Butch-premium Goes Mainstream: AT4 Filters Down to the Last Member of the GMC Family

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

When GMC brass saw the sky-high take rate for its Denali-badged models, the hunt was on for a new sub-brand to further boost sales and margins. After they finished counting their cash, that is.

Which brings us to today. AT4, a recently introduced runner-up trim that blends much of the content and coddling of a Denali with varying levels of off-road improvement, was just revealed on the Iowa-class-sized GMC Yukon and Yukon XL for 2021 — a day after unveiling the upcoming Canyon. It’s already in place on the Sierra and Sierra HD pickups (appearing for 2019), as well as the 2020 Acadia crossover.

On Wednesday, General Motors’ truck division completed the AT4 sweep.

The Terrain, sister vehicle to the Chevrolet Equinox and no longer the brick-styled thing you remember from the early days of the previous decade, gains an AT4 variant for 2021. Adjustable ride height, like that seen on the Yukon AT4, is nowhere to be found on this lesser model, and forget about the permanent 2-inch lift bestowed upon the Sierra AT4.

Depending on model, AT4’s ability to conquer, um, terrain comes down to the vehicle itself, and its prescribed mission in life. The Terrain is a compact crossover, something best suited for customers who want a higher seating position and all-wheel drive for those days where mother nature throws a tantrum. With AT4, the Terrain becomes a rival to butched-up CUVs like the Toyota RAV4 Adventure and TRD.

Just how much of a rival remains to be seen. The 2021 Terrain AT4 doesn’t arrive at dealers until this fall. Pricing and content remains a mystery, though one can expect a higher degree of interior comfort and refinement, plus a nod to off-roading.

Black chrome tinsel and a slightly rejigged face is par for the course with AT4, along with aluminum interior trim and upgrades seat colors, but that won’t get you further down the trail.

All GMC is willing to say about the Terrain AT4 is that it offers “a rugged exterior, confident capability and advanced technology.” On the Acadia AT4, the automaker added a twin-clutch AWD system, grabbier tires, and afforded drivers greater control over traction with the inclusion of an off-road mode.

Given the Terrain’s competition, one wonders if the suspension will see any changes. Toyota tossed upgraded shocks and springs at its off-roader compact CUVs, modestly bumping ground clearance up to 8.6 inches in the process. A stock Terrain’s ground clearance is 7.9 inches.

But perhaps true off-road ability isn’t much of a sales motivator in the mainstream CUV market. Actually, we know it isn’t. Appearance and comfort plays a far greater role in moving metal.

While we can’t yet show you a dazzling array of images of the Terrain AT4, it can be seen in the top photo, sandwiched between the Yukon and Acadia. For the record, this writer is of the opinion that the Yukon AT4 handily tops the Denali in looks, what with the latter model’s less-than-impressive grille:

[Images: General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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