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2016 GMC Canyon 4WD SLT Duramax

Big Style, Smaller Package

Feb 5, 2016
Photographers: Robert Guio
Going into the 2016 Pickup Truck of the Year test, several judges made no secret of their excitement and anticipation for the GMC Canyon equipped with the 2.8L Duramax diesel. This was the engine we were hoping for all along, and we were eager to see if it lived up to our lofty expectations. We can say after a week of driving and testing, the truck and drivetrain have met our expectations. However, the Canyon’s steep price of entry tempered our enthusiasm somewhat.
The judges predominantly preferred the more truck-like, rugged styling of the Canyon to its Colorado sibling, with a front end largely mirroring that of the larger Sierra. Likewise, the stitched and upholstered dashboard trim in the Canyon gives it a more elegant feel than the Colorado. As with most new GM models, the Canyon is jam-packed with plenty of tech features, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, GMC’s IntelliLink app suite, and built-in OnStar 4G LTE connectivity.
Photo 2/13   |   30 2016 GMC Canyon On Trail
The 2.8L Duramax I-4 diesel brings a unique combination of fuel economy and capability to the midsize segment. Under our on-road payload and tow testing, the diesel delivered on its promise, shrugging off the burden we gave it, accelerating confidently under load, and merging onto the freeway without drama. Unloaded, the Canyon returned fuel economy in the mid-to-high 20s, comparable to most compact crossovers and midsize sedans. However, not many crossovers or sedans can haul 1,400 pounds and tow 7,600.
As expected for an engine making 181 hp at 3,400 rpm and 369 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm tasked with motivating close to 5,000 pounds, acceleration is punchy and adequate, as long as you don’t try to wring the engine out like a Honda VTEC. Keep the engine in its happy place between 2,000-3,000 rpm and it rarely feels underpowered. At idle and under acceleration, there’s no mistaking there’s a diesel under the hood, but the clatter fades into the background at cruising speed. The engine and powertrain are remarkably civilized for a large-displacement diesel I-4. The power curve of the diesel also addresses our biggest gripe with the gas V-6 model and its tendency to want to make dramatic, high-revving downshifts when accelerating or hauling.
Photo 3/13   |   03 2016 GMC Canyon Trailer Hook Up
Although it may seem unfair to compare the Canyon to larger models because of its ambitious pricing, it’s somewhat unavoidable. For not a whole lot more than a well-equipped Canyon, you could get a similarly configured Ram 1500 EcoDiesel or any number of fullsize models with gas V-8s or turbo V-6s. This doesn’t even take into account the often-generous seasonal incentives on fullsize trucks. The Canyon and Colorado have been selling so strongly as of late that incentives and rebates have been largely unnecessary, so at least for the time being, don’t expect to get a massive discount.
This bang-for-the-buck equation will skew even further come 2017, when the Canyon Denali model debuts. We expect a fully optioned Denali 4WD model to approach or top the $50,000 mark, a point at which well-equipped fullsize models start looking attractive.
Photo 4/13   |   60 2016 GMC Canyon Drivers Seat
However, not all truck buyers are looking for sheer quantity. Many prefer the more nimble handling, easy parking, and garage-friendly size of midsize trucks. The addition of the diesel tips the scales toward the fullsize spectrum in terms of towing and payload, while still offering a viable, economical daily driver.
If your needs include a stretch-out back seat for family and kids for five-hour road trips to visit grandma, the Canyon may be a bit on the snug side. However, tipping the scales in favor of the Canyon diesel for road trips are its outstanding fuel economy and dual rear USB power ports for your tech-obsessed preteens.
Photo 5/13   |   30 2016 GMC Canyon On Trail
What would we change on the Canyon? Not much. As-is, it’s a smartly-styled, high-tech, refined entry in the midsize segment. We’d like to see a legitimate off-road package that does away with the low-hanging front air dam. However, after a visit to 2015’s SEMA Show, it appears the aftermarket has embraced the Canyon and Colorado with gusto, so there should be plenty of personalization options to make it your own. At the end of the day, whether the Canyon diesel is a good deal or not is a matter of what you value more: features and packaging or dollar-per-pound quantity.
- Edward A. Sanchez
WE LIKE: Mini-Sierra styling, torquey and efficient diesel, upscale interior trim.
WE DON’T LIKE: Stiff pricetag, somewhat snug back seat.
LEAD IMAGE: The Canyon brings a unique, upscale option to the midsize pickup market.
Photo 6/13   |   63 2016 GMC Canyon Engine
2016 GMC Canyon Duramax
Base Price: $42,500
Price As Tested: $45,280
EPA Fuel Econ (City/HWY/Comb): 20/29/23
Engine: 2.8L Duramax turbodiesel I-4
Horsepower: 181 at 3,400 rpm
Torque: 369 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Accel 0-60 MPH: 9.89 seconds
Quarter Mile: 17.45 seconds @ 80.10mph
Braking 60-0 MPH: 133.96 ft
Accel 0-60 (Payload): 11.62 seconds*
Quarter Mile (Payload): 18.47 seconds @ 75.60 mph*
Accel 0-60 (Towing): 21.33 seconds**
Quarter Mile (Towing): 23.16 seconds @ 62.57 mph**
Weight: 4,793 lbs
Tested Fuel Econ (Average/Best): 24.46/27.32
*1,300 pounds of payload **5,445-pound trailer weight