A “standard ride height” no longer exists in the GMC Canyon lineup. For the third-generation midsize truck, every single trim comes with a 2-inch lift to the suspension when compared to the outgoing models. GMC also streamlined its midsize truck to just crew cab bodies with the short truck bed. And the only engine is a turbocharged 2.7L inline-four.
But adding the new AT4X trim excites us. You get all of the components of the Sierra 1500 AT4X, but in a smaller and (slightly) more affordable package. Not to mention intriguing interior styling and more luxury than you’d expect in a vehicle made to get deep in the dirt.
Antsy to crawl over a few rocks and scale steep paths in the forest, we headed into the Blue Ridge mountains outside of Asheville North Carolina to see how the Canyon AT4X feels both on and way off the road. And — lucky us — the skies opened up to provide plenty of mud to play in.
In short: No question GMC delivered mega capability in its latest AT4X. Making easy work of the roughest terrain we threw at it in Blue Ridge. Moreover, this top-trimmed Canyon offers lots of technology inside to make off-roading less stressful and more comfortable. But even the base price pushes Canyon AT4X outside of many budgets.
2023 GMC Canyon AT4X
- Dimensions (length, width, height, wheelbase) 217.9”, 72.4”, 81.7”, 131.4”
- Engine Turbocharged 2.7L I-4
- HP/ Torque 310 hp (at 5,600 rpm) / 430 lb.-ft. (at 3,000 rpm)
- Transmission/Driven wheels 8-speed automatic transmission / four-wheel-drive
- MPG 17 city, 20 hwy, 18 cmb
- Max Towing 5,500 lbs.
- Impressive off-road capability
- Impressive levels of comfort
- Lots of quality onboard camera views
- Commanding view of the road
- Surprisingly small cabin, especially in the second row
- Unimpressive fuel economy
- M/T tires hurt on-road performance and make a bit of noise
2023 GMC Canyon AT4X Review
Spec Me Out
I stand 5’11” tall and am built a touch on the leggy side. And yet, I have to get on my toes and hoist myself into the GMC Canyon AT4X.
By the time you settle in, though, you realize the AT4X is legit. Check out these numbers: 36.9-degree angle of approach clearance, 25-degree angle of departure, and 24.5-degree breakover angle. That pairs well with copious ground clearance, 10.7 inches. And, even if you push those limits, the AT4X includes a beefy front skid plate, a transfer case shield, and big hunks of metal to protect the rockers too.
Along with its off-road friendly shape and stature, GMC loaded up the Canyon AT4X with all the requisite goodies. To start, you roll on 33-inch (LT285/70R17) Goodyear Wrangler Territory mud-terrain tires. That connects to a suspension lifted 3 inches compared to the standard suspension of the second-generation truck.
Damping out the bumps is a set of Multimatic DSSV shocks (dynamic suspension spool valve). For good measure, both the front and rear differentials are selectable locking.
Canyon AT4X Edition 1
But feel free to take all that a step further with the Edition 1 package. It includes a different front bumper with a Safari bar (which also adds 4.7 inches to the truck’s length), a 30-inch lightbar mounted on it, a front winch by COMEUP, 17-inch beadlock capable wheels, front and rear underbody cameras (which you spray clean with a touch of a button), a performance skid plate, reconfigurable bed rail system, and, of course, an Edition 1 badge on the tailgate. Ticking that box adds $7,850 to the price. Gulp.
My test truck included this package and, indeed, looked extra rugged. Inside, the Edition 1 also includes an accessory power distribution box and a lighting wiring kit. Think of this package as a stepping stone to more easily spend even more money and customize the truck further. Also, think of it as evidence that this is not for budget-minded off-roaders.
Turbocharged 2.7 L Brings the Muscle
What powers the Edition 1 and standard AT4X — and every other 2023 GMC Canyon — is a turbocharged 2.7L inline-four. This engine, in various guises, powers some GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado trucks, as well as multiple versions of the Cadillac CT4 sedan.
Under the Canyon’s hood, it produces 310 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 430 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm, which is quite healthy. For reference, the 3.0L inline-six turbo diesel in the GMC Sierra produces slightly less horsepower (305 horsepower) and 495 pound-feet of torque. In other words, the Canyon’s turbo 2.7L punches above its weight.
GMC bolted up an eight-speed transmission to the longitudinally mounted engine. In the base Elevation trim, you choose between a rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive system. In the AT4, Denali, and AT4X trims, it’s four-wheel-drive only. Fitting, since GMC is decisively pulling the Canyon lineup toward off-road prowess.
Twins in Different Clothes
In terms of hardware, the GMC Canyon AT4X mirrors the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. From the powertrain to the suspension and tires, even the size of the screens used for the digital instrument cluster and the center console touchscreen.
