Driving Impressions – November 2014

A Long-awaited Arrival: 2015 GMC Canyon SLE 4×4 Crew Cab Long Box

By Greg Cavanaugh

Gallup Journey GMC

The 2015 GMC Canyon is an extremely important vehicle as it is the first new midsize truck to market in years.   The midsize compact truck segment has been dwindling to say the least and the two vehicles that are left, the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, seem to be neglected by their manufacturers.  Ultimately, the Canyon’s arrival (and that of its sister, the Chevy Colorado) begs three big questions:

First, if you’re in the market for a truck, should you choose the midsize Canyon, or its larger brother the Sierra? Second, can the Canyon unseat the reigning midsize champ, the Toyota Tacoma, and win over its uber-loyal buyers?  Last, does the new 2015 Canyon revive the old mini-truck segment that was once so thriving in the 90s?

In terms of the compact truck title as it relates to its glory days in the 90s, those days are over.  This is not a sub-3,000 lb short box 2WD truck. By many measures, the new Canyon is as large as full size trucks of yore.  For comparison I parked it next to a coworker’s 1995 Ford F350, Crewcab, 4×4, long bed, dually.  Surprisingly, the Canyon was just less than a foot shorter and wider than what, at one time, was a BIG truck.  Compared to the last gen Canyon, the new 2015 Canyon is wider and longer, but not much taller.

Gallup Journey GMCAlthough the definition of midsize has certainly changed, the Canyon, in my opinion, still represents a great blend of people space in the cab, cargo space in the bed, all in an overall footprint that is maneuverable and very livable in day-to-day use.  The 74-inch bed option here provides real cargo hauling capacity, yet the floor of the bed is still reachable for shorter drivers like myself when standing on the street.  The crew cab layout gives the convenience of four real doors, each with their own window, cupholder, exterior door handle, etc., but is not nearly as excessive as the limo-esque back seats of its full size counterparts.  Honestly, I grew up in an age when riding in a truck with more than three people meant the driver put their seat forward and I sat sideways behind them in the “extended cab.”  The crewcab/long bed option here is really a great size for a large number of buyers and families.

Compared to the Tacoma, which when comparably equipped is roughly $1k cheaper, the new Canyon is similarly sized.  On paper the Canyon edges out the Tacoma in most other objective categories.  While the Canyon’s 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 and the Tacoma’s 4.0-liter V6 share similar torque figures at just under 270 lb-ft, GM’s “high feature” V6 makes a healthy 305 hp @ 6,800 rpm and is mated to a 6-speed automatic versus Toyota’s somewhat paltry (and likely underrated) 236 hp @ 5,200 rpm mated to a 5-speed automatic.   At the pump too, the Canyon’s 17 mpg city/24 hwy/20 combined (in this configuration) will save you some money over the Tacoma’s 16 mpg city/21 hwy/18 combined.  In reality and on the road, the Canyon seems like a whole other class of truck, a version 2.0, if it were compared to the Tacoma’s beta.  The new Canyon’s visual aesthetic both inside and out is much fresher, the interior materials richer, and the entire package more sophisticated.  The new Canyon’s 2.8-liter Duramax diesel arriving next year, only adds salt to the Tacoma’s wounds.

So the biggest question is whether the new Canyon will draw in new buyers, steal from the Sierra, or be overshadowed by the Sierra.  This Canyon’s $36,000 as-tested price is a solid $6,000-$8,000 lower than a comparable Sierra (although end-of-the-year closeouts and rebates on the Sierra might narrow that price gap at the moment).  The Sierra’s base 4.3-liter V6 makes almost the same power, but returns 1-2 mpg less across the board.  There’s no doubt the half-ton Sierra’s towing, payload and passenger space are greater, but the reality is the size and capabilities of the new 2015 Canyon are more than enough for a vast portion of the truck buying market.  Combined with an overall ease of use that today’s gigantic full sizers just can no longer offer, the new Canyon is definitely worth a test drive.

* Thanks to the folks at Rico for getting me the only Canyon on the lot!
**Visit my YouTube Channel, “Gallup Journey Test Drives” to the see the new Canyon in action.

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door truck
ENGINE TYPES: DOHC 24-valve 3.6-liter V-6, 305 hp, 269 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 140.5 in
Length: 224.6 in
Width: 74.3 in Height: 70.7 in
EPA city/highway/combined: 17/24/20 mpg

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