If General Motors had not wowed us recently with its brilliantly designed Chevy Colorado crew cab and capable 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel motor, then this bit of news would surely have made us a believer. Truck lovers will have a few new reasons to celebrate this fall thanks to GM’s unwavering commitment to offering new small pickup options, and as an 18% sales increase continues to fuel this year’s expansion, the timing could not be better.
GMC has announced that it will take its Colorado doppelganger, the Canyon, and create a top-tier Denali option, roll out an off-road-inspired All Terrain X variant, and include a new 3.6-liter V6 that’s attached to a segment-first eight-speed automatic. Offered within the entire 2017 Canyon line, we can’t wait to see what kind of real-world difference it will make.
The new IntelliLink radio now comes with a 7-inch-diagonal color touchscreen, Teen Driver Mode is a standard feature, a heated steering wheel can be added for a fee, and fresh colors include Dark Slate Metallic, Mineral Metallic, and Red Quartz Metallic.
In addition to that unmistakable chrome grille, the 2017 GMC Canyon Denali will roll atop 20-inch machined alloys with painted accents, which match the tubular chrome assist steps and polished exhaust tips on V6 models. Internally, it has Jet Black heated and ventilated front leather seats, as well as some unique instrument panels and console trim pieces, along with sill plates and floor mats that rock the Denali logo.
By opting for the Denali line, buyers can enjoy standard features like a heated steering wheel, an 8-inch navi touchscreen with GMC IntelliLink, 4G Wi-Fi hotspots, automatic climate control, GMC’s outstanding driver info display, and remote start. Other niceties include a Bose seven-speaker audio system, two USB charging ports on the rear of the center console for backseat passengers as well as another inside the console, and a slathering of safety tech that includes Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warnings.
However, many Americans still pine for off-road performance, a call that GMC answers by taking an SLE model and making it into the most rugged Canyon to date. While it may not be a full-committed beast like the Tacoma TRD-Pro, the X version does offer a few notable perks like the Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac P255/65R17 Kevlar tires and all-weather floor liners playing center field.
We feel that the regular All Terrain model is already plenty capable, what with its hill descent control, specialty wheels, tuned suspension, transfer case shield, unique red accented interior, and 3-inch round step bars. It also comes with things like a spray-on bedliner, remote start, automatic climate control, and a power sliding rear window for when it’s time to air things out.
Another interesting note is that GMC will require All Terrain X model buyers to either opt for the aforementioned 3.6-liter V6 and eight-speed automatic gearbox, or cough up the extra four grand and get the dynamite Duramax turbo-diesel engine. Having experienced each of these very different but equally well-made GM products, we feel confident that buyers will appreciate the power and efficiency gains offered by this duo of drivetrains, as we had difficulty finding fault with either.
While pricing still remains to be announced, based upon what we have seen slapped on various Colorado and Canyon models in the past, as well as on the loaded Duramax model we drove this summer, it’s safe to assume that pricing will be in the mid to upper $40,000 range after options. That may seem like a lot for a small pickup, but compared to the competition, the option to upgrade suddenly seems a lot more appealing, especially with these two engines on deck.
Let’s revisit the 3.6-liter V6 and silky smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox everyone is all atwitter about. Together they truly are a remarkable piece of engineering. It’s been about a year since we test drove and drooled over the CTS 3.6, with its red woven carbon fiber interior, sharp looks, and laser-hot tech touches giving more reason for us to ignore its $70,000 price tag.
Fortunately, Canyon buyers won’t have to worry about this kind of sticker shock, and will still get to enjoy all of the perks this drivetrain offers, as GM focuses on “refining everyday driving performance, including accelerating from a stop, passing on the highway, and cruising at a constant speed.” While it is slightly de-tuned when compared to its Caddy cousin — which has 335 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque — a 9% boost in fuel economy and an 8% drop in carbon emissions make for a strong statement.
Sporting features like continuously variable valve timing, direct injection, and cylinder deactivation technology to balance performance with efficiency, the 308-horsepower motor generates 275 pound-feet of torque, supporting a 7,000-pound trailer rating. Coincidentally, this feat is only bested in this segment by the optional 2.8-liter Duramax diesel, which is rated at 7,700 pounds.
As for the Canyon’s new Hydra-Matic 8L45 eight-speed automatic gearbox, remember that it was originally engineered to be Cadillac-grade in both smoothness and strength. GMC claims that by using smaller “steps” between gears, it has been able to allow vehicles to accelerate quicker with snappier shifts that are virtually undetectable, which we know to be true from personal experience.
One thing that Cadillac engineers may not have considered when the 8L45 transmission was first being developed, was how its much wider 7.0 gear ratio enables a higher first gear ratio, which means Canyon buyers can start off more confidently under a heavy load or when trailering. Numerically lower overdrive ratios also reduce RPM issues on the highway, therefore cutting fuel consumption and engine noise, something that will serve as a strong selling point when 2017 models arrive at dealerships in the fourth quarter of this year.