2017 GMC Canyon Denali review: An expensive chrome trucklet
Let’s get one thing out of the way: I like the Canyon and its Chevy Colorado twin a lot; they’re “right sized” pickups with a comfortable ride, stable handling and a ton of utility. The steep price and marginal fuel economy (we couldn’t get our average over 18 mpg) means they’ll never displace full-size trucks, but enough buyers seem to understand bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better to keep sales numbers up.
I know GMC is really playing up its Denali trims, and in the brand’s larger offerings the name makes a difference. Don’t expect that same level of luxe in the Canyon, though: It’s essentially an exterior appearance package and some badging, plus a bit of fake wood inside. The good news is that GMC isn’t grossly overcharging for the name, as it is with the Acadia Denali — the Canyon Denali retails for about the same price as an equivalently configured Canyon SLT. Thus it becomes more about your preference in wheels, grilles and the like than a major leap in monthly payment.
Of course, for the same price as our tester you could outfit a Canyon SLT with the Duramax four-cylinder diesel; that torquey little beast is where my money would go, but for most the Denali name is probably a bigger draw.
–Andrew Stoy, digital editor
On the one hand, I absolutely get the Canyon and Colorado. I do not live in Truck Country, but I sometimes do Truck Things and the ability to fit a Truck in my ancient suburban driveway — something I struggle to do with today’s ever-broadening full-size and heavy-duty trucks — is non-trivial. If I needed to buy a new truck tomorrow, I would put either of the GM midsizers, along with the Toyota Tacoma and yes, the Honda Ridgeline, at the top end of my list.
The trouble starts when I try to explain it somebody in the market for a truck, especially someone looking to step up from their aging Ranger or Dakota or first-gen Canyon…and I feel like everything I say comes with a whopping qualifier attached and I end up inadvertently selling them on a full-sizer.
Yes, this it’s less expensive than the comparable full-size truck, but no, not by all that much (especially when you spread the difference out over those new extra-long-term loans).
Yes, it gets better fuel economy — but it’s really only a matter of two mpg here and there, depending on the configuration.
Yes, it still rides like a truck — albeit a very good modern one — but compare that to the Ridgeline, which uses its apparently controversial (to some truck guys) unibody construction to offer a better ride on paved streets.
You end up with what feels a lot like a Silverado (or Sierra, in this case) that shrank in the wash without particularly compelling fuel economy or pricing advantages.
To me, the more manageable size, along with many of the refinements we’ve come to enjoy on the extremely competent full-sizers, makes the proposition worth considering. While there’s no 8 foot bed option, I can tow anything I need to tow and still get everything I need home from the hardware store securely.
But if you’re living out in the land where driveways are wide and parking spaces are plentiful, and unless you’re content to stick with a bare-bones build to really get the benefit of that low entry price — essentially forgoing 4WD to keep it under $30k — these things are always going to seem like relatively poor bargains compared to their full-size cousins, and that’s a bit of a shame.
–Graham Kozak, associate editor
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $43,760
As Tested Price: $44,155
Drivetrain: 3.6-liter DOHC V6, 4WD, 8-speed automatic
Output: 308 hp @ 6,800 rpm, 275 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,150 lb
Fuel Economy: 17/24/19 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Options: Dark Slate Metallic ($395)
Pros: Plenty big for most truck jobs, punchy V6
Cons: The smaller size doesn’t save you much money or fuel