2015 GMC Canyon 4WD SLE Crew Short Box Review
by Randy Stern
It has been a long time since smaller trucks got any attention.
I grew up in the San Fernando Valley through the 1970s and 1980s. It is one of the few places in this country where mini trucks were cool during that time. You did not even have to put a bed cover, mag wheels, and/or a suspension lowering kit to enjoy it. It was even cool stock, because it showed you did something useful with it.
Times have changed. So has the pickup truck market. Nationally, consumers went straight for larger trucks than smaller ones. More importantly, these same consumers went for North American brands than North American-built trucks from Toyota and Nissan. By the end of 2013, those two brands still sold smaller trucks – now called mid-sized pickups.
General Motors used to make one of those smaller trucks. Chevrolet and GMC sold their own version, only to find these same buyers moving up their bigger brethren. In due time, the Colorado and Canyon simply disappeared.
These two trucks are now back. They are all-new from the ground up – with a little help of a global team of engineers and designers. They started out by selling in Asia, Australia, Latin America and South Africa before considering a North American version. GM decided to make two distinct versions – one for Chevrolet, and the one you see here – the GMC Canyon.
Having owned a smaller truck in my lifetime, I was curious whether the Canyon could take me back to the days when they ruled the streets of the San Fernando Valley. Or, is this truly a scaled down version of the full-sized pickup that sells in the tens of thousands every month in America?
Most importantly, does the Canyon change the game for pickup trucks, period?
If you compare some of the lines from the global pickup to the North American models, there will be similarities. The frame is about the same, as is other key components. From those points, the North American versions form their own shape. In the case of the GMC, it is turning on the Profession Grade design language with its blunt, huge grille, angles and shapes and an emphasis on an outwardly bold look that speaks to its capabilities.
The configuration of this tester – a SLE Crew Cab with the short box just five-feet two inches long and the All Terrain package – lends itself to be more of a fun truck than one ready for work. The challenge of the mid-sized pickup is to convince business customers of its worthiness as workhorses. If there is a concern, a longer box – six-foot-two inches long – is available with either the Extended or Crew cab. That would be a better solution as a work truck.
Professional Grade also marks the interior of the cab. Again, only a few things are shared with the global pickup inside, but it is clearly a North American affair. For tall drivers, the instrument binnacle is a bit low, but it is fine for a glance on readouts from the switchable TFT screen and of the instruments. The steering wheel is adjustable for height and rake, fitting most drivers. The Intellilink touch screen is at a high position on top of the center stack, where it is reachable from the driver. That would also include the infotainment and climate control switches. Other switches are clearly for North American use – and great to the touch and control.
In the Crew Cab, four to five adults have ample room on pretty comfortable seats. The All Terrain SLE package offer a cloth-leather upholstery combination with the All Terrain badge embossed on the seat backs and red contrast stitching. The front seats offer plenty of bolstering for the torso, but wished for a wider cushion with ample bolstering. The rear seats are actually quite comfortable for drives beyond the city.
Intellilink has certainly improved over the years. For example, GMC’s infotainment system paired and connected a smartphone quickly, as well as emulating Pandora on its side without the use of an extra phone application and made radio presets easier to load. Bose offers an available seven speakers of quality Premium sound throughout the cab.
At launch, GMC (and Chevrolet) offered two engines for its mid-sized pickup: a four-cylinder and a V6. This tester had the 3.6liter High Feature V6 connected to a six-speed automatic transmission and a four-wheel drive system with an autotrac transfer case. This combination has 305 horsepower, but only 269 pound-feet of torque. The result is a lack of power at the low end for passing and accelerating. The transmission tries hard to shift as quickly as possible to keep up. It just takes a bit longer to do so. Once it does, then all gears usually fall into place until reaching that comfortable speed. Keep in mind that this is with a truck without any load or trailer hitched to it.
Trailering is maxed out at 3,500 pounds with a regular towing package in this configuration. Get the Z82 trailering package, and your towing capacity doubles to 7,000 pounds. The payload for this configuration came to 1,550 pounds – not bad, if you consider it has the five-foot-two inch bed.
In today’s truck game, owners expect a more civilized driving experience, especially when there is something inside of the bed or hanging off of the tow hook. The Canyon showed that a mid-sized truck can be smooth on good road surfaces to satisfy the first-time truck owner. Cornering had a bit of a lean to it, but it certainly felt competent and balanced.
Turning the GMC may seem easier than its bigger brother – the Sierra. However, it did take some effort to get tight turns executed. Just a turn or two more compared to some full-sized trucks. There is a tighter turning radius due to its size, and it was used to its advantage plenty of times. On center feel is tight and wheel response is very good overall. Brakes are good, though. It does take some stopping distance, but it is indeed shorter than full-sized pickups. Normal and panic stops were linear and precise.
If there is a consideration for buying a mid-sized truck over a full-sized rig, it would be gas mileage. Though the 18.5MPG average would be better than most pickups, it is below what GM claims it would average.
To get a Canyon, you start off with a four-cylinder, Extended cab, long bed two-wheel-drive SL model for $20,955. This SLE All Terrain Crew Cab, short bed model with four-wheel drive came with a sticker price of $39,090. If you keep on ticking the higher trims, options and other configurations, the final price of a Canyon will go beyond $40,000. In contrast, a similarly equipped Sierra 1500 with the same body configuration, a V8 and trim packages will cost another $7,600.
Why This Ride?
– It a game changer. I bet people love game changers. If this one fits what you do – work, play, use a daily driver for shopping, going out, and so forth…the Canyon will do nicely.
– The payload and trailering numbers are not bad. They are indeed relative to the mid-sized class, but knowing these numbers will help in determining which kind of truck you really need.
– Is it a work truck? Or, it is just for fun? I will submit that it is both. Small businesses and larger enterprises will find a good use for the GMC Canyon for jobs that do not require a full-sized pickup. However, most mid-sized truck buyers just want to use it for fun. It is easy to see a Canyon owner throw a couple of mountain bikes in the bed to head for the trail, tie down some camping equipment or snowboards…you name it! The Canyon is a versatile pickup to be used every day – anywhere you point it.
photos by Randy Stern