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2023 GMC Canyon AT4X Edition 1 on a trail

Driven: 2023 GMC Canyon Puts Other Midsize Pickups on Notice

Redesign provides an overhauled interior, more available tech and some serious off-road equipment

  • The Canyon has been redesigned for 2023.
  • A new AT4X trim makes the Canyon even more off-road capable.
  • The new interior features large instrument panel and multimedia screens.

The GMC Canyon midsize pickup gets a full redesign for 2023 and succeeds the previous-generation Canyon that made its debut nearly a decade ago. While we were impressed with the old truck's handling, powertrains and towing capabilities, its technology features, interior design and off-road capabilities were in need of improvement. Thankfully, this latest Canyon builds off of the previous-gen's strengths and improves everything else.

The new Canyon features a new turbocharged engine, GMC's latest in-car tech, a wide array of driver aids and some impressive off-road capabilities. We had an opportunity to drive all four of the 2023 Canyon's trims, including some time off-roading in the new Canyon AT4X, a truck that's essentially a GMC-badged version of the impressive Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. Are the changes enough to move the needle and make the Canyon a superior pick over the Toyota Tacoma? We got real seat time to find out.

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2023 GMC Canyon AT4X Edition 1 front three-quarter

What's under the Canyon's hood?

All Canyons are powered by a turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. This is the same engine that made its debut in GM's light-duty full-size trucks a few years back. That means no more V6 or turbodiesel engine options for the Canyon. Unlike the related Chevrolet Colorado, which features three different power ratings for the 2.7-liter, the Canyon gets the high-output version of this engine in all trims. It makes 310 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. This is a stout amount of power for a midsize truck and tops the outputs of the current Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma. Four-wheel drive is standard on all but the base Elevation trim.

What other hardware changes does the Canyon get?

There's a wider track than before as well as a taller ride height. The Canyon's base ground clearance is now 9.6 inches and just a bit shy of the Tacoma's 9.7 inches of clearance. Opting for the off-road-focused AT4X takes things up another inch, raising ground clearance to 10.7 inches. Additionally, the AT4X, as the new GMC version of the Colorado ZR2, features Multimatic DSSV dampers, electronic locking front and rear differentials, 33-inch all-terrain tires, rock rails and heavy-duty skid plates. The Multimatic dampers are particularly noteworthy, as they improve the truck's off-road capabilities without significantly sacrificing on-road comfort.

An Edition 1 package that will only be available for the redesigned Canyon's first year of production adds on front- and rear-facing underbody cameras, an off-road front bumper with safari bar, a front 30-inch light bar, a winch, a unique front skid plate and 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels. The front bumper, safari bar, light bar and winch will only be offered on the Edition 1 at launch but will be available as a factory or dealer accessory for 2024.

2023 GMC Canyon AT4X Edition 1 getting muddy

How does the Canyon drive?

We didn't have any significant complaints about the previous Canyon's ride, handling and overall performance, so it's no surprise that the new truck is still a solid performer. The new engine provides plenty of power, with lots of low- and mid-range torque to help it feel quick around town. There's more than enough power for merging or passing on the highway too. The eight-speed automatic is quick and smooth, though on our initial drive we noticed that it occasionally shifted unexpectedly, as if it wasn't sure what gear it needed to be in.

The steering is responsive and provides more feedback from the road surface than the systems in other midsize trucks. These qualities give the Canyon a more refined feel; the whole truck seems tighter and more buttoned-down than before. The suspension, be it the standard setup or the AT4X's Multimatic DSSV dampers, is well balanced between on-road comfort and off-road compliance. While rivals like the Tacoma, Ford Ranger and Jeep Gladiator feature suspensions that allow for compliance and clearance on rough roads but can feel soft and wallowy on pavement, the Canyon seems well tuned for both.

What about off-roading?

We drove on some trails that would have been too tight for a Sierra 1500. The Canyon's midsize proportions and direct steering gave us the confidence to thread the needle between some nasty-looking logs without puckering up too badly. Front and rear electronically locking differentials are standard on the AT4X, and the rear diff can be activated on-the-fly.

Other than some mud and narrow clearances, the trails GMC took us on weren't overly taxing for a truck as capable as the AT4X. We think the regular AT4 with its standard four-wheel drive, all-terrain tires, hill descent control and two-speed transfer case would have made it through the same areas just as unscathed.

