2021 GMC Canyon AT4 first test review: Still cute

GMC Canyon Full Overview

The GMC Canyon AT4 is the carmaker’s off-road midsize pickup, but don’t think of it as the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2’s twin sibling. Canyon AT4 has some terrain candy but lacks the nice suspension, front cabinet and other robust parts of the ZR2, even though both trucks share the same basic setting and drivelines.

It’s no secret that we love the Chevy Colorado – we’ve twice named it our truck of the year, and it’s won every single comparison of mid-size pickups since its launch, most recently the Mojave Road comparison where the ZR2 Bison beat the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and Jeep Gladiator Rubicon. The mechanically related Canyon is also a cool truck, and recently GMC has given it some updates to keep it fresh. AT4 is the latest available trim, and the Performance Edition package adds some extra terrain candy to the Canyon while maintaining a great ride on the road.

What is even AT4?

If you’re confused about what’s what, here’s an update. For 2021, the standard Canyon AT4 gets beefy 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires, an off-road-tuned suspension, an auto-locking rear differential plus hill control. Based on that, the Performance Edition package fits a 1-inch lift to the front suspension, removes the front air dam and adds more chassis and side protection against potential damage to the joint. The lifting of the suspension and the removal of the air dust should help to give a slightly better approach angle. This package is only available in AT4 and costs $ 3,195.

To differentiate the AT4 from other trim, the GMC made some changes that make this Canyon look uglier. All exterior chrome has been replaced by a matte black edge, the new grille is larger and adopts a different pattern, and the red restoration hooks give the Canyon AT4 a little more personality. Black mirror covers, black door handles and AT4 marks complement the exterior look.

In addition to adding off-road hardware, the Performance Edition package further fine-tunes the Canyon AT4’s appearance with the addition of unique 17-inch black wheels, a glossy black performance exhaust system and carbon-black AT4 logos (instead of red). The package also includes a spray pad and all-weather mats.

How does Canyon AT4 feel on the road?

Our GMC Canyon AT4 came with the standard 3.6-liter V-6 engine, which produces 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. The 181 hp 2.8-liter 369-lb-ft turbodiesel L-4 engine can be purchased for $ 3,730, but the four-cylinder gas engine is not available on this trim. A two-speed transfer case is standard on AT4.

Despite the terrain-oriented suspension, the Canyon AT4 drives really well on the sidewalk. The trip is quiet and peaceful, especially for a pickup. The chassis feels planted on the road, and the steering is well balanced. Even if it’s not super fast, the V-6 engine provides plenty of torque to get started. The gears of the eight-speed automatic are soft and timely, and the gearbox does not chase after gears.

On the track, the Canyon AT4 accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds and completed the quarter-mile in 15.2 seconds at 92.2 mph. It is exactly in line with other medium-sized trucks like its most direct competitor, the Ford Ranger Tremor, which hit 60 mph in 7 seconds flat and crossed the quarter-mile in 15.3 seconds at 91 mph. “Sufficient power, agile gearbox,” said associate road test editor Erick Ayapana.

We know that handling performance at the border is not the strength of any terrain pickup, but as part of our instrumented tests, road test editor Chris Walton drove Canyon on our eight-digit test. Unsurprisingly, he found plenty of understeer due to the terrain tires, but was pleasantly surprised at how eager the transmission was to kick down the corner exits. “The brakes are probably the best aspect of this vehicle,” he said. And in fact, the Canyon stayed from 60 mph at 130 ft — 10 feet shorter than the Ranger Tremor.

Unfortunately, we could not get to the trails this time, but we hope to be able to put Canyon AT4’s terrain gear to the test in the near future.

Inside the Canyon’s Cabin

Like many other GM products, the interior of the Canyon AT4 lacks any kind of wow factor. Even if the cabin does not look or feel bad, it does not really shine either. In addition to the AT4 logos sewn on the front headrests and the addition of red contrast stitching, the interior of the Canyon AT4 is the same as the other upholstery. An 8.0-inch touch screen is standard in the Canyon range, and ours came with navigation, an additional cost of 995 USD. Given that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, we recommend that you skip the factory navigation option, as most drivers are likely to use Google Maps or Apple Maps to get around. However, we would probably keep the Bose premium sound system ($ 395), as it sounds crisp and sharp.

For a medium-sized truck, the Canyon’s rear seat space is a bit limited. Our AT4 was the crew cabin, the short bed configuration, and those sitting in the back seat will find legroom more cozy than comfortable. Standing height and hip space are quite spacious, but all adults who are 6 feet or taller will notice the lack of legroom.

We will probably not see a new or redesigned interior until a new generation of Canyon arrives, which, given the age of this GMC, is probably not that far away. Interior elements such as the switchgear and instrument panel look quite old, and with GMC trying to differentiate itself from its Chevy siblings, we expect more attention to detail next time.

Should I buy it?

2021 The GMC Canyon AT4 is a fantastic little truck that does many things well. Its driving and handling are excellent for a pickup, and the chassis feels planted even on crooked roads. The terrain-oriented model is another option for those who occasionally drive on the trails, but keep in mind that this is not a Colorado ZR2.

For $ 45,980, the GMC Canyon AT4 with the Performance Edition package beats us like a bargain. The prices of medium-sized pickups have skyrocketed, but Canyon provides good value for what it delivers. We just wish its interior felt newer.

Pros:
Fast ride
Quiet cottage
Refined driveline

Cons:
Limited space in the rear seat
Outdated interior
Not as capable as the Chevy Colorado ZR2

Looks good! More details?

SPECIFICATIONS 2021 GMC Canyon V6 AT4
BASIC PRICE $ 39,595
PRICE AS TESTED $ 45,980
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
ENGINE 3.6L / 308 hp / 275-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSFER 8-speed automatic
PERSONAL WEIGHT (F / R DIST) 4,587 lb (57/43%)
WHEELBASE 128.3 inches
Length x width x height 212.4 x 74.3 x 70.6 inches
0-60 MPH 6.8 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.2 sec @ 92.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 km / h 130 feet
PAGE ACCELERATION 0.73 g (average)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.6 sec @ 0.57 g (average)
EPA CITY / HWY / COMB FUEL ECON 17/24/19 mpg
ENERGY SHARES, CITY / HWY 198/140 kWh / 100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.99 lb / mil

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