Saturday, February 24, 2024
Reviews 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X Review: Unstoppable, Almost

2023 GMC Canyon AT4X Review: Unstoppable, Almost

  • The 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X starts at $56,995 in the U.S. and $66,998 in Canada, freight and delivery charges included.

  • Off-road prowess, great ride comfort, easy-to-use infotainment system.

  • Tight rear-seat area, unimpressive fuel economy, lingering software issues.

Over the past two years or so, the midsize pickup truck segment rejuvenated itself, with five players introducing new generations and two boasting mid-cycle refreshes. Among the redesigned pickups is the 2023 GMC Canyon, which debuts a new, hardcore off-road focused AT4X trim level.

Positioned above the trail-friendly Canyon AT4, the AT4X serves up a resolutely rugged appearance that’s backed up by a slew of features destined to conquer all types of terrain. That includes a factory three-inch suspension lift, a widened track, skid plates, rocker protection, a two-speed transfer case, hill descent control, LT285/70R17 Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT tires, an additional Baja drive mode as well as electronically locking front and rear differentials. Arguably the most interesting components on the AT4X are the Multimatic DSSV dampers, which do wonders to improve the truck’s ride—both on and off the road.

The 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X’s suspension helps it glide over bumpy roads and cleverly controlling body motions while crawling over rough terrain. Not only that, but the DSSV dampers mitigate the effects of road imperfections over which most other pickup trucks would exhibit a jittery ride and head toss.

The trade-off to the AT4X’s impressive suspension capabilities is, well, the challenge to climb aboard and stepping out without getting our pant legs dirty. The rocker rails do little to help ingress and egress, but at least buyers can opt for removable accessory steps as needed. The cargo bed liftover is obviously very high, and unlike the other Canyon trim levels–Elevation, AT4 and Denali—there are no CornerStep rear bumper steps on the AT4X, or any type of grab handles to help us climb aboard.

And because it’s a pickup truck, a road trip with four people aboard leaves little to no room inside for luggage. Happily, the friendly folks at GM Canada installed a roll-up bedliner on the truck that’s extremely easy to use. Our round trip from Montreal to New Hampshire was much more enjoyable, with our luggage protected from the elements in the cargo bed. The Canyon’s clever tailgate-integrated storage bin is potentially handy, but if water seeps in despite the cover’s rubber sealing, that dampness needs to be dried out.

Under the hood, every 2023 GMC Canyon is equipped with a turbocharged 2.7L four-cylinder engine, matched to a new-generation eight-speed automatic transmission. While the Elevation variant can be chosen with 2WD or 4WD in the U.S. market, all other trim levels feature four-wheel drive as standard, and the Canadian market gets 4WD across the board.

With 310 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque on tap, the Canyon is plenty quick. From an output standpoint, no one should miss the previous generation’s 3.6L V6 engine, which developed 308 hp and 275 pound-feet, but it was more melodious than the new turbo four. The unrefined and costly turbo-diesel 2.8L four that produced 181 hp and 369 pound-feet, is also gone, as is the 200-hp, base 2.5L four.

The big disappointment with the 2.7L engine is that overall fuel economy is actually worse than with the previous-gen Canyon V6. With 4WD, the latter boasted city/highway ratings of 17/24/19 mpg or 14.0/9.9/12.1 L/100 km, while the new Canyon’s numbers are 17/21/19 mpg or 13.0/11.0/12.4 L/100 km. We can clearly see that the turbo 2.7L engine consumes more fuel on the highway than the old naturally aspirated V6, and during our trip to New Hampshire for the holidays, we averaged a rather unimpressive 19 mpg or 12.2 L/100 km.

Actually, that observed average is not that bad, considering that the 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X’s fuel economy ratings are worse at 16/16/16 mpg or 14.3/14.3/14.3 L/100 km. We can blame the AT4X’s less aerodynamic stance and knobby tires for that. It’s worth noting that our test truck was fitted with winter tires, not the standard Wrangler Territory rubber.

The 2023 GMC Canyon’s interior gets an overhaul that brings a more modern and upscale appearance, with richer-quality materials to boot. The AT4X’s Obsidian Rush black and white seat and dashboard upholstery, with contrast red accenting, looks pretty good. A fully digital driver instrument panel and an 11.3-inch infotainment touchscreen spruces up the technological aspect of the truck, but unfortunately, it’s also its biggest drawback, at least for now.

During our family road trip, we noticed the dashboard randomly go black and reboot itself a few times. Not a big deal, as it took about 10 seconds for the system to turn back on each time. However, the morning after we arrived home following our road trip, we stepped out to run and errand and—surprise!—the Canyon was dead as a doornail, as its battery had been completely drained.

We hooked up a charger to the battery for a day, which was enough to resuscitate the truck itself, but not the instrument cluster and infotainment system. The screens were faintly lit up and rebooted themselves every 10 seconds or so, even after shutting off and locking the vehicle. The last couple of days we had the Canyon AT4X in our possession, we had to leave the battery disconnected to prevent it from draining down again.

What caused this is hard to tell. Several times a day, a message would pop up on the infotainment screen, inviting us to perform over-the-air software update N23-G165AE—which we declined each time. Some GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado owners had complained on social media about the update failing and leaving the system dysfunctional, so we weren’t keen on risking that during our test. Maybe the truck took the initiative of performing the software update on its own, or maybe the system hardware was simply defective.

We were actually lucky to have gotten home before running into this issue. GM’s software problems in recently launched products is well documented, and although electronic glitches can happen, the disappointing thing here is that the battery drain occurred about five months after the first owners started experiencing the same problem, and GM seemingly hasn’t solved it yet.

On the flipside, when the system DID work, it was great. The Google built-in interface is slick and easy to use, while the Google Maps layout can be replicated on the configurable driving instrument cluster. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integrations worked flawlessly, and the system’s processing speed was also quite good. Let’s hope GM can quickly solve the software update shenanigans.

All this new tech comes at a price, though. The 2023 GMC Canyon starts at $38,395 in the United States and at $50,624 in Canada, freight and delivery charges included. That’s about six grand more than the equivalent previous-gen Canyon in Crew Cab Short Bed configuration, while the Extended Cab Long Bed and Crew Cab Long Bed variants were discontinued. The AT4X variant is listed from $56,995 in the U.S. and $66,998 in Canada, which isn’t exactly affordable, but the Jeep Gladiator, the new Ford Ranger Raptor and the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro aren’t cheaper. The Nissan Frontier PRO-4X and Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 are more affordably priced, though, and the Honda Ridgeline doesn’t offer a hardcore off-road variant.

Modern, powerful and utterly capable, the 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X is a strong contender in its segment, and a hero for those who enjoy rock-hopping on the weekends. It has the potential to reach places very few trucks can thanks to its off-road components, with no on-road ride and handling sacrifices either. However, until GM figures out how to solve the software update issues in its new vehicles, its kryptonite is an internet connection.

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