The 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Fails to Live up to Its Twin – the Chevy Colorado ZR2

There is a battle raging for supremacy among off-road-oriented midsize pickup trucks between entries from Jeep, Toyota, Ford, and General Motors. The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon offers a well-rounded truck based on the ever-capable Jeep Wrangler platform. The impressive Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro reigned supreme for a few years but may be losing ground to its competition. The Ford Ranger Tremor is a truck designed to climb to the top and be king of the hill. But it is hard to find a rivalry that compares to the competition between the Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon, at least in their base-model form.

The 2021 GMC Canyon

The base-model GMC Canyon Elevation crew-cab is a midsize pickup truck capable of seating up to five adults and is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 200 hp. Other engine options, cab configurations, and bed lengths are available.

A review by MotorTrend notes that the interior of the Canyon, like other GM trucks, is not on par with similar offerings in the category and rear-seat legroom is cramped for taller passengers. All Canyon trim levels come standard with an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. A navigation system is available for $995 but seems unnecessary considering the capability of most smartphone navigation apps.

MotorTrend reviewers were pleased with the handling and ride characteristics during testing on twisty paved roads, calling it “superb for a pickup.” The Canyon is available in two-wheel or four-wheel-drive, the latter featuring a two-speed transfer case with low range gearing to tackle off-road obstacles.

What’s the AT4 model all about?

True off-road enthusiasts should consider the GMC Canyon AT4 when looking at midsize GMC trucks. While starting MSRP jumps an additional $7,600, comparing a similarly equipped elevation to the AT4 reduces sticker shock considerably. The $38,595 Canyon AT4 boasts some features aimed at tackling the most sensible off-road obstacles, such as 31-inch all-terrain tires, four-wheel drive with an automatic locking rear differential off-road-tuned suspension, and hill descent control.

The GMC Canyon AT4 comes standard with a 308-hp 3.6-liter V6 that produces 275 lb-ft of torque, or choose the 2.8-liter four-cylinder diesel option with 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The AT4 is equipped with LED fog lights, and luxurious options like premium leather front seats with the AT4 logo stitched into the headrests, wireless smartphone charging, and a premium sound system.

AT4 buyers should consider adding the $3,195 “Performance Edition” package that levels the truck by lifting the front suspension one inch and deletes the front air dam. Together, these two actions improve the truck’s approach angle, allowing the front tires to contact obstacles before other parts of the truck.

The performance package also changes the wheels from the standard 18 inches to 17 inches, which allows for a more flexible tire sidewall and enhanced traction in off-road situations.

Is the GMC Canyon AT4 better than the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2?

The short answer, according to MotorTrend, is no. While the engine and transmission offerings and the cheap interior are identical for the two trucks, the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is designed and built to have more off-road capability.

Both the GMC Canyon AT4 and the Colorado ZR2 are indeed designed with an eye toward off-road adventure. Both trucks are equipped with 31-inch tires, four-wheel-drive, two-speed transfer cases, and enhanced suspensions. The Colorado ZR2 has a few extra goodies that the AT4 does not.

To set the ZR2 apart from the AT4, Chevrolet starts with a standard Colorado, widens the front and rear stance 3.5 inches, and lifts the suspension 2 inches higher. The Colorado ZR2 is equipped with dynamic suspension dampers, coil-over shocks, and a locking front differential in addition to extra skid plates missing from the Canyon AT4.

No doubt that the Colorado ZR2 is a more capable off-road truck than the Canyon AT4, but with a starting MSRP of $42,495, it may be more off-road capable than the average person really needs. This provides the Canyon AT4 with a niche that it comfortably fills.

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