Perhaps because the Colorado and Canyon were hot products for the company.
The UAW strike is over – until the next negotiation round in 2028.
That means we will be getting vehicles sitting on the assembly lines for months waiting for the rank-and-file to get them completed for dealer deliveries.
It also means that General Motors’ Wentzville, Missouri assembly plant near St. Louis will once again send Chevrolet Colorados and GMC Canyons down the line again.
It is significant to talk about GM’s mid-size pickup trucks, because it was the first plant targeted by the UAW for their strike action. Perhaps because the Colorado and Canyon were hot products for the company.
The talk about the mid-size GM pickup trucks as “hot products” has been a long time coming. The S-Series of the early 1980s sent customers to their respective showrooms, looking for a domestic answer to the multitude of Toyotas, Datsuns/Nissans, Mazdas, Isuzus, and captive imports the Detroit Three were selling with their nameplates – GM, included. It demonstrated that Americans can play in the smaller pickup truck game on a level playing field.
Decades later, GM went back to the drawing board for their Colorado and Canyon. They wanted to concentrate on a single engine offering, a bolder look, better cabins, and more capability.
After a brief off-road run back in May in a 2023 Colorado Trail Boss, I was presented with something almost completely different.
Let me talk you through this tester. In Minnesota, we prefer four-wheel drive instead of two. This 2023 GMC Canyon Elevation Crew Cab model came with just the rear wheels driven. Two-wheel drive trucks still exist. Some seen as “pre-runners.” Let’s just call it such.
On the positive side, I like what GM has done to the exterior design of their mid-size pickup trucks. The GMC version is more compelling, with its large, bold grille dominating the front end. The LED headlamp units are lower on the fascia, which is a design feature on almost everything these days. Do not confuse the thinner lighting units for headlamps. They serve as the turn signal and daytime running lamps.
One thing GMC made sure to adapt to the Canyon are some lines and shapes found on the Sierra 1500 and HD models. The entire tailgate could be seen as an element copied from the Sierra. It looks much better than before and more fitting to the brand’s “Professional Grade” design language.
The rest of the Canyon’s exterior design seems like a carryover from the previous generation. Maybe with a few nips and tucks on the side and along the roof. Overall, it works quite well and adds to the new elements front and back.
The new tailgate is light to operate. You can have it lowered through your key fob. Or, open it from the latch. Either way, it is a very light tailgate, which makes closing it an easy task.
This Elevation model has a black grille finish and a set of dark-finished 18-inch alloy wheels with all-terrain tires. These are the elements of a pre-runner pickup truck.
The cabin received some massive changes up front with a new instrument panel, 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster and a large touchscreen. The cluster is customizable for certain information. Tactile controls are found throughout the dashboard and on the steering wheel. And, yes, the steering wheel is a new design.
On the center stack, there is a new 11.3-inch infotainment touchscreen. Parts of this system is driven by Google’s built-in platform, even with smartphone mirroring for both iPhone and Android devices.
Elevation models come with cloth seating surfaces. Front seat room is good, offering a comfortable and workable driving position via manual adjustments. Rear seat room is adequate for average-sized adults and/or children. The rear doors seem a bit small for entry and exit.
What’s underneath the hood is a single power source offering. The corporate 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine offers some impressive power numbers. We’re talking 310 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. On this Elevation tester, an eight-speed automatic transmission sends power to the rear wheels. By the way, you can get one with four-wheel drive.
In this configuration, your maximum tow rating is 7,700 pounds. The maximum payload rating of 1,640 pounds.
You would think with those numbers would translate into one powerful pickup truck. Well, yeah. The only thing that concerned me was a bit of a lack of refinement. It felt as the engine and transmission were having trouble talking to each other. It was not as ba as it sounded, as it does relax when you’re on the highway. Fuel consumption-wise, the Environmental Protection Agency states that the fuel consumption on the Canyon Elevation 2WD would average 20 MPG.
Overall, the ride quality was fine. Just fine. There was no excessive bouncing from the upgraded off-road suspension, which helped the Canyon’s cause. Handling and cornering were actually quite good overall. The ride and handling mix were achieved with a stronger frame and suspension set-up.
The Canyon had a decent steering radius and a solid steering feel. On-center feel was fine overall. The brakes felt the best with solid stops and a great pedal feel. Panic braking stops were well controlled.
With prices starting at $36,900, the GMC Canyon is available in four trim levels. Most – if not all – of the Canyon models are available in the Crew Cab/five-foot box configuration. This 2WD Elevation Crew Cab model came with a sticker price of $40,695.
The GMC Canyon reminds us that the mid-size pickup truck is still relevant for various reasons. As prices skyrocket for full-size half-ton pickups, the Canyon can still haul its weight. It does better than many SUVs who can only top out at 5,000 pounds for maximum towing. There are the obvious arguments for size, maneuverability, efficiency, and so forth.
What GM is doing in this space is to improve its product to match – if not exceed – it’s immediate competitors. The GMC Canyon is an argument that still could be made, now that the UAW strike is over.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Walser Buick-GMC of Roseville, Minnesota
All photos by Randy Stern