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Driven: 2024 GMC Canyon AT4X AEV Edition Goes Big on Off-Road Hardware and Tech

Canyon AT4X to other midsize trucks: "Go kick rocks"

2024 GMC Canyon AT4X AEV front
  • The AT4X AEV Edition is the Canyon's new top-dog off-roader.
  • It has 35-inch tires, steel bumpers and more.
  • It's still comfortable to drive every day, too.

What do we have here? Ah, yes, it's the 2024 GMC Canyon AT4X AEV Edition, a truck that's equal parts alphanumeric excess and off-road awesomeness. Just from the pictures, you can tell it's something special — check out the lifted stance, widened fenders, protective rock rails and black-painted wheels with more meat on them than a deli counter. All of that comes right from the factory. And there's a lot more that's hidden from view too.

How does it perform out on a trail? Well, a signature line from John Carpenter's classic They Live comes to mind: "I've come here to chew bubblegum and kick [blank] … and I'm all out of bubblegum."

Canyon AT4X and AT4X AEV Edition — what's the difference?

The third-generation Canyon midsize truck debuted for 2023 and is related to the similarly redesigned Chevrolet Colorado. There's a bunch that's new for this generation Canyon, including a roomier interior, a standard 310-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and new driver assist and convenience technology features. Significant for what I'm covering here is the AT4X, which is Canyon's new hardcore off-roader and is essentially the GMC equivalent of the Colorado ZR2.

Highlighted upgrades for the AT4X include:

  • A raised suspension that provides 10.7 inches of ground clearance (that's a bit less than a Jeep Gladiator Rubicon's 11.1 inches)
  • Special Multimatic DSSV suspension dampers; these are designed to provide excellent control and stability while off-roading while still riding comfortably on normal roads
  • Locking front and rear differentials; activating one or both helps maximize available traction when one tire on an axle is losing grip or is lifting in the air completely
  • 17-inch wheels fitted with 33-inch mud-terrain tires (285/70R17) for providing extra grip and sidewall squishiness when climbing over rocks
  • Underbody protective skid plates and rock rails for those extreme times when the above features aren't quite enough and you need to protect the Canyon's shiny and oily bits
GMC Canyon AT4X

The AEV Edition, which is new for 2024, builds on the AT4X with even more modification. AEV refers to American Expedition Vehicles, a well-known aftermarket off-road parts company.

Comparable to the Colorado ZR2 Bison, the Canyon's AEV Edition pushes in all the poker chips with:

  • Heavy-duty powder-coated front and rear steel bumpers with integrated recovery points
  • Additional and stronger protective underbody skid plates
  • 17-inch beadlock capable wheels with 35-inch tires (315/70R17)
  • 12.2 inches of ground clearance
  • Full-size spare tire mounted in the bed
  • Even wider fender flares
  • Extra auxiliary in-cabin switches to support the addition of further accessories, such as lighting or a winch
GMC Canyon AT4X rear off-roading

What's the Canyon AT4X's price?

Complete pricing for 2024 wasn't available at the time of our story, but the 2023 Canyon AT4X starts at $56,995 including destination. Err, so, yeah, it's a lot for a midsize truck. But it does come with all of the above plus nearly every other Canyon feature as standard. As a rough estimate, I'd guess the new AEV Edition will be an additional $6,000 or so.

How do the Canyon AT4X and AEV Edition drive?

I had the opportunity to drive both off-road-oriented Canyon versions for the good part of a day. My route took me along some winding two-lane roads, dirt roads and a rocky trail that I'd describe as challenging enough to get a feel for the truck's capabilities but not so outrageously tough to drive that I'd be afraid of completely breaking stuff.

Broadly, driving the Canyon AT4X is like driving a modified midsize truck. I know, you're saying, "thanks, Captain Obvious," but I mean it as a compliment. This is a reasonably sized new truck with all of the latest tech, but it also has well-integrated upgrades that encourage you to head out for the weekend and do whatever floats your nature boat. Fishing, hiking, mountain biking, making shirtless Tiktok videos of yourself chopping firewood … you know, whatever.

