Over the past few years, we have seen a surge of off-road capable pickup trucks flooding the industry and stealing everyone’s attention. From the almighty 702-horsepower Ram 1500 TRX with standard Jump Detection and Launch Control features, to the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon that won our hearts as well as snatching two straight Truck of the Year awards; the market has expressed an overall excitement for them and for those who are not looking to spend $50K+ for a lifestyle truck, here’s a 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 for you.
With the addition of the AT4 trim on the Terrain, Canyon, and Yukon, GMC has now made a premium off-road variant available across its entire lineup. Those with a keen eye will notice unique black chrome trims on its front grille, fog light surrounds, and rear appliques the distinguish the AT4, and the Canyon AT4 receives a set of rugged 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires that improves both the aesthetics and its capability. The Canyon AT4 only comes in a crew cab configuration but buyers have an option for a long box or a short one. We quite like the understated looks of the Canyon AT4, and those seeking more in-your-face ruggedness will like the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2.
Powered by a naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 engine, the Canyon AT4 produces 308 horsepower at 6,800RPM, and 275 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000 RPM. There is an optional 2.8-litre Turbo-Diesel engine that outputs 181 horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque for those who need the extra pulling power. We observed strong acceleration off the line with the Canyon AT4 and the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox is adequate in bringing power to all four wheels.
Power can be directed to all four wheels in either the 4-HI or 4-LO modes, or to the rear wheels only for some awesome snow drifts. Buyers looking to tow with the Canyon AT4 can do so up to its max towing capacity of 7,000 pounds (3,175 kg) and take advantage of its StabiliTrak with Trailer Sway Control system.
On top of the 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratec tires, other dedicated off-road features for the Canyon AT4 include an Off Advanced Hill Descent Control System that comes in handy when trying to navigate any steep declines and a transfer case shield underneath to protect the two-speed Autotrac Transfer Case in rough terrains. Those who frequent the wilderness should consider adding the optional front and mid skid plates, sport bar and lighting package, and mud guards.
Off-road capability often equates to a decreased on-road ride quality but fortunately the 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 performed quite well during our urban runs. As expected, the thick and rugged tires were noisy and caused the Canyon AT4 to be a bit skittish at highway speeds, but the off-road suspension system did an admirable job in keeping control as well as managing a comfortable ride. The ride quality is noticeably better than what we observed in the Gladiator Rubicon and on par with the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro.
Fuel economy is rated at 14.0L/100km in the city and 9.9L/100km on the highway. Our observed fuel economy figure came in at about 13.0L/100km on a combined setting. The Canyon AT4 accepts regular grade gasoline and has a 79-litre fuel tank.
GMC has taken utilitarian approach when designing the Canyon AT4’s interior. We observed a basic and practical design with most buttons well within reach. The Canyon AT4 still uses a key turn ignition which felt archaic but offered us a sense of dependability. The leather seating surface is easy to keep clean which is always important for a truck, and there is good visibility all around.
As a purpose-built vehicle, there are not much more comfort features outside of the standard heated front seats and automatic climate control. We like that GMC has equipped the Canyon with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and the touchscreen resolution is acceptable with decent backup camera image quality. Drivers who wants additional drivers assistance can opt for the optional Driver Alert Package that comes with Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning for just $415.
The 2021 GMC Canyon starts at an affordable $29,998 with a base 2.5-litre engine. The AT4 trims start at $41,898 for the cloth V6 model, and the leather V6 like our tester will start at $44,098. Add in the optional Trailering Package ($295) and Spray-on bedliner ($550) and we arrived at an as-tested sticker of $44,943. It competes in the hotly contested compact pickup segment versus a Tacoma as well as the Ford Ranger. We prefer the Canyon and the Tacoma’s V6 engines over the Ranger’s 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine, with the Canyon having a slight edge over the Tacoma in its towing capacity.
At the sub-$50K price point, the 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 is a good work truck that offers rugged good looks for those that want their truck to double as a lifestyle choice. It has a bit more off-road capability than the standard Canyon model but is not nearly as off-road capable as the heavy hitters like the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon or the Toyota Tacoma 4×4 with the TRD Pro packages. Its lower price tag and compliant ride quality is suitable for anyone wanting to look the part but not ready to commit to a full-on off-road truck.