The Total Package
Growing up in New York City, I didn’t have my first hands-on experience with a pickup truck until my grandpa down in Virginia bought a late ’80s Dodge Ram D100 when I was about 13. I liked that truck. It had two doors, a bench seat, and an eight-foot-long bed. The air conditioner didn’t work, the tailgate didn’t close properly, and the truck wore a weathered coat of white paint. The only thing particularly luxurious about the truck was the kick-ass Ram’s head hood ornament on the bow. Given my experience with that old Ram, I don’t think my 13-year-old self would’ve recognized the new diesel-powered GMC Canyon Duramax, let alone our 2016 GMC Canyon Crew Cab Long Box SLT 4WD Duramax.
The answer as to why is quite simple: I don’t think I could have ever imagined a truck so capable, upscale, and yet so efficient ever existing. Benefiting from more than 25 years of truck evolution, it’s remarkable just how capable a mid-size pickup truck like the Canyon has become. While a lot of that credit can rightfully be placed with features such as the truck’s fully boxed frame, the new Duramax 2.8-liter turbodiesel I-4 deserves a nod as well.
Also found under the hood of our 2016 Truck of the Year-winning Chevrolet Colorado, the GMC Canyon’s Duramax engine puts out 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Rear drive is standard, but our tester was equipped with the optional full-time four-wheel-drive system. The powertrain is good enough to get the Canyon from 0-30 mph (0-48 km/h) in 2.6 seconds and 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in 9.1 seconds. The quarter mile takes the Canyon Duramax a respectable 16.8 seconds at 80.2 mph (129 km/h). All things considered, the GMC can also brake and handle pretty well for a truck, needing 123 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph, and completing our figure eight in 29.3 seconds at 0.55 g average.
While that’s all well and good, speed and handling performance aren’t the reasons people buy trucks like our Canyon Duramax tester Canyon Duramax buyers are after the most capable and efficient small truck they can find. To that end, the Canyon really delivers. For starters, there’s its fuel economy. The EPA rates the Canyon 4×4 at 20/29/23 mpg (11.8/8.1/10.2 L/100km) city/highway/combined, and we achieved 22/30/25 mpg (10.7/7.8/9.4 L/100km) during our Real MPG testing. As for capability, the Canyon is rated to tow up to 7,600 pounds (3,447 kg) or haul up to 1,341 pounds (608 kg) in its 6-foot long bed, and it does both quite well. With the rough equivalent of a Harley-Davidson Sportster in its bed (represented by five 100-pound (45-kg) rubber mats), the Canyon shrugged off the weight. The ride still remains supple and complaint with 500 pounds (227 kg) in the bed, with the Duramax engine shrugging off the extra poundage. The Davis Dam frustration test, a worst-case-scenario loaded 50-70 mph (80-113 km/h) acceleration run up the steep Davis Dam grade, further proved its chops, with the Canyon quickly downshifting and surging up the grade, needing 10.9 seconds and 970 feet. “Never feels slow or stressed,” noted editor-in-chief Ed Loh. “Efficiency is great as well, though if I’m honest, I was expecting slightly better numbers—then again, I can’t believe that I’m complaining about an indicated 28 mpg (8.4 L/100km) while carrying 500 pounds (227 kg).”
The Canyon Duramax also performed competently during our trailering tests too. Loaded with a 3,000-pound (1,361-kg) trailer half what it’s rated to tow the Canyon accelerated from 0-60 mph in 15.9 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 20.2 seconds at 66.5 mph (107 km/h). With a trailer matching its 7,600-pound (3,447-kg) tow rating, the Canyon needed 27.7 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph and 23.9 seconds to complete the quarter mile at 56.7 mph (91 km/h).
When run empty, as most midsize buyers do, the Canyon is a pure treat to drive. The ride is supple and well-controlled, with no axle hop and little body roll. As is the case in its Colorado sibling, steering feel in the pickup is exceptional. It’s precise, well-weighted and carlike. “Carlike” is a word that showed up often in the Canyon’s logbook, with many also commenting about the SLT’s luxurious, upscale, and “Buick-like” cabin. “It’s slightly dangerous liking this thing as much as I do,” noted testing director Kim Reynolds. “It sort of signals a preference for cars over trucks as this (and the Colorados) are notably more carlike, in a weird way almost filling the old Ranchero/El Camino role.”
The Canyon’s stellar package is rounded out by its cabin. The joke often goes that GMC only exists so that Buick dealers can sell trucks. Having spent lots of time in the new Canyon, I think that’s generally accurate. Though the color scheme of our tester’s interior was a bit “senior special,” as associate editor Benson Kong put it, the cabin featured nice materials, leather upholstery, and tasteful use of aluminum trim. The interior is rounded out by the Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto-compliant GMC IntelliLink, which has only gotten better since its release. While I’m itching to get some time in the new Canyon Denali, I can’t imagine needing a midsize truck more premium than this Canyon Duramax SLT.
Since its debut last year, the GMC Canyon has been among our favorite midsize pickups, thanks to the capability it brings to its segment. With the addition of the Duramax engine, the Canyon is now an even more complete package. While the Canyon Duramax may be nothing like the trucks of yesteryear, it’s all the better for it.
|2016 GMC Canyon SLT 4×4 Duramax Diesel|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$43,695|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck|
|ENGINE||2.8L/181-hp/369-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 16-valve I-4*|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||224.6 x 74.3 x 56.3 in|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,859 lb (58/42%)|
|ACCELERATION, 0-60 MPH**||9.1; 15.9; 27.7 sec|
|QUARTER MILE**||16.8 sec @ 80.2 mph; 20.2 sec @ 66.5 mph; 23.9 sec @ 56.7 mph|
|DAVIS DAM “FRUSTRATION”***||10.9 sec, 970 ft|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||123 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.74 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||29.3 sec @ 0.55 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||20/29/23 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||0.95 lb/mile|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||189/130 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||22/30/25|
|**Unladen; towing 3,000-lb trailer; towing 7,600-lb trailer|
|***50-70-mph passing acceleration with 500 pounds of payload|