As discussed earlier today, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado is a new standout in terms of midsize trucks. But the Colorado wasn’t the only pickup the General Motors team brought to San Diego for us to sample. Also along for the ride was a pack of GMC Canyons, the slightly more expensive and polished platform-mate to the Chevy.
There’s no question that the Canyon and the Colorado are a lot alike under the skin – almost entirely, in fact – so GMC has worked to first create some daylight between the two trucks by way of sheetmetal. This is most obvious from the front view, where the blocky and blingy GMC grille replaces the more subdued tone and shape seen on the Chevy’s nose. Projector headlights with LED running lights come as standard, and, again, with the squared-off look that is typical of the brand. 16-inch aluminum wheels come stock on the GMC, too, with the 17-inchers seen on my photo truck offered as standard equipment on the top-trim SLT.
GMC considers the Canyon to be the only premium truck in the segment (which is clearly true), and the team has spent a ton of time and effort to get the interior correct to prove out that point. “Any trim that looks like metal, is metal,” I was told at the product briefing, a certain indication that the company is serious about bringing a new class of buyer to a truck segment that it hopes to redefine.
But it’s not all chrome and heated leather seats. GMC has delivered a truck that’s pretty swell to spend time in, from soup to nuts.
- The 2.5-liter four-cylinder that was the focus of my First Drive of the Colorado is the standard engine for the Canyon as well, but the truck I drove was equipped with the far punchier (and thirstier at 17 miles per gallon city, 24 highway) 3.6-liter V6. Not only does the six make a healthy 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, but the throttle modulation and automatic transmission programming both work to let you take advantage of the power in short order.
- For the sake of reference, though GMC doesn’t offer up any performance specs like 0-60 times, I can say that the Crew Cab, four-wheel-drive Canyon I drove weighs in at roughly 4,420 pounds, which would give it a power-to-weight ratio that’s just slightly better than a Honda Civic Si. Tell this pickup to giddy-up, and she’ll go.
- Perhaps more pertinently, she’ll also tow. GMC asks a reasonable $250 for the trailering package, which adds a two-inch receiver hitch and four- and seven-pin connectors. So equipped, the midsize Canyon can pull a legit 7,000 pounds, or, as I like to call it “more boat than I can afford.”
- Unladen, handling offered by the GMC truck is part and parcel to its Chevy contemporary. Steering is stable at speed but not quick nor full of feedback, and pushing the Canyon over, well, canyon roads, doesn’t yield particularly stirring results. The ride control is excellent however, when it comes to ironing out uneven surfaces. A cruiser, not a carver.
- As I alluded to above, the interior of this all-boxes-ticked GMC is a pretty excellent place to drive in. Leather and soft-touch surfaces abound here, with nice stitching on the instrument panel, and hide wrappers found on both the steering wheel and the shift lever. Not as cowboyed up as Ram’s Longhorn Laramie package, I’ll grant you, but slightly more sophisticated than that, too.
- Noise, vibration and harshness levels are all very low for a pickup truck – they’re even pretty low when compared with sedans, frankly. I caught a bit of wind rush off of those big, chromed mirrors at highway speeds, but otherwise this is a nice space to cruise and kick the Bose stereo.
- Which brings us to equipment offered. The un-optioned Canyon starts with things like a backup camera, automatic transmission, LED lighting and a chromed rear bumper, but for my money it starts to separate itself meaningfully from the Chevy at the mid-level SLE trim. Stickering for $30,980 you get 17-inch wheels, power side mirrors, foglamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, the far-nicer eight-inch infotainment display and the ability to turn use your truck as a 4G LTE hotspot via OnStar.
- GMC made a big deal about the driveability offered with a midsize footprint, and I can agree that something Canyon-sized feels more graceful around town than does a fullsizer. Still, there’ll be a learning curve for any drivers transitioning out of a compact crossover – like a Honda CR-V or Ford Escape – especially with the longer (six-feet, two-inches) bed size. Having that rear camera and good forward visibility should help in parking lots though.
With a premium look and feel, and the ability to option in to a very large number of bells and whistles, GMC really is breaking new ground for a truck segment that has mostly existed for value shoppers, thus far. The nearly-$40k-as-tested price of the truck you see here proves that Canyon can get expensive in a hurry. But if lessons about luxury-added-specifications can be gleaned from the fullsize truck market though – and GMC most certainly thinks they can - than there could be a lot of money to be found in this new niche.
Profitable or not though, I can at least report that the Canyon’s mixture of good looks, great power, and smooth manners makes for a welcome driving companion. With its brother a Chevy offering a more blue-collar version of the same basic goodness, GM has a one-two midsize punch that could knock the market for a loop.