First Drive Review 2017 GMC Canyon Denali; Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger

(GM)

(GM)

There are trucks, then there are trucks.  Back in olden times, when TV’s were black and white, and men wore ties at the dinner table, there were very few choices when it came to pickup trucks.  They were also never seen in the new suburbs in America, just the farms and fruit stands.

Today though there is an almost dizzying array of pickup truck choices available.  Fitting somewhere in between the SUVs and crossovers are the full size, mid-size, long bed, short bed, crew cab, diesel powered, gas powered, two wheel and four-wheel drive trucks that can be seen all over.

No one embodies this more than GMC. I realized this when GMC sent me a 2015 Canyon three years ago.

If you’ll indulge me, a brief history lesson:

From 2012 to 2014 there were no midsize pickup models offered by the upscale GM badge. However, for 2015, a new Canyon was brought back; the angels sang, the clouds parted and the sun shone once again. That new Canyon was offered in long bed, short bed, crew cab, extended cab, 2.5 4-cylinder gas,2.5 diesel, 3.6 6-cylinder gas, 2-wheel, 4-wheel drive…well you get the idea. It seemed that GMC was trying to be all things to all pickup truck buyers.  Nothing wrong with that. I suppose it’s like getting a hamburger; you can have it plain, with cheese, or all the way.

And few things are as American as the cheeseburger, or the pickup truck.

A midsize pickup for most people is the way to go.  I had a Silverado recently and it’s big; as in a double Whopper, Double Quarter-Pounder with cheese, and everything else; supersize that value meal. It’s a bit ungainly on the road, and finding a parking spot in a crowded lot, is well, plan on parking far away.

The midsize truck is easier to drive, and park. So unless you are a full-time construction worker or lumberjack that needs a big truck for work, the midsize truck is the way to go. And the Canyon is a good choice for those who need to haul stuff or tow things on occasion. But so is the Tacoma, or the Ridgeline, or the Frontier, although that model is a bit dated. There’s also the Chevy Colorado the Canyon’s cousin.

Since GMC knew I liked having so many choices (sarcasm alert), for 2017 they…added a new trim level to the lineup.  The Canyon is now offered in the base SL, SLE, SLT and now a Denali model. There is also an off-road-inspired All Terrain package is available on SLE which includes Z71 suspension, automatic locking rear differential, standard transfer case skid plate among other things.

(GM)

(GM)

Cab and bed configuration choices include an extended cab model with a 6’ 2” bed, a crew cab with a 5’ 2” bed and a crew cab with a 6’ 2” bed. Two Wheel Drive, and All-Wheel Drive is available along with three engine choices: a 2.5L I-4,3.6L V-6 or a 2.8L Turbo-Diesel.

The entry level SL can only be had with the extended cab.  You get a lot of standard features, AC, power accessories including four-way power seats, daytime running lights, vinyl upholstery, a rearview camera and a six-speaker AM/FM audio system with a 4.2-inch color display and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Moving up, the next level is the Canyon, which is the actually the base Canyon. Why isn’t it the first trim level? Only those who work in the Renaissance Tower in Detroit know the answer to that.  Anyway, the base Canyon can be had in both extended-cab and crew cab body styles, and adds rear jump seats that can fold-up, but only in the extended-cab models.  The upholstery is also cloth.  With the base Canyon you can add such options as the Convenience package which gets you an EZ-Lift tailgate, remote keyless entry, and cruise control among other things. You can upgrade the audio system of the base Canyon, that adds Bluetooth, GMC’s app-based IntelliLink system, Pandora Internet radio and OnStar telematics with 4G LTE WiFi hotspot capabilities.  Other add-ons include a spray on protection for the bed liner, an automatic locking rear differential, and a trailering package, but only if you get the V6 or diesel engine.

The next level, the SLE includes the Convenience package and adds power side mirrors, overhead console, upgraded interior trim, OnStar with the 4G LTE WiFi and an upgraded version of the IntelliLink interface with an 8-inch touchscreen. There is also satellite radio, voice and steering wheel controls and four USB ports.

The SLE options include the SLE Convenience package with automatic climate control, remote ignition and a sliding rear window. There is also the new All-Terrain X package (think Colorado Z71), with all-terrain tires, suspension tuned for off-road, hill descent control, rear locking differential, heated front seats, on top of 17-inch dark tinted alloy wheels.

SLT adds all the SLE standard equipment and adds its own Convenience package.  There is more chrome, leather upholstery, and it comes with 18-inch wheels. The SLE and SLT can add the optional Driver Alert package with frontal collision warning and lane departure warning systems as well as an upgraded seven-speaker Bose audio system and a navigation system.  The 2.8 liter Duramax turbocharged engine is an option with a $3730 price tag but can only be had on the crew cab.

The new Denali trim is top of the line.  For the uninitiated, in the GMC world a Denali trim is all about luxury.  Sounds kind of weird in a pickup but actually works.  The Denali gets the SLT’s equipment plus the contents of the Driver Alert package, the upgraded Bose audio system, chrome 20-inch wheels, cargo lamps, a spray-in bedliner, heated and ventilated front seats, wireless charging for compatible cellphones and a heated steering wheel.

So, what makes the Canyon stand out from the Tacoma’s, Ridgelines, Frontiers and Colorados?

Style.

In world of SUVs, crossovers, and (ugh) minivans, the only way the midsize truck will ever survive is to appeal to those buyers who want a bit of style. The 2017 Canyon Denali I had recently delivers just that. It’s stylish, easy to drive, and provides the same kind benefits you get in an SUV such as ride height, and interior room and seating.

Just like everyone loves their cheeseburger differently, the choices in midsize trucks allows a person to tailor their ride their own way. I’ll take mine as a Canyon Denali with a side of fires please. Sure, it may be confusing, but it’s better than picking off the tomatoes.

The 2017 GMC Canyon Denali
MSRP: $43,820
MSRP (as tested): $44,255
Engine (as tested): 3.6L V-6 308 hp @6800 rpm, 273 lb-ft torque @4000 rpm
Transmission: Shiftable Hydra-Matic 8L45 eight-speed automatic
Fuel Mileage (EPA):  17 city, 24 highway, 19 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 22 mpg
Base curb weight (4WD): 4150

Interior Dimensions (in)
Passenger Capacity     5 adults
Front Head Room     41.40
Front Leg Room     45.00
Front Shoulder Room     57.50
Front Hip Room     55.00
Second Head Room     38.30
Second Leg Room     35.80
Second Shoulder Room     56.20
Second Hip Room     53.30

Exterior Dimensions (In)
Wheelbase     128.30
Length, Overall w/o rear bumper     212.4
Width, Max w/o mirrors     74.30
Height, Overall     70.60
Overhang, Front     36.90
Cab to Axle     23.94
Ground to Top of Load Floor     34.5
Ground Clearance, Front     8.20
Ground Clearance, Rear     8.20

Cargo Area Dimensions
Cargo Box Length @ Floor     61.70
Cargo Box Width @ Floor     57.80
Cargo Box Width @ Wheelhousings     44.40
Cargo Volume     41.30

Warranty
Basic: 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 5 Years/60,000 Miles
Corrosion: 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Roadside Assistance: 5 Years/60,000 Miles
Maintenance: 2 Years/24,000 Miles
All specs can be found here. (PDF)

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Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. He served in support of Operation Just Cause, Desert Shield/Storm and ended his military career in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Greg has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology.

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