Gear-shifting has reached the push-button age in the 2018 GMC Terrain, the latest version of the crossover SUV introduced this summer.

Hit the tab labeled D on the center console to pull forward, the adjacent R for backing up, N to take it out of gear and a more prominent P marker to stay in park.

The Terrain is "the only GMC you'll find with this (feature)," said Kevin Shaw, sales and leasing consultant with Baker Buick GMC on Savannah Highway.

And the one-touch transmission changer is just one among a bevy of engineering tweaks and tech and structural upgrades in this spacious five-seater, which starts at $32,455. For comparison, a well-equipped SLT trim at Baker GMC late last month sold for $42,430.

The SUV sports three dimensions of its four-cylinder, double overhead cam engine — a 1.5-liter turbo-charged block capable of 170 horsepower, 2.0-liter performance dynamo pushing out 242 hp and a long-lasting 1.6-liter diesel design churning out 137 hp. GMC introduced the diesel option for consumers who favor the durability of the air compression engines, Shaw said.

The Terrain is economical, with fuel mileage averaging 30 mpg on the highway, 26 city for a combined 28 mpg. Buyers can choose from the entry-level SLE edition, mid-range SLT and top-end Denali, he said. The models are "comfortably equipped" for a smaller-sized sport utility auto, Shaw said.

A central touch screen showcases the back-up camera, now in high definition, and also provides 360 degree views for upgraded visibility and safety. The touch screen is also your source for navigation, communications and audio modes - including Bluetooth hands-free phone use. The system will display the name of artists and songs while in AM/FM radio mode or when listening to satellite channels.

In a modest but telling revamp, the manufacturer expanded dash panel space, and with the absence of a gear-shifter, there’s now room for large cup holders and an overall spacious cabin. GMC decided against installing video screens for the back seats, instead choosing to add an extra Universal Serial Bus (USB) connector and auxiliary ports for users to hook up Apple Play and Android audio versions, or other smart phones and tablets. There's a WiFi hot spot that captures 3 gigabits of memory, which motorists and passengers can use to call up Google Maps. Also, owners can log onto the myGMC Mobile app to remotely start the vehicle, unlock doors from out of state and schedule maintenance and periodic reminders.

"You're taking your basic vehicle and making it into a premium vehicle," Shaw says.

Additional features include:

• Auto stop technology, in which the vehicle shuts off in temporary stop situations such as traffic lights to conserve fuel while automatically restarting after the driver takes his or her foot off the brake.

• Heated seats, including cloth material, which is unusual, Shaw said.

• An information display on the dash behind the steering wheel, showing revolutions per minute on the tachometer, miles to empty on the fuel gauge and the current speed limits.

• Safety features that include front pedestrian braking, adaptive cruise control, lane change alert with side blind alert and lane departure warnings.

• Door grab handles to grasp on tight turns.

• Tilt and telescopic wheel.

• Three-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 60,000-mile power train coverage.

• OnStar instant information system, which is free for the first month; and an SOS signal that contacts emergency medical services.

Shaw feels that the new model is a perfect fit for a range of buyers – college-aged drivers to small families.

During a cruise behind the wheel of the Terrain SLT, the vehicle offered a silky ride with stable suspension, 17-inch wheels, roomy seats and low noise levels.

The version's 170 hp engine provided sufficient turbo-charged power to speed up on four-lane roads or when moving through traffic. Brakes stopped the car smoothly with no jerkiness. As a smaller SUV, the Terrain handled well on sharp turns, too.

Rear seating was spacious, and the cargo area broad. The seats folded down and lifted up manually but without difficulty.

As far as performance quibbles, the 170-hp SUV lagged a little in reaching higher speeds: spending a couple thousand dollars extra for the 242-hp model would be worth the price for drivers who want more performance.

Overall, the SUV is an admirable and impressive upgrade for GMC — proving to be an enjoyable, tech-friendly crossover able to please young families, empty nesters or professionals on the go.

For more information and photos, visit www.postandcourier.com/automotive.

Reach Jim Parker at 843-937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.

SPECS:

MODEL:

2019 GMC Terrain.

TYPE:

Compact crossover SUV.

PRICE:

$25,000-$42,430.

ENGINES:

1.6 liter turbo-charged, 2.0 liter turbo, diesel.

HORSEPOWER:

170 (1.6 liter), 242 (2.0 liter), 137 (diesel).

SEATING:

Five passengers.

TRANSMISSION:

Nine-speed automatic with push button gear shift.

POWER TRAIN:

Front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive.

FUEL ECONOMY:

25-39 mpg.

WHEELS:

17 inch standard, 18 inch optional.