2004 GMC Canyon
2004 GMC Canyon Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
All-new mid-sized pickup designed for comfort.
GMC's all-new Canyon pickup expands, literally, the concept of the General Motors mid-size pickup. Although the truck is marginally shorter than its predecessor, the Sonoma, its about four inches wider inside. That bit of data is significant because it represents GMC's increased attention to comfort in the Canyon while not sacrificing the utility for the things that mid-size pickup drivers do most.
With the Canyon's distinctive new styling, it won't be confused with its GMC predecessor, the Sonoma. As the first all-new GMC truck in its class for more than a decade, the Canyon is significantly improved over the Sonoma, with a stronger frame and a suspension that's friendlier to the fanny.
The Canyon has two new engines, both more powerful than those available in the Sonoma. Both have an inline configuration, one with four cylinders and the other with five. This a true pickup, with a unique frame not shared with any other truck or SUV.
The Canyon is roomy and comfortable inside and has a nice, quiet ride quality. Even the full-on off-road model feels remarkably civilized. On the highway, the Canyon feels solid and stable. The optional five-cylinder engine gives it good power, better than competing V6 engines.
The GMC Canyon is available in two trim levels: the SL, essentially work truck trim, and the SLE, outfitted in civvies rather than dungarees. The Canyon can be further subdivided into those with two-wheel and four-wheel drive, and again by cab, whether standard, extended or crew. And that's before engine, transmission and suspension choices. Consult your neighborhood mathematician for the combinations and permutations attendant thereto.
SL trim includes 15-inch aluminum wheels, split-bench folding seats in base cloth, vinyl floor covering, AM/FM radio and air conditioning. The SLE adds or substitutes front bucket seats in upgrade cloth, a floor console and armrest, color-keyed carpeting, CD player, a rear seat on extended cab models, and a tilt wheel and cruise control on extended cab and crew cab models.
Adding the Z71 High Stance off-road package raises the Canyon 3.6 inches, and adds about $4,000 to the price. The Z71 package, available with two-wheel or four-wheel drive, includes larger color-keyed flares, fog lamps, tow hooks, leather-wrapped wheel, skid plates (on 4x4 only), locking differential and, on two-wheel-drive models, traction control.
Side-curtain air bags are optional ($235). The power convenience group ($500) includes power windows, locks and mirrors. Leather, heated, power adjustable driver and passenger seats ($1,495) are available as a package on Crew Cab models only.
The Canyon puts on a new face for GMC's mid-size pickup. No more mister nice guy. The black center grille with its floating GMC logo is surrounded by brightwork that extends to either side of the truck. It separates a complex looking array of lights composed of daytime running lamps, turn indicators, and high and low beams. Unlike the old Sonoma with its rounded lines, the Canyon has an edge. A slight dihedral at the front outer edge of the hood gives it an aggressive appearance.
Whether standard cab, extended cab, or crew cab, the Canyon has a balanced look. The regular and extended cab have 6-foot, 1-inch beds. The crew cab loses a foot of bed in exchange for its larger cab. Standard and extended cab models have steps in the rear fender ahead of the rear wheels, making it easier to reach and load things in the front of the bed. Extended cabs have door handles inside the door jam in the front edge of the rear-hinged doors. Crew Cabs have front-hinged rear doors with reach-through door handles that are easy to grip and pull open.
The tailgate can be opened fully or dropped 55 degrees to provide support for a 4x8-foot sheet of plywood.
The base Canyon has a no-fault interior right down to its rubber floor mats so you can get in with muddy work boots and not feel guilty. The SLE, however, has more comfort-minded interior with carpeting and more luxurious fabric on its seats.
The new cab allows about four inches additional room from side to side for a roomier front seat and a rear seat in the Crew Cab that more easily accommodates three adults across. Front and rear seats are chair height which, for the driver, allows excellent visibility over the hood and improves leg room for rear seat passengers. The front seats are still the first-class section of the cabin, but those in coach won't have to endure the pain of the old sideways-mounted seats in extended cabs. The Canyon's extended cab is large enough to orient its occasional passengers facing forward.
The instrument panel has large white numerals on a black background with the orange needles that GM loves. Lighting functions are clustered on the dash to the left of the steering wheel; there are no switches in any remote location.
Similarly, the center stack, on a raised portion of the stack on silver-colored plastic, groups the 4x4 functions, the audio and the HVAC functions each with their own. The emergency flasher button is high on the dash where it's easily seen. The cruise control function, however, is the same turn signal stalk system GM has had for decades, albeit refined. Some people hate it; others are don't mind it and are familiar with it.
