Recently, GMC launched a new sub-brand classification aimed in a different direction with AT4 models, successors to previous All Terrain trim versions, updated to appeal to off-road-oriented customers.
Canyon, sibling of the Chevrolet Colorado, is GMC’s mid-size entry into the pickup segment. And the new 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 tested here follows previous AT4 applications across the Sierra and Sierra HD pickup lines, as well as on the Acadia and Yukon models.
Sure, you can get into the Canyon pickup lineup for under $30,000 if you stick with the base Elevation Standard trim in Extended Cab configuration with the optional 2.5-liter four banger 6AT 2WD powertrain. But that would leave you with limitations on space, power and, even worse, with two-wheel drive in a pickup truck.
Parachuting in at a higher MSRP of $41,898, the Canyon AT4 may seem significantly more expensive, but it starts with the roomier Crew Cab layout, adds more content and utilizes a virile V6 engine, which puts power down through a 8-speed automatic and, of course, through a standard four-wheel drive system (because this is the Great White North, after all!).
The 3.6-liter V6 produces 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. As tested here, this V6 pulls with power and sings with a baritone growl while earning respect and a 3,175 kg (7,000 lb) towing rating. The 8-speed automatic tranny comes with tow/haul mode, manual shift buttons and shifts gears smoothly.
Active Fuel Management can disable two cylinders in light cruising conditions, and the V6 barely breaks the 1,500 rpm mark at highway speeds. Nevertheless, this engine is not very frugal. Fuel economy is estimated at 14L/9.9L/100 km (city/hwy). My real world results came in at 12.5L/100km (cam).
A late addition 2.8-liter diesel engine producing 181 hp and a hefty 369 lb-ft of torque and mated to a 6-speed automatic delivers improved fuel economy of 11.7L/7.8L/100km (city/hwy), combined with even more towing oomph. But that would also require some hard thinking given the diesel option’s $7,300 extra cost. The higher the price climbs, the more you might consider bumping up to the full-size Sierra lineup.
The 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 adds off-road cred with 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires mounted on 17-inch aluminum wheels. The aggressive tread pulled me through mud, gravel and snow without the accompanying highway awl on the pavement. An AT4-specific off-road tuned suspension adds capability and is complemented by an Advanced Hill Descent Control System. The 4WD system has 2Auto, 4H and 4L settings and features an Eaton G80 rear automatic locking differential. The AT4 also adds a skid plate to protect the Autotrac 2-speed transmission on rockier roads and trails. Additional skid plates are available.
This whole package is wrapped in a strong but subtle exterior treatment, which looks quite ordinary in Summit White, as tested here. The big wheels and tires make a statement but there are no cheeky painted logos or branding, just small AT4 badges on the front doors and tailgate. A large dark chrome grille marks the front instead of Denali bling, while jewel-like LED fog lights and red reset hooks add some final accents.
Weekend warriors looking to go all-in on a more “in-yér-face” off-roader may want to consider more expensive Chev Colorado ZR2 or Jeep Gladiator Overland options, or at least browse GMC’s accessory list of sport bars, off-road lighting kits and other add-ons.
This short box version offers 1,169 liters of cargo space. There are slots for cargo separation, tying loops and the box has been treated with a spray-on bedliner ($550). A long box version ($600), with about a foot longer box length, is also available and would bump cargo space up to 1,413 liters.
Inside, the Canyon AT4’s dimensions feel noticeably tighter than in a full-size pickup truck. But the small seats are comfortable enough, there is room for five average adults and I could even “sit behind myself”. The rear seat folds up to accommodate more secure storage in the cabin or to access storage spaces under the seat. The interior design is unremarkable but the AT4 logo is boldly embroidered on the front headrests and there is unique Kalahari stitching on the steering wheel, dashboard and armrest soft surfaces.
The Canyon lineup will continue with minor changes for the next few years before a new third-generation version, likely reworked with a new platform, potential turbo-four and 10-speed tranny applications, debuts sometime around 2023. And with all the buzz about GMC: s new electric Lobster EVit will surely be part of Canyon electrification and/or hybridization in the future.
Tthe vehicle was provided to the author by the car manufacturer. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to e.go approval.