-cycle enhancements help, but GMC is going to need to make a much bigger break in styling if it expects to truly stand on its own. The Terra4 delivers big time on the promise of an identity uniquely, and distinctively, GMC.

Second, the golden age of Big Three exclusivity in full size trucks is nearing an end. High quality, fresh new competition from the likes of Toyota, Nissan and Honda means there will be more trucks pursuing the same pool of buyers. New buyers added to the pool are likely to come from those who currently own import cars and trucks and want to move into something larger. If you aren't fresh you are going to lose market share - rapidly. The Terra4 is definitely a fresh new look and GM is working hard to constantly improve quality, using Toyota as its benchmark.

Compared to the imports, GM Chief Designer Wayne Cherry says "the Big Three still set the rules of the game when it comes to trucks and SUVs." He mentions new designs like the Hummer H2 as evidence that GM is ready and willing to innovate to capture new and hold existing market share.

Interesting to note, the Terradyne concept had a very large impact on Nissan's upcoming full size truck program, clearly seen in the Alpha Concept Nissan debuted last year in Detroit.

Third, at this year's North American International Auto Show, "Segment Buster" was the buzzword on everyones tongue. A vehicle that blurs the boundary between two distinct automotive niches, like an SUV and pickup. All the automakers seem to think this is what buyers are going to move into in the coming years. Again the Terra4 delivers. The cab provides room for up to 5 passengers, taking center stage over the small but functional bed accessible via four different ways on the truck.

Last, according to designer Zipfel, "the Terra4 is closer to being a production vehicle than either Terradyne or Terracross...we could do this today. It's [the Terra4] really tailored to what's in place with today's trucks and plants."

After seeing the Avalanche and SSR quickly move to production it would not be far fetched to see the Terra4 get the greenlight, especially considering how close the Terracross SUV came to becoming reality before it was tabled.

So, is the third time the charm for the Terra4? Will this GMC concept reach production? Ultimately that decision rests in the hands of consumers attending the autoshows and a strong hunch at GM that the Terra4 is a new approach to profitably expanding its share of the full size truck market.

GMC Terra4 Concept Specifications
- Body/Chassis Structure: Body on frame, Front-Engine Rear-Wheel Drive/Four-Wheel Drive
- Body Material: Sheet Metal
- Chassis Material: Hydroformed Steel Frame
- Suspension:
Front - Short Long Arm (SLA)
with Longitudinal Torsion Bar
Rear - Hotchkiss Rear Axle
with QuadrasteerTM (Four-Wheel Steering)
- Wheels: 20 in Alloy
- Tires: Goodyear - P285/60 R20
- Brakes: Front & Rear Disc Brakes

- Engine: VORTEC V-8 with GM Parallel Hybrid Technology
- Engine displacement: 5.3L
- Horsepower: 285 hp
- Torque: 325 lb-ft
- Transmission: Automatic w/selectable
four-wheel drive transfer case

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- Height (in / mm): 76.2 / 1934
- Length (in / mm): 211.3 / 5366
- Width (in / mm): 78.0 / 1980
- Wheelbase (in / mm): 136.0 / 3454
- Track (in / mm): 71.7 / 1822