2015 GMC Canyon: First Drive

Canyon SLT 16 II

Looking at the new 2015 GMC Canyon in its natural habitat, moving on the street and highways among midsize sedans, full-size pickups and ubiquitous crossovers, it's not difficult to see why heads are turning: There is plenty to like about this all-new midsize truck.

From the outset, it's clear GM took all of the best experience, information and research collected when re-engineering the larger GMC Sierra half-ton truck and smashed it into this new truck. The assumptions were pretty simple: Everything half-ton pickup buyers liked about the 2014 Sierra 1500 (quality, conveniences, capability) would certainly play well to midsize buyers.

On paper, there is nothing in this truck that isn't about offering a best-in-class experience. And when you look at the competition — the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and some might include the Honda Ridgeline — the new Canyon has a distinct timing advantage. As we noted in our 2015 Chevrolet Colorado First Drive story, the bar has not been set very high in this segment, which has been without a significant upgrade or redesigned product for almost 10 years.

Positioning

Naturally, we can't talk about the 2015 GMC Canyon without first understanding how it sits in the midsize truck arena alongside its sibling, the Chevy Colorado. Both trucks are based off the same platform, share powertrains and have practically identical payload, towing and physical specifications. But when it comes to market positioning in this segment, Chevy and GMC will need to be careful. Fortunately, GM has plenty of experience with other pickup, SUV and crossover "twins" with the same issues.

These two trucks are more differentiated than just about any other Chevy/GMC pair that we've seen, especially in exterior design. Will that be enough for both to carve out a new customer base and keep those buyers satisfied? Much of that is going to depend on both trucks having equally strong and unique marketing messages. If this were Nissan trying to push an Infiniti pickup, or Toyota trying to promote a Lexus with a bed, we're not sure it could work, but GM clearly has enough experience do more.

Canyon AT 1 II

We spent much of our time during GM's media drive event in Southern California north of San Diego testing as many different GMC iterations as we could. Thankfully, we had all trim offerings (Base, SLE, SLT and All Terrain) with both cab configurations (128-inch wheelbase for the crew-cab short bed and extended-cab models as well as the 140-inch wheelbase crew cab with the 6.5-foot bed) and both engine choices (the all-aluminum 2.5-liter DOHC direct-injection inline four-cylinder and the all-aluminum 3.6-liter DOHC direct-injection V-6). At this time, all four-cylinder engines will run 4.10:1 gearing, while all six-cylinder engines will offer 3.42:1 axle gears; however, there seems to be a possibility that GM could offer at 3.73:1 gear for Chevy's Z71 package and the same for the All Terrain--but for now we have to do without it. The I-4 engine with the 4x2 automatic transmission and extended cab will get 20/27/22 mpg city/highway/combined fuel economy, while the V-6 4x2 automatic transmission will offer 18/26/21 city/highway/combined EPA ratings. To see our quick impressions and the Canyon in action, click here for our video.

Exterior

The Canyon is defined by how different it looks from its Chevy brother or the other trucks in the segment. Channeling a more traditional flavor, the Canyon more closely resembles the full-size with the same cut lines over the fenders and on the hood that the bigger Sierra 1500. The grille also offers a more GMC familial design, with a slightly more organic look as the grille and logo seem to be "birthing" their way out of the front of the truck. However, the most distinguishing thing about the Canyon look, especially at night, is the use of LED lighting in the headlight surrounds, along with available projector high- and low-beam headlamps.

The top-of-the-line All Terrain offers soft-touch leather with carbon-fiber-looking inserts in front and backseats, real aluminum accents and special gauge backgrounds. Embossed into the seatbacks is the All Terrain logo, which is also on the dash, center console and is identified outside with three separate badges (both front doors and the tailgate). The package also includes a unique AutoTrac transfer case, similar to the one offered in the bigger half-ton pickups, that includes a full-time all-wheel-drive setting in the 4x4 system that's not available on any other segment pickup (the Ridgeline is purely all-wheel drive without the benefits of a low-range gear). All Terrains will also have unique badging, headlight and taillight surrounds, as well as several interior upgrades.

How It Drives

As you might expect, there is not a lot of significant difference between the driving dynamics of the Canyon or Colorado. The chassis and suspension are the standout features here, capable of offering the smoothest, most comfortable and most controlled ride in the segment, but with very little personality separation. Engineers said that if both new midsize trucks are to lure crossover and SUV buyers into the pickup arena, they would need to be soft-riding, responsive and refined vehicles with the options those buyers need. Not surprisingly — and like many small crossovers and SUVs — you'll find a front sway bar as thick as your wrist under the front independent suspension.

