2015 GMC Canyon 4WD SLT Second Drive

Living With the Smaller GMC in the ’Burbs

Jun 15, 2015
After sampling the new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon at our 2015 Pickup Truck of the Year comparison test, we were curious to see how the trucks would do in the day-to-day slog of Southern California. We received a 2015 Canyon 4WD SLT short-bed crew cab for a week to see what it was like to live with. Our initial impressions of it being an exceptionally refined and quiet truck for its class were confirmed. However, our impression of it being overpriced for its size and class were as well. All-in, our tester rang up a startling $41,785 tab, including $925 destination.
Well-Equipped, Priced to Match
Don’t get us wrong; we really like the Canyon and Colorado and believe the pair has definitely raised expectations for refinement and engineering in the class. But at that price, decently equipped fullsize models start to look like a tempting option. So what exactly do you get for that sum? Our model was definitely dressed to the nines with an 8-inch IntelliLink color touchscreen with navigation, an OnStar 4G LTE mobile hotspot, chrome running boards, a soft tonneau, Bose premium audio, a sprayed-on bedliner, Driver Alert package, polished exhaust tip, and sliding rear window. The SLT trim also includes standard leather seating, leather-wrapped wheel and shifter, and four-way power driver seat. Conspicuously missing are memory seats and mirrors, a power sliding rear window, and a power passenger seat. We assume those are deliberate omissions to make room for the inevitable Denali model in the future.
Photo 2/8   |   2015 GMC Canyon SLT Dash View
Car Heart
The Canyon’s 3.6L V-6 makes ample power on paper for the class with 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. In everyday driving, the powertrain combo with the six-speed automatic mostly delivers. However, as noted in our “Of the Year” testing, we were annoyed at the part-throttle behavior of the transmission, which seemed to constantly want to upshift at inopportune times, making for 1,500 to 5,000-rpm surges for passing or acceleration. That was still an issue with our tester. A more intelligent part-throttle calibration that recognizes there’s a place between light-load cruising and full-throttle acceleration would be an improvement.
Although the distinction between “car” and “truck” engines is less clear than it’s been in decades past, there’s no denying the roots of the Canyon’s V-6 in GM’s passenger car lineup. A variant of the 3.6L serves as the base engine in the Chevrolet Camaro and is widely used in Cadillac products. Consequently, its power delivery is more in line with that expected of cars, meaning a little short on low-end torque but plenty of high-rpm pull. Some fine-tuning of the part-throttle transmission calibration would likely mask much of the peaky power delivery.
The Canyon’s ride is on the firm side but not punishing. Although it wouldn’t be our first choice for autocross day, the Canyon is nimble and tossable enough to keep commuting from feeling like a chore. GM reports that many Canyon and Colorado buyers are coming from cars and crossovers, and the Canyon’s driving dynamics should make truck newcomers feel comfortable.
Diesel Wait
Of course, the real prize we’re waiting for from GM’s new midsizers has yet to be revealed. That’s the 2.8L Duramax I-4 diesel due for the 2016 model year. Its tentative horsepower rating of 181 is nothing spectacular, but the real story is its meaty 369 lb-ft of torque, a full 100 lb-ft more than the V-6. We’re expecting this engine to deliver more than 30 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined, as well as an even more formidable max towing figure than the current V-6’s 7,000 pounds. However, the downside is we also expect it to add between $2,000 and 3,000 to the sticker price, making a $45,000 Canyon a real possibility.
Is the Canyon worth its stiff price tag? Value is a subjective measurement, and for some, the Canyon’s contemporary design, condo-friendly size, and relatively good fuel economy might be exactly what they’re looking for. But in the extra-value-meal American culture, we often associate quantity with value, and using that yardstick, our close to fully loaded tester comes up a little short. We’ll reassess the value equation once the diesel model visits our office.

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