2015 GMC Canyon road test: A pickup truck without the jiggles and joggles

2015 GMC Canyon

2015 GMC Canyon

An acquaintance who spent time driving the all-new 2015 GMC Canyon summed up what he liked best about the mid-size pickup truck in one simple sentence: “It doesn’t ride like a truck.”

To me, that is a particularly important distinction between the Canyon and some competitors, including full-size pickups that capture the bulk of the small truck market.

I am a person who has always admired pickup trucks for their rugged utility, but not their every-day drivability. I can’t see myself bouncing across tar strips daily just so I can occasionally throw an old sofa in the bed for a journey to Habitat for Humanity or make seasonal trips for mulch or firewood. Better to know a friend with a truck for those missions.

GMC Canyon instrument panel

GMC Canyon instrument panel

But, if a need should arise, the Canyon, and its slightly less opulent near-twin, the Chevrolet Colorado, are trucks that I could live with. The Canyon doesn’t quite ride like a car, of course, How could it, considering the requirement that the minimum suspension requirements need to be sturdy enough to bear a 1,550-pound payload.

Nevertheless, a trip of several hundred miles, even with an empty bed, would not be cause for driver fatigue. One big factor is the excellent sound damping, which gives the interior, a quiet, car-like ambience.

The specific truck provided my inspection was the 2015 GMC Canyon 4WD SLE Crew Short Box. Let me interpret.

4WD allows the driver, depending on conditions, to switch from 2-wheel drive, to automatic 4-wheel drive, to full-time 4-wheel drive high range, to full-time four wheel drive low range (needed only to extract the truck from serious, near hopelessly stuck situations). SLE means second-highest equipment level. Crew means a cab with full-size front and rear seats that can hold a total of five passengers. Short Box is a 5-foot, 2-inch bed, compared with the 6-foot, 2-inch bed on the longer version.

In addition, the test truck had the optional All-Terrain Package, which would be required for serious off-roaders. Interestingly, the truck’s on-road ride quality was not seriously spoiled by the package’s even-stiffer suspension.

GMC Canyon front seats

GMC Canyon front seats

A 200-horsepower, 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine is the base powerplant, but anyone who plans to use the truck regularly for its intended purpose would want the test truck’s 3.6-liter V-6 engine, which generates 306 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque.

The V-6 is teamed with a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual mode accessed by tapping a button on the shift lever. The button works well enough, although it is awkward to reach. I suspect it will be used only for those occasions when the driver wants to hold the transmission in a particular gear.

If you are hoping for the mellifluous rumble of a V-8 engine, forget it. The V-6 is quiet and reasonably smooth in light-duty operation, but it sounds increasingly gravelly as its approaches its red line.

The EPA rates fuel mileage at 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway/ 20 mpg combined. I averaged 20 mpg of regular gasoline over several hundred miles of extremely light use, so anyone planning to use a truck for its intended purpose will certainly see a lower number.

GMC Canyon rear bench

GMC Canyon rear bench

To carry out its mission, the new Canyon’s suspension employs independent coil-over shocks and twin-tube shocks at the front wheels and a solid axle with semi-elliptic, two stage multi-leaf springs at the rear wheels.

For those who plan to use the Canyon for off-road adventures, it should be noted that the truck has a ground clearance of 8.4 inches. For those with boats and trailers, towing capacity is 3,500 pounds for a standard model and 7,000 pounds for a vehicle equipped with an optional trailering package.

Steering is electrically assisted power rack-and-pinion and brakes are antilock 4-wheel discs.

Because of the mid-size truck’s smaller (but definitely not small) dimensions, it is easier to navigate in urban traffic and mall parking lots than its full-size brethren. However, as is to be expected, the steering is accurate, but fairly numb.

Safety features on the 2015 GMC Canyon include a full complement of airbags and side curtains, stability control, traction control, trailer sway control and a rear-view camera.

But there is more to the Canyon than simply a practical hauler. It is also something of a luxury vehicle with an upscale interior and many of the features available on fancy sedans.

GMC Canyon bed

GMC Canyon bed

Included in the $34,010 base price are an 8-inch touchscreen used to access the Intellilink infotainment system with text-message alerts and built-in voice commands, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, WiFi hot-spot connectivity, available satellite radio, 6 months of OnStar emergency communication system, air conditioning, cruise control, power driver’s seat, and more.

The optional All-Terrain Package ($1,190) includes off-road suspension, hill descent control, 17-inch wheels, driver and front-passenger heated seats and power front passenger seat.

Other options are the convenience package ($500) which includes remote vehicle start and automatic air conditioning; a premium audio system ($500); navigation ($495); spray-on bed liner ($475); and trailering equipment package ($250).

Add all that together, plus the $925 delivery charge, and the total comes to $39,090.

In recent years, buyers have forsaken mid-size pickup trucks for the full-size, half-ton models. With the disappearance of the Dodge Dakota, it had appeared that buyers would have to look toward Japan (Toyota, Nissan, Honda) for smaller models.

But General Motors has arrived on the scene with the Canyon and Colorado to challenge the remaining mid-size models with thoroughly modern, genuinely appealing alternatives.

If you would like the convenience of a less-than-full-size pickup truck, the luxury features of a well equipped automobile and comfortable drivability, the Canyon could be the way to go.

For another take on the 2015 GMC Canyon, click here to read the review by CarBuzzard’s John Matras.

Turn page for full specifications.