The Canyon, however, receives distinctive styling both inside and out. It starts with a more open mesh and squared-off grille with neatly embedded daytime running lights on either side. Similar treatment occurs in the rear, with narrow rectangles jutting out to make up the taillights, as opposed to the Colorado’s more complicated shape.
Inside, the AT4X receives a touch more class. You get different-shaped air vents with a metal perimeter and nicely stitched red thread throughout. You also get a heated steering wheel, heads-up display, power-adjusting passenger front seat, and a Bose sound system.
Throw Mud Outside, Nibble on Caviar and Toast Points Inside
Seriously! GMC tossed a lot of luxury in here. The 11.3-inch center console touchscreen includes wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Google Assistant. Beneath that lies a dual-zone climate control system, a wireless smartphone charge pad, and buttons for both heated and ventilated front seats.
The seats themselves provide good support and plenty of comfort. And, thanks to the ride height, your view of the road is vast and, indeed, commanding. Surrounding the driver’s seat is plenty of space for a bottle in the door, as well as other nooks to tuck handy items around it. You also get a deep center console storage bin, with a little shallow tray for things like pocket change.
Ironically, the Canyon fails to offer much space for rear passengers. Considering the Canyon stretches farther than a Mercedes-Benz S-Class nose-to-tail, you’d think the second row would feel more spacious. With the front seat adjusted to fit me, I fit in the rear bench, but barely. On the plus side, the bench bottoms lift to reveal storage bins on the floor, and lock into place if you want to haul stuff rather than people.
Luxurious Ride, Too
All the extra suspension travel and big tire sidewall allow the Canyon to easily soak up all of modern life’s bumps in the road. And it remains reasonably quiet inside while doing it. Wind and road isolation proved better than I expected from a midsize truck. Clearly, our Chevrolet S-10 days are in the distant past. That said, the mud-terrain tires are louder than your typical all-season, but not intrusively so.
And with monster torque numbers and a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic, the Canyon will press you into the seat back and reach interstate speeds halfway up the entrance ramp. But beware, once you’re cruising, the Canyon AT4X is thirsty. Especially with the Edition 1’s safari bar up front, you have a lot of air to push around. Eighth gear keeps the engine revs down, but the EPA says to expect 17 mpg in the city, 20 mpg on the highway, and 18 combined.
AT4X: Supremely Capable
Fuel economy is even worse traversing up narrow rutted paths around the Blue Ridge. But you likely won’t notice or care. Instead, focus your eyes ahead to avoid jutting out tree branches and sharp boulders popping out of the ground. And when the windshield only shows you the skies above, switch your gaze to one of the several different cameras displaying what’s in front, to the side, or underneath the truck.
For the third-generation truck, GMC managed to build a very strong structure, as well as move the front axle 3 inches forward. That makes it nearly impossible to scrape the front end on the ground, and the massive ride height makes easy passage of steep crests and troughs.
Put the truck in four-low and you can seemingly climb just about any hill covered in just about any muddy, rocky surface. Extruding tree stumps, lumpy rocky terrain, massive kitchen-sink-sized potholes, nothing fazed the AT4X. I’ve driven serious off-road trails before, but never with so little stress.
Then we hit the “mud pit.” A chunk of trail where the devil scratched a four-foot-deep trench and then filled it sharp rocks, discarded limbs, and 2 feet of mud soup. Ready to throw the truck in reverse and head back, GMC engineers got on the radio and said, “Engage the front and rear lockers and keep your foot on the throttle.”
Upon entry, the AT4X sinks like an anchor thrown into the ocean, only finding solid ground after the hood fell below the ground surrounding the pit. Even as the truck bobbed around like a sugar-high toddler in a bounce house, the Goodyear tires barely slipped, the DSSV shocks kept the Canyon square, and I motored out of the pit spraying mud a good 20 feet in the process.
The Canyon AT4X is one capable truck.
2023 GMC Canyon AT4X Edition 1 Review: Summary
Want a 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X? Start saving and consider switching to an all-ramen diet. You need at least $56,995. Getting the Edition 1 package raises that to $64,845. Or about the same price as a Porsche Macan T. Clearly, this is not for the miserly among us.
Then again, all other Canyon trims run on a lifted suspension and get all-terrain tires. That will get you well off the beaten path. The least expensive, four-wheel-drive Elevation trim costs $41,695. Still a lot, but a lot less. And that truck trim can tow up to 7,700 pounds.
But if you have the money, GMC built a fascinating truck here. Lots of comforts in a truck that can venture farther away from life’s modern comforts than most. And, while its equipment does limit towing somewhat, even the AT4X Edition 1 pulls up to 5,500 pounds.
The GMC Canyon AT4X Edition 1 is for the person whose financial success left them feeling cocooned, yearning to find adventure, freedom, and fresh air, all without getting too uncomfortable. Personally, I think the Colorado ZR2 makes more sense, a bit purer to its purpose. But then again, I don’t like caviar either.