NEW YORK – General Motors marketers plan to nuance the GMC brand’s 12-year-old “professional grade” positioning to broaden its appeal from its current contractor constituency to buyers such as home designers and chefs.

“The definition of professional grade is vehicles with capabilities that exceed your expectations,” says Tony DiSalle, U.S. vice president-marketing at GMC. “It’s been very successful.”

Given strong demand for well-appointed GMC cross/utility vehicles, DiSalle says it time for the brand to tap other consumers.

“Consumers want to do the things that are important to them extremely well,” he tells WardsAuto during an interview here ahead of the introduction of a Denali model for the ’13 Terrain midsize CUV. “GMC gives them that ability.”

IntelliLink, a standard-equipment infotainment system that links wirelessly with smartphones through a reconfigurable color touchscreen, is one enabler, DiSalle says.

IntelliLink responds to voice commands for phone access, as well as streaming Internet radio applications such as Pandora and Sticher. It also can control an iPod with Gracenote music database technology.

On the Terrain Denali coming this fall, buyers also will receive as standard equipment newly available safety items such as lane-departure and forward-collision warning, capping a technology package DiSalle calls “disproportionate” for a vehicle in its category.

“That’s part of the definition of professional grade in the (middle CUV) segment,” he says.

For ’13, the Terrain will drop its 3.0L gasoline direct-injection 6-cyl. engine for a more powerful but equally fuel-efficient 3.6L GDI 6-cyl. engine. The 3.6L V-6 is mated with a new-generation 6-speed automatic transmission. The gearbox improves drivability, GM says, and tightens shift responses while manual mode.

To accommodate the more powerful 3.6L engine – which GM expects will marginally improve the Terrain’s steady 15% V-6 take-rate compared with an available 2.4L 4-cyl. engine – GM adds dual-flow dampers to the suspension.

DFD allows GM engineers to dial up suspension stiffness for added performance without undue harshness over bumps.

Other key elements of the Terrain Denali include satin bright work for the wheels, rocker-panel inserts and grille. This affords contrast with higher-shine chrome pieces.

For the Terrain’s trademark GMC Denali grille, designers used a new development process to achieve greater depth to its honeycomb pattern.

“We haven’t done anything that extensive in a while,” says Paul Spadafora, chief engineer and vehicle-line director for GM’s global CUVs.

Inside, the Terrain Denali features French stitching on its soft-touch instrument panel; leather-wrapped steering wheel with smoked mahogany wood accents; Denali logos on the backs of its 8-way power seats; smoked mahogany trim on the door panels and Denali-illuminated front-door sills.

Joel Ewanick, GM’s top marketing executive, also has sung praises for the GMC’s clear marketing position. But since coming to the auto maker two years ago, he has said the brand could use some softening to broaden its appeal.

GM’s introduction of the Terrain Denali here ahead of next month’s New York auto show reflects that thinking.

GMC posted a big year in 2011, with sales rising 19.4% to 333,293 units, according to WardsAuto data, outpacing industry growth of 10.2%.

Sales of the Acadia grew 16.1% in its fifth year on the market and ahead of a ’13 redesign, while the Terrain saw deliveries balloon 37.4% with added availability of the popular CUV.

Pricing for the Terrain Denali and models equipped with the 3.6L V-6 will be announced closer to its on-sale date in the third quarter.

jamend@wardsauto.com