An often overlooked member of the compact truck segment, the GMC Canyon is now in its sixth year of production and the recipient of some welcome changes for 2009. Especially in light of the self-titled “professional” designation, the most important of upgrades is an optional new 5.3 liter 300 horsepower V8 engine.
The obscurity of the Canyon is in part attributable to the fact that it is virtually identical to the Chevrolet Colorado. Yet another case of GM’s cross-marketing and badging of identical models. But this self-inflicted cannibalism is not the only reason for the Canyon’s meager sales numbers. Previous models have been woefully underpowered with a V6 engine and while the Canyon has a rugged exterior look, the inside seems off target in terms of quality and materials. Not helping matters is the price tag of between $15,000 and $24,000 which many feel is not appropriately distanced from the larger GMC Sierra in terms of price.
Two previous Canyon engines carry over from last year: the standard 2.9-liter four-cylinder with 185 hp and 190 pound-feet of torque, and an optional 3.7-liter inline five-cylinder producing 242 hp and 242 lb-ft of torque. The Work Truck and SLE models come standard with the 2.9-liter engine but can be equipped with the 3.7-liter engine. The 3.7 is standard in SLT models, and SLE and SLT trims can be outfitted with the V8. The 2.9-liter four is paired with a standard five-speed manual transmission except in the crew cabs, which only come with a four-speed automatic. All manual-shift Canyons are eligible for an upgrade to the automatic, and the two larger engines are automatic only. Rear-wheel drive is standard. Four-wheel-drive models feature a shift-on-the-fly two-speed transfer case with push-button controls and an optional locking rear differential.
Despite its previous shortcomings, the Canyon is a comfortable compact truck that is up to the rigors of heavy lifting or stepping in as an everyday driver. The Canyon is available as a regular cab model, an extended cab, or as a crew cab. Regular and extended cab models are available with base, SL, and SLE trim packages, while crew cab models are available only with the SLE package. Other new features for 2009 include, StabiliTrak, a bedliner and XM Satellite Radio as standard features, and an upgraded braking system. The Canyon is still available with multiple engine choices (though we wouldn’t recommend anything but the V8), several body styles, two and four-wheel-drive configurations and the availability of the Z71 off-road package that improves off-road performance.
Fuel economy estimates start at 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined for 2WD models with the 2.9-liter engine, but only 14/19/16 for the top-of-the-line V8-powered crew cab.