The Canyon features triple seals around the doors, an example of refinement over the old Sonoma. These not only reduce water and dust intrusion, they also reduce wind noise for a quieter cab.
Our test drive vehicle was a GMC Canyon Crew Cab 4WD with the Z71 suspension. This package gives maximum ground clearance, tires designed for off-roading and a specially calibrated suspension for off-road performance without sacrificing too much on-road comfort.
We found the on-road ride to be remarkably civilized. The Z71 suspension certainly adds weight to the Canyon and there's seat-of-the-pants-noticeable jiggle from the extra weight of the off-road tires. We were able to test the four-wheel-drive system in deep, sucking mud and we climbed a greasy, rocky hillside that in the winter months becomes Pennsylvania's Jack Frost ski resort. The Canyon's performance did not disappoint. There's no doubt when the system engages; there's a small clunk when it shifts into four-wheel high (can be done on the fly) and a bigger clunk when it shifts into four-wheel low (must be stopped and in neutral). No full-time four-wheel drive is available. Four-wheel drive should not be used on dry pavement.
The Canyon feels solid. Its frame is far more rigid than the Sonoma's. This means no rattles or squeaks, and the pickup bed doesn't boom or make any other noise. The suspension is able to work more precisely, without interference from chassis flex, resulting in a better, more controlled ride.
Maximum towing is 4,000 pounds, much less than the Sonoma's 6,000. This was done to improve ride comfort, admittedly at the sacrifice of some utility, but the improvement in ride, particularly at the rear of the vehicle, is remarkable. A washboard dirt road in Virginia didn't make the Canyon giggle like a go-go dancer in overdrive, as many 4x4s would. GM determined that most who tow more than 4,000 pounds do so with a full-size pickup.
We found the Canyon to be stable and predictable around the curves and a solid stopper when the binders were applied, aided by ABS on loose surfaces. The Canyon is a truck, however, so it doesn't corner and brake like a car. We found it generally tending strongly to understeer, meaning that when cornered hard it's more likely to go straight ahead than spin out.
The 3.5-liter Vortec 3500 five-cylinder engine, a dual-overhead cam unit with variable cam timing is rated at 220 horsepower. It develops 225 pounds-feet of torque at 2800 rpm. Its torque, that twisting force that propels the truck from intersections and helps it tow heavy loads up long grades, is spread over a broad rpm range. The all-aluminum engine construction aids in cooling and, because of its lower weight, save fuel and permits quicker acceleration. Recommended fuel is unleaded regular.
The five-cylinder engine idles and cruises quietly, but the uncommon number of cylinders makes a peculiar siren-like sound when accelerating. It's not bad, just different. GMC boasts best-in-class power with this engine, making more power than competitive V6s.
The 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine is essentially the five-cylinder engine minus one cylinder.The GMC Canyon features distinctive packaging and styling from the mechanically identical Chevrolet Colorado. With its new chassis and body, the Canyon benefits from the most recent technology, putting it way out ahead of older designs such as the Ford Ranger.
The GMC Canyon features distinctive packaging and styling from the mechanically identical Chevrolet Colorado. With its new chassis and body, the Canyon benefits from the most recent technology, putting it way out ahead of older designs such as the Ford Ranger.
The Canyon is ideal for owners who need a real pickup but don't need or want the size and cost of a full-size pickup. The Canyon is easy to park and is driver friendly. With the Crew Cab, Dad, Mom and their 2.5 kids can bring home a load of horse manure for the garden and then go out together for a dinner and a movie (after, one hopes, hosing out the bed). In short, the Canyon is an all-around performer putting GMC in the groove for mid-size pickup performance.
GMC Canyon 2WD regular cab SL ($15,895); 2WD regular cab SLE ($16,850); 2WD extended cab SL ($18,240); 2WD extended cab SLE ($19,950); 2WD Crew Cab SLE ($20,480); 4WD regular cab SL ($18,505); 4WD regular cab SLE ($19,460); 4WD extended cab SL ($20,850); 4WD extended cab SLE ($22,560): 4WD Crew Cab SLE ($23,090).
Options As Tested
Side-curtain airbags ($235); Body side molding ($100), sliding rear window ($120), 6-disc CD player ($395), brushed aluminum side steps ($450).
GMC Canyon Crew Cab High Rider Z71 Off Road 4WD ($27,090).
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