SAN DIEGO – Pickup trucks have been popular in the United States for decades, but for many years they were primarily work vehicles.
They were tough and robust and built to last. When my grandfather bought a new Chevy farm car more than 30 years ago, he was disappointed to hear that he could not buy one without a radio. He wanted the servants to work, not sit in the truck and listen to music.
And now we have really gone the other way. Some of the most expensive new vehicles on the road are trucks, with Ford selling luxury parts with names like Platinum and Limited. But GMC has perhaps the best luxury truck of all: the Denali.
Denali is a huge brand for GMC, and I have met more than a few owners who say they did not buy a GMC truck – they bought one Denali. And the focus on luxury has served them well.
But at some point in recent years, the marketing guides at General Motors saw a pickup market fill up with stylish off-road truck packages. Ford now has Tremor, and RAM offers the Power Wagon. Of course, GMC needed something to compete and came up with AT4.
It stands for All-Terrain 4 (as in four-wheel drive), and I tested the GMC Canyon AT4 this week. Even if I did not take it off-road, I have a much more critical judgment to make: it looks fantastic.
This is an important thing in an off-road truck. Most of them will never ride terrain, beyond perhaps a dirt forest trail that a Toyota Camry could make easy to work with. So for many people, the look of the truck is what really matters.
That’s why people put huge lifting kits on their trucks. They want giant tires and gigantic attitudes, and they do not care that it makes their trucks inefficient and a safety risk to them and everyone else on the road.
GMC got this memo loud and clear, as Canyon is soiled in cosmetic upgrades (and some functional ones).
The Canyon AT4 in stock costs $ 40,000 and includes a two-speed gearbox, an off-road suspension package with automatic rear differential locking, gearbox cover plates and more. It is a well-equipped vehicle.
But add the AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition package for $ 3,195, and you’ll get all sorts of great-looking upgrades. There’s a spray-on bed liner, offroad rock rails, a suspension leveling kit, 17-inch gloss black wheels, black AT4 badges, a black exhaust tip, and front and mid-slip plates.
OK, yes, a couple of them are functional, but what really matters are all the black trim pieces. My truck came in Summit White, which made all the black accent pieces shine. The large, lumpy off-road tires lifted the truck nicely, and the subtle mix of chrome (on the GMC logo and front grille) and black details (most everywhere) appeared.
And do not forget the bright red towbars at the front, an AT4 staple. When it comes to looks, the Canyon AT4 is a clear winner. But how is it everywhere else?
Well, the V6 under the hood is reasonable but uninspiring, and the interior is dated and in need of a refresh. But it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto paired with a Bose stereo, as well as OnStar and built-in AT&T 4G LTE-powered Wi-Fi that is standard in all GM vehicles nowadays. What would Grandpa have thought of that feature, I wonder?
It’s not the most safety-conscious vehicle, with lane departure warning and collision warning ahead in the $ 395 Driver Alert package. I can not understand how these features (and much more in addition) are not standard now in a modern vehicle.
For example, if you buy a Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro (an excellent competitor to this particular vehicle), you get Toyota’s full safety suite standard. There is automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and more, everything is included in the price. But GM continues to hide safety features in top-notch trim packages that buyers have to pay extra for, which is disappointing.
But apart from these weaknesses, the Canyon AT4 is a fantastically good-looking medium-sized truck with bright red towbars and off-road chops to match. It will probably be easy to deal with whatever the owners throw at it, and if it can not, there is a litany of aftermarket sellers who are just too eager to improve GMC’s work.
However, I do not know if they will be able to make it look better.