The Canyon features multiple drive modes, with three (Off-Road, Terrain and Baja) aimed at improving performance on loose surfaces. Off-Road is the most mild and intended for grass, mud or gravel. Terrain mode adjusts things like throttle response and transmission tuning to help improve low-speed maneuverability. Think steep hills and rock crawling. Baja mode — exclusive to the AT4X — is intended for high-speed driving on sand or dirt, though we didn't have an opportunity to put it to the test.

How comfortable is the Canyon?

The Canyon has decent on-road manners, especially for a truck. It's not pillowy soft, but it generally soaks up bumps without bouncing about or being too stiff. All 2023 Canyons are crew cabs, with four real doors and a full bench seat in the rear. Seats in both rows are decently padded and offer a more supportive shape than the outgoing Canyon's rather flat seats. There's more than enough space for four adults inside this truck. The driver's seat position is excellent and much preferred over the splay-legged position required by the awkward seat placement in the Toyota Tacoma.

2023 GMC Canyon AT4X Edition 1 dashboard

How's the Canyon's interior?

The Canyon's interior design and feel are better than the outgoing Canyon's. The last Canyon drove well, but the interior was drab to look at and cheap to the touch. Stiff seats and hard plastics undercut the truck's generally comfortable ride. The new interior, while not necessarily luxurious, offers a more refined and premium feel than the old truck's cabin. That's especially true in the Denali trim, which features interior upgrades over the other variants with wood trim and additional leather on surfaces like the door panels.

This all makes the Canyon feel much more grown-up than before. GMC and General Motors as a whole have been making a concerted effort to improve their interiors as evidenced by models like the refreshed GMC Sierra and fully redesigned models like the Chevrolet Trailblazer and Trax. GM interiors have generally lagged behind the competition, so we're pleased that the new Canyon doesn't suffer from the same middling design as its predecessor.

How's the Canyon's tech?

Along with the new interior comes new in-car tech, including an 11.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system that will be standard on all trims. It features GM's latest user interface and comes standard with wireless connectivity for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. If you prefer to use the Canyon's system rather than stream from your phone, the new infotainment is straightforward and easy to use. The Google-backed system uses Google Maps as its native navigation system, so it's easy to use.

The Elevation and AT4 both come with 8-inch digital instrument clusters, while the AT4X and Denali get slightly larger 11-inch digital instrument clusters. Additionally, the AT4X and Denali get a head-up display; it's optional on the standard AT4.

But it's not just in-cabin tech that gets a bump. The Canyon is available with a number of other features that help it stand out. Some of those features include an available 10 exterior cameras, including one underneath the truck so you can see just how close those rocks are to bashing the underside of your truck. That camera even has a washer nozzle to spray the lens, useful for when the entire underside gets caked in mud.

There are a handful of standard and available driver's aids too. Standard equipment includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams and lane keeping assistance. Additionally, features like adaptive cruise control and blind-spot warning are available with certain packages. In practice, it all works well. The adaptive cruise helped maintain good gaps, and all of those cameras were helpful when navigating tight trails.

2023 GMC Canyon AT4X Edition 1 detail

How are the Canyon's towing and hauling?

Towing and hauling have always been among the Canyon's strengths, and the 2023 model is no different. Payload ratings vary from just over 1,000 pounds in the AT4X Edition 1 to over 1,600 pounds in the two-wheel-drive Canyon Elevation. All trucks feature the same bed length. At 61.7 inches, it's slightly longer than the beds on the Tacoma, Ranger and Gladiator, but it's slightly smaller than the Honda Ridgeline's bed.

The Elevation, AT4 and Denali all have a 7,700-pound towing capacity, right there with the best midsize trucks. The AT4X is rated at a lower but still impressive 6,000 pounds, and the AT4X Edition 1 is rated at 5,500 pounds.

How economical is the Canyon?

All Canyons use the same turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine, but fuel economy ratings vary slightly. The two-wheel-drive Elevation gets an EPA-estimated 20 mpg in combined city/highway driving. Four-wheel-drive models are rated at 19 mpg combined except for the AT4X (18 mpg). Overall, the Canyon's EPA numbers are a bit worse than the class average. Most rivals average at least 20 mpg combined, even with four-wheel drive.

Edmunds says

The midsize pickup truck segment has competitors from GMC, Jeep, Ford, Toyota, Chevrolet, Honda and Nissan all contending for your attention. With a new powertrain, a significantly improved interior, lots of available tech and some real off-road credibility, the new GMC Canyon is a big improvement and should be a prime pick in 2023.