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2017 GMC Canyon Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2017 GMC Canyon

New Car Test Drive
© 2017

The GMC Canyon midsize pickup, like the Chevy Colorado, offers a smooth ride and a comfortable cabin with the utility of a pickup bed, making it a good alternative to a car.

New for 2017 is the GMC Canyon Denali, intended to offer upmarket comfort and convenience.

Also new for the 2017 GMC Canyon line is a new 3.6-liter V6, slightly more powerful than the one of identical displacement that it replaces, mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission.

Base engine is a 2.5-liter four cylinder making 200 horsepower that’s remarkably adequate for most needs, and which works well with its quick-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission.

Best fuel mileage and towing (7700 pounds) comes from a 2.8-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel that makes an enormous amount of torque and is quite expensive.

The Canyon comes as an extended cab, with rear-hinged rear doors and a small bench seat in the back that can fit groceries or two child seats; or a crew cab, with four full-sized doors and seating for two adults in the rear. The bed lengths are 6-foot, 2-inch and 5-foot, 2-inch.

Four-wheel drive is available, with an automatic mode that works like all-wheel drive in cars. Rear-wheel drive is standard.

Standard safety features include six airbags and a rearview camera, oversized sideview mirrors, and trailer sway control. Forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems are available, rare features for a midsize pickup.

The two-wheel-drive turbodiesel gets an EPA-estimated 22/31 miles per gallon City/Highway, or 25 mpg Combined. The base four-cylinder is rated 20/27/22 mpg with the 6-speed automatic, a touch less with a manual transmission.

The 2017 GMC Canyon 4WD with the new V6 is rated 17/24/19 mpg. It features a cylinder deactivation system that cuts two cylinders when less power is needed and is designed to run on Regular gasoline.

The NHTSA gives the Canyon four stars overall in safety, while the IIHS has only tested it for frontal impact, giving it the top score.

Model Lineup

The 2017 GMC Canyon comes in SL, base, SLE, SLT, and Denali, along with many cabin and powertrain configurations. The SL is priced at a bargain-basement $20,940, and the 4WD Denali tops the line at more than twice that, $42,820. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charges.)

The Canyon SL and base are largely the same, except the SL is more intended for rough work, with its vinyl flooring instead of carpeting; and it has fewer features. Standard equipment on the base includes air conditioning, power windows, power driver’s seat, and USB port.

Canyon SLE adds an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, cruise control, and other features. Also more options are available, including an All Terrain X package for offroad that includes skid plates, hill descent control, and more rugged all-terrain tires.

Canyon SLT, with heated leather seating surfaces and automatic climate control, has been bumped out of the top luxury spot by the new Denali, with cooled seats and a heated steering wheel.

Walk Around

The GMC Canyon midsize pickup has a deliberate and strong family resemblance to the full-size GMC Sierra, a bit less to the midsize Chevrolet Colorado and full-size Silverado. The front fascia is familiar, the tail is similarly tidy, and the squarely flared wheel arches mimic big brother. The shoulder line sweeps up at the rear pillar, a nod to the global market, in particular Southeast Asia where it’s popular.

The Denali has its own grille, wheels, and bolt-on bits that we think detract from the cohesion of the design. We prefer the simpler SLE and SLT. It is a truck, after all.


Canyon’s cabin is rugged and stylish. It fits the image of business truck, but wouldn’t be out of place in a crossover or wagon. The seats, armrests, cupholders, and console shift lever feel almost sedan-like, even more so on the top models with their tasteful aluminum trim and contrasting stitched soft-touch materials. The quality of the trim will embarrass the pedestrian Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, although the Honda Ridgeline is up there with the Canyon.

And it’s convenient. On the instrument panel, a central pod contains the main controls and a display unit, with the gauges behind a beefy steering wheel with controls. There’s ample storage in bins both open and covered, and there’s a storage space under the rear seat of the crew cab. The step-in height is reasonably low, and running boards are available.

Any Canyon is far more comfortable than the Tacoma or Frontier. The front seats are shaped well for passengers of all sizes, they have good bolstering, and a higher seating position still with more headroom than the Frontier or Tacoma. There’s great room to stretch in front, although the second row isn’t particularly good. It’s bolt upright, which wears on passengers especially during a long trip.

But it’s only the Denali that feels notably upscale, even though the fit and finish is a bit short of high end. It’s acceptable on the other models, but given the Denali’s status, the standard is higher.

The extended-cab comes only with the longer 6-foot-2 bed that can accept an optional extender to haul items eight feet long, such as plywood or two-by-fours. The crew cab has front-hinged rear doors, and comes with either the longer bed or the 5-foot-2 bed. There’s a step in the rear bumper to make it easy to climb up into either bed, and a tailgate that’s easy to raise and lower. Also available are 17 tie-down points, a choice of spray-in bedliner or drop-in one, cargo dividers, a system of racks and carriers called GearOn, cargo nets and tonneau covers, a drop-in toolbox, and trailer hitches and harnesses.

Driving Impressions

The base four-cylinder is adequate, making the Canyon an acceptable second car for the family, with its fuel mileage of 22 miles per gallon; its open bed for cargo gives it an advantage over a compact crossover. Its payload ranges from 1450 to 1620 pounds, enough for a bed full of rocks or sand, not much less than a full-size truck.

With 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque, the 2.5-liter engine works hard, but it’s smooth and fairly quiet. It feels better driving around town, where it’s perky. And it’s better with just rear-wheel drive, and the 6-speed automatic that shifts well. The manual is only available in the base model with rear-wheel drive, and we’re not sure why you would want one, almost irrelevant because you can’t hardly get one anyhow.

The most common Canyon will be 4WD with the new 3.6-liter V6, making 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. It comes with 8-speed automatic that we like in other GM vehicles. We’re not sure what’s new about this new V6, besides a bit more horsepower, and we haven’t driven it yet; all we know is that GM promises it will be smoother than the previous V6 that could feel a little gruff.

The four-cylinder turbodiesel is a 2.8 liter making 181 horsepower but more importantly 369 pound-feet of torque. It’s a charmer that only sometimes feels rough, and it works well with the 6-speed automatic. It can easily tow 7700 pounds, only 700 more than the rating for the V6, but the turbodiesel shows less stress because it has 94 more foot-pounds of torque to support acceleration.

Applause for GM for the ride that’s almost level to a sedan, on a conventional suspension that’s comfortably tuned. It rounds off bumps nicely, although like any body-on-frame design, the Canyon transmits a fair share of secondary ride motions to the cabin.

The handling is nimble and cornering confident. It’s not all that much smaller than a full-size Sierra but drives like it is. The electric power steering is weighted well and tracks mostly true.

The four-wheel-drive system is GMC’s AutoTrac, which allows manual selection of 4WD or an Auto mode that frees the electronics to vary the torque between axles depending on traction needs. An automatic locking differential is available on some models.

The GMC Canyon offers the smooth ride and comfortable cabin of a car with the hauling utility of a pickup truck. Three distinct powertrains are available. The Canyon is a much better substitute for a car than are the Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier.

Sam Moses contributed to this report, with Mitch McCullough reporting from New Jersey.

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