GMC invited me out to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to take part in a winter driving class. Driving 2011 GMC Terrains, our task was to learn how to cope with snow covered roads while climbing 1,000 vertical feet near the Rockies. I gave my driving instructor Gary Osteen quite a challenge, but in the end, I took away some highly valuable techniques that will certainly come in handy during New England’s impending frosty hell.
The course centered around two fundamental driving skills: Cornering and Braking. According to Gary, the way to take a turn in the winter time consists of the following:
- Look through the turn before approaching to spot any potential hazards
- Brake in a straight line to scrub off speed
- Keep your foot off the throttle
- Coast through the corner
- Get back on the throttle only when you start to unwind the steering wheel
At first I wanted to throttle through the corners since I was used to doing donuts in parking lots and riding dirt bikes, but I soon learned that it’s a different story on snow and ice, since the back end has a tendency to step out further and more unexpectedly. Then we tested the GMC Terrain’s ABS and StabiliTrak technologies by braking hard in a straight line. When braking hard in a straight line on snow and ice, I learned that these are the key elements:
- Relaxed grip on the steering wheel
- Light steering inputs while turning
- Keep the pedal pushed hard to the floor and let the ABS do its job
Gary was quick to point out that I was way too tense on the steering wheel and my steering inputs had a tendency to be “fast and crazy.” When I loosened up on the wheel and provided light steering inputs, I was actually able to control the vehicle while it was sliding on snow and ice. The GMC Terrain’s ABS and StabiliTrak systems allowed me to actually steer while sliding, and that’s something I wasn’t used to in my Nissan Frontier.
The GMC Terrain also had a few nifty technologies that made it even safer on bare asphalt as well. First off, the Terrain had Forward Collision Alert, which flashed a red light on the console to alert the driver of a car ahead of them. This only happened over 25MPH. If we started tailgating a car in front of us, the red alert light would start blinking and beeping. Finally, if a crash was imminent, the car would charge the brakes to prepare for the collision.
Secondly, the GMC Terrain had a Lane Departure warning. The car would beep if it detected that the vehicle had begun to drift over the double yellow line or into a ditch. Both the Forward Collision alert and Lane Departure warnings operated via a 14-frame-per-second camera mounted to the front windshield that was trained to detect objects outside of the driving path.