GMC Canyon AT4X AEV rear

The AT4X's approach and departure angles (a measurement from the ground to the bottom tip of the front and rear bumpers) aren't quite as generous as a Gladiator Rubicon's but they're still pretty good. Plus, there's something the Gladiator doesn't have: a beefy turbocharged four-cylinder engine. You can tell GMC designed this 2.7-liter four-cylinder to be a truck engine — it redlines at an untriumphant 5,500 rpm — but there's lots of low-end torque to help keep this truck moving. Put the Canyon in four-wheel drive, select low-range gearing (all of which is electronically engaged) and you're primed to rock crawl.

The Canyon AT4X has different drive modes that adjust various characteristics such as steering and traction control. I found the Terrain mode to be the most helpful on the rocky trail. It has a low-speed driving mode that works as one-pedal driving. If you lift off the gas the truck will brake and ultimately come to a complete stop. Pressing back on the gas will get you going again. It's nice when wheeling over rocks and ruts because you rarely have to use the brake pedal; just modulate your progress with the gas pedal. It's a pretty cool feature.

The AEV Edition drove similarly. The most noticeable difference is the extra ground clearance. It gave me confidence that the truck could handle just about anything. Like, ehh, does picking a correct line even matter? Just point it down the trail and go.

GMC Canyon AT4X features Multimatic suspension dampers

What about on the highway?

Maybe Starbucks are more of your thing than propane camp stoves. No problem. The cool thing about these trucks is that the trick hardware meant for off-roading also works great for letting you fearlessly drive over potholes, ruts and speed bumps. The DSSV dampers are particularly good at providing a smooth ride when cruising. The knobby tires make a constant thrum on the highway — even more so for the AEV's — but it's not objectionable. The same goes for the Canyon's grumbly four-cylinder engine and wind noise. My initial take is that the Canyon should be a pretty cush midsize truck to drive long distances, even though the off-road hardware doesn't seem, on paper, to make for a pleasant driving experience.

GMC Canyon AT4X dashboard

How's the Canyon's interior and tech?

The Canyon AT4X's cabin looks upscale and is equipped with just about all of the Canyon's available features. This includes front seats that are heated and ventilated, a full digital instrument display and a sharp-looking 11.3-inch center touchscreen. The touchscreen is Google-based and bundles in Google Maps and Google Assistant voice command functionality that you can use to control many of the truck's features. The Canyon's rear seating is typical for a midsize truck. This isn't a full-size truck with acres of space, but people up to about 6 feet tall should fit fine.

There are two minor drawbacks that I noticed. First, the AT4X's special white upholstered dash and door trim inserts look neat in photos but contrast too much with the rest of the black interior when you're driving. I also suspect they easily show off dirt and smudges. Secondly, the AEV's bed-mounted spare tire blocks about 60% of the view out the rear window. A digital rearview mirror (a feature that uses the rearview camera to give you an inhibited view out back) isn't available.

The Canyon does come with a camera system that's helpful for off-roading. There are different views you can select, including an underbody one that has a lens-washing feature. Camera resolution of the various views isn't super sharp but it's good enough to help you better see terrain when you're on an off-road trail or just the more typical parking lot situation. The Canyon AT4X also comes with an exclusive head-up display that projects useful information on the windshield.

GMC Canyon AT4X touchscreen

The Canyon AT4X's towing and payload capabilities

GMC says the Canyon AT4X can tow up to 6,000 pounds when properly equipped. That's respectable for a midsize truck and good enough to pull smaller trailers. But it is down from the Canyon's maximum amount of 7,700 pounds on other trim levels. Also, maximum payload drops from a potential of 1,640 pounds to 1,250 pounds for the AT4X. Because of the truck's raised suspension, reaching into the bed to load or unload items from the side isn't as easy as it might be otherwise.

Edmunds says

The 2024 midsize pickup segment is shaping up to be the equivalent of a prime-time WWE smackdown. Besides the new Canyon and Colorado, there's the redesigned Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma, both of which come in similarly gonzo off-road versions. Jeep has spiffed up its Gladiator for 2024, and Honda's likely doing something to keep its Ridgeline fresh, too. How does the Canyon fit in? Will it claim a title belt? Only a comparison test would tell for sure, but this truck's stylish look, off-road capability and helpful tech definitely make it a contender.