We found the Canyon exceptionally controlled when driven enthusiastically through the canyon roads, with a steering wheel that is not overboosted or too quick to return to center. There is little chassis snap or roll from this midsize player, not something you can say about the competition. This is an easy vehicle to get comfortable with and drive smoothly, no matter your mood. On the highway, we found it quick to downshift in both engine configurations with plenty of power to keep up with traffic and pass the occasional lane hog.

2015 GMC Canyon - Towing_v2 II

We did get a chance to tow a small boat (4,500 pounds) and some watercraft (less than 2,000 pounds) and thought the Canyon performed well with both. We should note that the only way to get the 7,000-pound maximum towing capacity with a Canyon is to order the trailering package (only available with the V-6), which gives you a stronger hitch, a 7/4-pin plug and a Tow/Haul switch for the transmission.

The Tow/Haul setting offered a noticeably improved shifting experience, especially with the bigger load, but we had trouble seeing around or behind the boat with the one-size-fits-all mirrors. With Tow/Haul engaged, we liked how it held a gear longer when accelerating and was quicker to downshift as soon as our foot came off the throttle or started a descent. Canyons (and Colorados) are available with first-in-class safety features like lane departure and forward crash warning systems, just like the much more expensive half-tons.

Pricing

GMC could be seen as taking a bigger risk than the Chevy Colorado because no one has ever tried to offer a premium pickup in the midsize segment, where low prices and high value has always been a primary issues for buyers. GMC thinks it has a good solution to this risk by aggressively pricing the new Canyon relatively close to the Colorado, with specific configurations and a small number of select features only offered on the Canyon. For example, only the Canyon will get the stylized projector/LED headlights (a GMC trait across the lineup), a more sophisticated AutoTrac transfer case (one that offers an all-wheel-drive mode), aluminum interior trim, soft-touch padding on the instrument panel and doors, and a multicolor information center across most of its lineup.

And Canyon is the only midsize pickup to get the fully loaded, top-flight trim package (but no Denali level yet), which will likely have an average transaction price just above or below $40,000. Clearly this an upper limit GM is optimistically hoping bears fruit the same way Ford found its bliss with the F-150 Limited and Super Duty Platinum full-size trucks. 

Final Remarks

As the first premium midsize pickup debuts, it will be interesting to see how the upper-level-trim package sales sort themselves out between Chevy and GMC. Whether we'll see a Colorado High Country or Canyon Denali will likely be decided after the first several months of sales. In the meantime, we like how GM has played to the Canyon's value-packed strengths, offering a ton of seemingly segment-leading technologies and performance in the entry-level vehicles, with a mountain of options and accessories (everything from toolboxes to ladder racks to exhaust tips and more). This is good start for GMC. In fact, this probably bodes well for both brands.

According to the build-your-own GMC Canyon site, the only vehicle currently available for ordering is the crew-cab long bed (starting at $28,575 including destination), but the rest of the lineup will come on line in the next few weeks and includes extended-cab long beds and crew-cab short beds ranging in price from around $22,000 up to $40,000, depending on packaging.

To read the most recent press release, click here.

To read the most up-to-date specifications, click here.

Cars.com images by Evan Sears

 

Canyon AT 11 II

Canyon AT 21 II

Canyon AT 28 II

Canyon AT 25 II

Canyon AT 26 II

Canyon AT 22 II

Canyon AT 20 II

 

 

Comments

I was looking at interiors and various specs and basically that research has killed the Colorado for me. I like the looks of the Colorado better than the Canyon but the Canyon has a much nicer interior. The leatherette in the Colorado looks very cheap and cheezie. I saw a picture of a Canyon where they painted the grill inserts to match the body - that looked really good.

If both trucks are essentially the same mechanically but one has a superior interior, I'm going to buy the one with the better interior. My body doesn't care what the skin looks like but it will care about comfort after a days drive.

@Lou BC--Exactly, if one wants a big truck with a big V-8 buy one but don't complain when someone else wants a midsize. Freedom of choice is a great thing. I agree with you on the Colorado at the very least offer the same options and features on the Colorado as the Canyon. I could easily live with either of these trucks though I prefer the looks of the Colorado.

