2016 GMC Canyon 4WD SLT Crew CabPosted on June 6th, 2016
Midsize pickup combines value and versatility
By Nina Russin
Buyers looking for versatility but not needing the towing capabilities of a full-size pickup truck should seriously consider the midsize GMC Canyon. The Canyon’s dimensions aren’t significantly different than that of the full-size Sierra. The Canyon’s wheelbase is about 13-inches shorter for the crew cab, and the truck is six-inches narrower.
But there’s a significant difference in cost and fuel economy. Pricing for the Canyon starts at $21,880 as compared to $27,815 for the Sierra. The available Duramax turbo-diesel engine on the Canyon test truck averages 29 miles-per-gallon on the highway: seven MPG higher than the EcoTec V-6 available on the Sierra.
The biggest reason for sizing up to the Sierra is its 12,000-pound towing capacity versus 7600 for the Canyon. Bottom line: if you’re planning to tow a travel trailer buy the Sierra, but if the most you’re planning to tow is a couple of jet skis, save some money and get the Canyon.
Base price for the four-wheel drive test truck is $37,450 excluding the $925 destination charge. Options include the diesel engine that comes with a tow/haul trailer brake controller package, Bose premium audio system, eight-inch color touchscreen with navigation and Intellilink infotainment, spray-on bed liner and an active safety package including forward collision and lane departure warning. Final MSRP is $44,365.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
This week I put the new Canyon through its paces in some unusually hot weather, with daytime temperatures exceeding 115-degrees Fahrenheit. The test drive included time on surface streets and highways in Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as on rural roads through the Gila River Indian Community south of town. The Canyon was up to every task put in its path, from loading up the cargo bed with gear to keeping occupants cool in the record heat.
The fact that a 2.8-liter engine can provide adequate power for a midsize truck is nothing short of amazing. Although the engine might seem a bit short on horsepower with a peak rating of 181 HP, its 369 pound-feet of peak torque available from 2,000 RPM gives the Canyon exceptional power off the line, as well as its 1470-pound payload capacity.
Unlike diesel engines of former years, the 2.8-liter block in the Canyon is quiet, with no noticeable diesel tick and no turbo lag. The six-speed automatic transmission works quite well with the engine, progressing smoothly through the gears and no obvious shift shock under normal driving conditions.
The suspension consists of an independent front end with coil-over shocks and live rear axle. The solid rear end makes the truck better suited for towing and has no noticeable effect on its ride: even on the highway there is none of the hop that can plague trucks with live rear axles. A locking rear axle standard on the SLT gives the truck better traction on uneven dirt trails.
Power rack and pinion steering provides ample assist on the low end for maneuverability with solid on-center response on the highway. A 41.3-foot turning circle is pretty good for a truck of this size. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Canyon in firm, linear fashion.
Standard hill start assist and hill descent control give help the driver to maintain directional control on steep terrain. A two-speed transfer case gives the driver low gears necessary for traversing extreme trails.
Visibility around the truck perimeter is good. Convex inserts in the side mirrors minimize enable the driver to monitor several lanes of traffic on either side. A standard rearview camera projects a wide angle view to the back of the truck in the center stack screen when the driver shifts into reverse.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior so occupants in both rows can converse or enjoy the premium audio system.
Convenience features such as satellite radio, a mobile WiFi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and leather upholstery make the Canyon interior feel very much like a luxury car. Power driver’s seat adjustments include a lower lumbar adjustment. I was able to position the driver’s seat high enough for a clear forward view. Heated front seats keep occupants comfortable in cold weather.
The mobile hotspot can be a lifesaver in remote areas where Internet service is sketchy. Standard OnStar enables owners to get turn-by-turn directions on the go and also includes automatic crash response.
A fold-flat rear bench seat adds interior storage when not in use. My husband and I took the opportunity to clean out some closets since we had a truck capable of moving larger items, and found the cargo area easy to load up. The shorter cargo bed is easily capable of holding bicycles. The spray-on bed liner keeps the bed from getting scratched up and protects the cargo.
The GMC Canyon comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring, tire pressure monitoring, a full-size spare tire and daytime running lamps.
GMC’s five-year factory warranty includes two complimentary maintenance visits. GMC builds the Canyon in its Wentzville, Missouri assembly plant.
Like: A versatile midsize pickup truck with off-road capability, a high level of active and passive safety features and excellent fuel economy.
Model: Canyon 4WD SLT Crew Cab
Base price: $37,450
As tested: $44,365
Horsepower: 181 Hp @ 3400 rpm
Torque: 369 lbs.-ft. @ 2000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 20/29 mpg city/highway2016, Best Value Offroad 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, GMC, performance, pricing, standard safety