Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2019 GMC Canyon All Terrain

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After a week in the 2019 GMC Canyon, the want is strong for a pickup truck of my own. Some of the details might be different for my needs, but there is just no denying the appeal of a pickup. Several weeks ago, in the midst of a small reno project in my garage, I was forced to call up a colleague with a pickup for my lumber run – last week, with a pickup in the driveway, I was free to get whatever I needed whenever I wanted. After completing my project, the Canyon was perfect for the cleanup run to the dump even in this short box configuration, and the crew cab setup meant it was fully compatible with family life.

Both a reasonable family vehicle and a workhorse.

Let’s focus now and talk about the Canyon specifically and what made it so endearing. First of all, it’s a heck of a power plant under the hood when you get the 3.6L V6. The Canyon is available with three powertrain options: a fleet-special 2.5L four-cylinder making 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque; a 2.8L four-cylinder turbodiesel that is ideal for towing duties with 186 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque; and the kick-ass-now-and-take-names-later 3.6L V6 that has a balanced 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. Come to think of it, it felt like a little more and probably was, since GM elected to option this tester with the Power Package that adds a performance intake and cat-back exhaust, which also gives it one heck of growly exhaust note. There is a price to pay at the pumps, of course, its official numbers 14.0 L/100 km in city driving, 9.9 on the highway, and 12.2 combined; but even though we had a fairly balanced mix of driving, it was a cold snap, so we never saw less than 14 and finished at 14.7 L/100 km.

The base 2.5 can be had with a six-speed manual or six-speed auto, and the 2.8 Diesel with a six-speed auto, but the 3.6L V6 gets an eight-speed automatic. The powertrain feels plenty strong for a truck ranging in weight from about 1,800 kg to over 2,000 kg (approx. 3,900–4,500 pounds) depending on configuration and trim. The body is available in three configurations: the Crew Cab can be had with either the Short Box (5'2") or Long Box (6'2"); and the Extended Cab can only be had with the Long Box. The you have your choice of drivertrain: rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Towing capacities are mostly the same for 2WD and 4WD models, but 2WD does offer a bit more max payload over its 4WD counterparts, but probably not enough to sacrifice the usefulness of 4WD. Thanks to the Heavy Duty Trailering package equipped to our tester, its towing capacity was rated at over 3,000 kg (7,000 lb).

The model we tested took that 4WD to another level with the off-road suspension on the All Terrain model, which also includes hill descent control, automatic locking rear differential, and transfer case shield – plus the All Terrain X Package gives it proper off-road tires with a set of 17-inch P265/65R17 Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac all-terrain tires. The All Terrain X package also throws in some extra equipment: spray-on bedliner, black tubular side steps, and rubber floor liners that make it easier to hose off the mud after you’ve gone trekking through bogs.

While we did not take it off-roading, we had it during the first heavy snowfall of the season, and those all-terrain tires aren’t a winter tire compound, but they certainly were effective for clawing their way through the snow and stopping distances were still good. In fact, the tires impressed me a lot as they were not overly loud, even when cruising along at highway speeds. Sure, a set of comfort-oriented all-season tires would be quieter, but considering their capability, it’s was surprising and reassuring how quiet and stable it was at high speeds.

Along with the big chunky off-roading tires, that jacked-up suspension meant that you get good clearance, with over 17 degrees approach angle, 22 degrees departure, 20 degrees breakover with 8.4 inches ground clearance. But again, its manners on paved roads were better than expected, with good stability on the highway and not too much body roll in corners.

This is about as close as a GMC Canyon can get to the Chevy Colorado ZR2. Even though it lacks the Multimatic DSSV dampers and special bumpers that give it superior off-roading clearance; if you’re not planning on some advanced off-roading, but still want a trail-ready truck, this is certainly a good option.

The tall ride height does make getting in a challenge, so if you don’t get the step bars by way of the All Terrain X Package, some other form of side steps are highly recommended and absolutely essential for shorter passengers and kids, especially in muddy areas or snowy climates. Once everybody’s inside, there is decent space even in the back seat, although the seats themselves are flat, and not particularly comfortable. The other thing that bugged me about the seating position for the driver is the lack of a dead pedal. In a truck that can tackle some seriously challenging terrain, a good, wide, sturdy space to plant your foot and brace your body so that you are steady for steering and throttle duties is essential. Even when not extreme off-roading, the dead pedal space is awkward because it’s not flat and there are a couple of ridges that make it impossible to settle your foot comfortably – I would go nuts on a long drive constantly needing to readjust.

While the leg space is quirky and seats a bit flat, the rest of the cabin is quite comfortable. I really liked the look of the All Terrain interior, which can be had in black leather with red stitching and carbon-fibre-themed accents and trim around the cabin. It also adds auto climate control and trailering asset guidelines for the back-up camera, and dresses up the exterior with nicer 17-inch wheels, body-colour bumpers, and unique grille.

The centrepiece of the interior, however, was the infotainment system, which was upgraded to include native navigation, Wi-Fi hotspot, and there was also a Bose speaker upgrade and wireless charging for truly modern accommodations. Most trims include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto anyway, but the system itself is fast and laid out clearly, so it’s easy to use with a minimum of distraction. And although the interior looked good and heated steering wheel and seat kept me cozy, there were some rough edges that my fingers came across, so it tarnishes an otherwise luxurious experience.

And for the price this truck costs, it needs to deliver a luxurious experience. Although the Canyon starts at $23,700, the All Terrain trim starts at over 40 grand and as tested with leather, navigation, that power package and then the $100 A/C tax and $1,795 Destination charges, it totals up to $52,720. Some people will want the smaller dimensions of a midsize truck like this, but for that price there are any number of high-value trims in the full-size trucks if you’d rather more utility than off-road capability.

The 2019 GMC Canyon is a solid truck, and you do get a fair number of features for that steep price, considering it is both a reasonable family vehicle and a workhorse for all sorts of home projects and professional work. Spending a week in it reminded me why pickups are so popular and why I need one, too.

Engine Displacement 3.6L
Engine Cylinders V6
Peak Horsepower 308 hp
Peak Torque 275 lb-ft
Fuel Economy 14.0/9.9/12.2 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 1,574 mm / 5'2" box
Model Tested 2019 GMC Canyon All Terrain Crew Cab Short Box
Base Price $43,300
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,795
Price as Tested $52,720
Optional Equipment
$7,525 – All Terrain X Package (Spray-on bedliner, 17" P265/65R17 all-terrain tires, blackwall tires, Black tubular assist steps, All-weather floor liners) $2,530; Power Package (Performance intake, Cat-back exhaust) $2,575; Dark Sky Metallic $495; Infotainment Audio with Navigation $795; Bose Speakers $685; Heavy Duty Trailering Package (2" receiver hitch, 4-pin and 7-pin connectors, automatic locking rear differential) $295; Engine Block Heater $150