@Denver Mike you don't know that much about midsize trucks when you brought up the fact that 15' tires had to go. What size tires do you think these twins have? They come standard with 16". I am not as concerned about the size of the wheel but I prefer more tire sidewall than most modern wheels give us because a wider side wall gives a smoother ride and I am not a fan of inner city fads influencing the type of wheels I have on my truck. Maybe Ford will offer spinning wheels with lights in them for that inner city feeling. As for Ford I said Ford will do what is best for them. If you are concerned that my buying any vehicle from Ford will cause them to loose money I want you to rest assured that my wife has switched from Ford back to Honda and that as you stated they don't need my cheapskate business that I burdened them with when I bought a new fully loaded Taurus and a new Escort wagon. I don't want you to lose any sleep over me buying another new Ford. I don't hate Ford but I would not want to burden them with my business when Honda was more than happy to get my business and even sent me a thank you note. I will most likely buy one of these new twins and GM seems to want my business.

@Lou BC--The LT Colorado comes with the same leather option seats as the SLT GMC and not leatherette. The leatherette is trim for the cloth seats. The Canyon allows you to choose a cocoa or black interior where the Colorado has only black. So the interior materials are the same on Colorado and Canyon. The Z71 does not offer leather as an option only the LT but the Canyon comes standard with leather on the top trim SLT. Neither truck offers a full leatherette only leatherette as trim on the cloth seats. I prefer the styling of the Colorado but if I were going to get the top trim I would get the crewcab 4x4 Canyon with tow package block heater, and the cocoa leather seats in possibly the forest green. If I were buying the base truck I would get the 4x2 Colorado in the base model in silver. If I were going to spend the money for a loaded truck I would just get the Canyon because hands down it is the most luxurious and the price difference is not that much more. As I said before either the Colorado or Canyon would be an easy truck for me to live with over the long run.

@Jeff S/Lou_BC/SPaM - It's unclear what makes you think anyone here is against midsize pickups. Their fanboys are something of a curiosity though. They exaggerated the attributes of midsizers (mpg, price, capabilities) while knocking and overstating the size and thirst of fullsize pickups, even regular cabs.

But funny, none of you guys are willing to step up to buy one. BAFO has, but it's not like he has any choice. It's called T-Rex Syndrome. All of you will hustle down to the showroom for the unveiling of the Colorado/Canyon, but when it comes time buy, your hands suddenly can't reach your wallets...

@Denver Mike--I would question that all of Ford's decisions have the Midas touch. Case in point is the Lincoln Motor Co. which is barely alive and has less than stellar products. If you were going to judge the most profitable product that Ford makes it would be the F series trucks and the least profitable would be their cars. You could make a strong case for Ford getting rid of all their products except the F series trucks. Ford will never beat Toyota or Honda on the profitability of their cars or cuvs, not that Ford has bad ones its just they are slightly more competitive than GM and Chrysler but not one of the top players. When it comes to resale value neither the Big Detroit 2 or Fiat Chrysler can compare to Toyota or Honda on cars and crossovers. A consumer will still pay more for a used CRV or RAV 4 than an Escape. Ford is not golden in all areas just in the F series and the new aluminum bodies could change all that. We will see what happens.

@Denver Mike--What do you mean I own two mid size trucks that I bought new. When is the last time you bought a new truck? You are spinning again as Big Al would say. I don't buy used I buy new. It appears when someone challenges you, you twist your arguments. Twisting in the wind.

@Jeff S - 2008? That's a long time ago in small truck years... Everything has changed since then. They're wondering when you and the others are gonna come back and buy 600,000+ midsize trucks.

2004 was the last time I bought a brand new 1/2 ton. I pay cash and make sure they last. But the fullsize market isn't missing me much. Or at all. When I'm ready, they'll be there. I hope midsizers wait for you..

@Denver Mike--So I bought a new vehicle in 2013 and one in 2008 and you bought one in 2004. Which one of us recently has contributed the most to new vehicle sales ? You are calling me a cheapskate? I suggest you get a mirror and look at your reflection. What a hypocrite. I do not buy a new vehicle every year and I pay cash for mine. Since you buy yours with cash and keep them a long time should you be judging others. I will buy a new vehicle whenever I am ready to and that is a few years away since I bought one last year. Anyway I though you got yours from your junkyard and recycled them. I put my recycling in a bin for the garbage truck to pick up.

@Jeff S - Point is, if midsize pickup fanboys aren't buying midsize pickups (say hello to Lou_BC in his recent F-150 purchase), "for profit" OEMs (hello GM) can't keep building them forever on future fanboy promises to buy.

No, I've made over $100,000 in new vehicle purchases since 2004, but they weren't pickups. And not pertinent to the topic. Not unlike you're Honda CRV purchase.

@Jeff S,
It will be interesting to see what FCA comes up with. They are looking at a platform Mitsubishi is developing. Interesting times for Pickup enthusiasts

@Jeff S,
It's widely known my original purchasing decision was a prestige diesel 4x4 wagon from a reputable manufacturer, Rover.

This did put me in the bracket to buy a NEW Tundra Platnium crew cab 4x4 in Australia. But I was after a smaller full size SUV or a midsize SUV.

The full size SUVs ie, Landcruiser, Patrol, LR Discovery offer wheel bases that provide excellent ramp over compared to the too long US style 4x4 1/2 ton pickups. These long wheelbases severely handicaps you off road capability.

As another commenter on this site knows he's a sadist and lowly individual who seeks pleasure on the apparent belief he's placing people under stress with his ill considered commentary. There is a term called a troll to describe his demeanor. I do think it would be best not to interact unless he furnishes worthwhile dialogue, which is rare in his case.

I then decided for my use I would look at alternative 4x4 wagons and decided to look at these new midsizers as I did hear some good reviews and comments regarding their newly found attributes in all areas of performance.

I did find the wheel base to be marginally longer than previous midsize pickup offerings, but it was still acceptable and fitted my requirements.

As I've already stated the vehicle's dynamics are as good as any 1/2 ton. The vehicles level of refinement and fitting make them an ideal SUV replacement, unlike the midsizers of yore.

Also, unlike US 1/2 tons or midsizers I can invest in a 1/5 wheel trailer when I retire in a couple of years.

These global midsizers have the capacity to tow to their recommended weight and still carry 5 adults and carry 1/2 ton in the bed.

But, in the end I found two benefits from buying the BT50. The first one is I ended up spending 1/2 the amount of a comparable vehicle vs my requirements and I have found a vehicle to be better suited meeting my original requirements, ie, the vehicle is able to do work that would of have been impossible with a medium to large SUV, like towing a 1/5 wheel and payload.

I personally feel the new US Colorado will be the impetus for a new breathe of fresh air in the smaller mid size US pickup segment. They offer a genuine alternative to full size 1/2 ton pickups, esp V6'es and also offer the refinement and features of large, medium SUVs and CUVs.

I really do like the new Colorado, not so much the Canyon. The Canyon has fantastic features, but it's little tockley big rig grille is for the fanboi's and 8th graders.

You will see other manufacturers attempting to capitalise in this segment, they will be forced to. This will place additional pressure on the already expensive future full size pickups.

Midsizers will not 'take over' the US. But they will at least become a reasonable force the manufacturers will take notice of, as will small diesel pickups. As FCA is proving with the diesel Ram 1500.

All I can say is I told everyone so several years ago.

@Big Al--I don't hate half ton full size trucks, but I don't want to be forced to buy what I don't want and don't need. I don't care much for minivans or full size crossovers, but if I had a family and needed one then I would probably get one. Each one of us has our reasons for choosing the vehicles we have and none of the reasons is wrong. What vehicle is best for you is not necessarily best for the rest of us. What vehicle is best for Denver Mike might not be good for you or me but someone else might say that they like the same type of vehicle Denver Mike likes. Also, as you get older your needs change and what you might have liked when you were younger you would not choose as you are getting older. When I was younger I had a fully loaded Monte Carlo which I enjoyed but today I would not want that car. At one time a V-8 engine would have been my only choice, today I don't want one. There is no wrong choice and no best vehicle for everyone. You have a truck that you like and meets all your needs, what else in a truck could you want that you don't already have. Lou BC has the perfect truck for his own and family use. Who am I to tell Lou that he is wrong that the F-150 is not a good choice. None of my business what Lou drives and if anything I am happy that he found the perfect truck to meet his needs. We can agree and we can disagree and be respectful of each others opinions and choices. It would be a very dull World if we all liked the same things.

@Big Al--To carry the analogy a little further I like Starbucks French Roast and Italian Dark Roast with nothing in it but I don't have anything against anyone who prefers lattes or frappacinos. Each beverage has its place as each vehicle has its place. 113

@ Lou_bc "less capability? These trucks can carry more than most of the trucks in the Ram 1500 line-up. 1,400-1,700 lb is pretty capable. 7k towing is perfectly acceptable. I bet this truck would outperform a Ram 1500 Pentastar with a 7k trailer since it is much lighter" out preform how? I'm pretty sure a 1/2 ton has a much better cooling system than a midsizer,,now if u mean fastest up steep incline well that's always been a moot point in my option a 3/4 ton diesel of any brand is faster than a 1 ton dually diesel of any brand it weights less after all.



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