With video: ‘High and wide’ GMC Canyon gets remake, rugged AT4X model

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 13, 2022

Detroit — The GMC Canyon is hitting the trail in fresh duds for 2023.

General Motors’ premium midsize truck gains a longer wheelbase, new engine and more rugged attitude with an all-new, AT4X off-road trim. The upgrades mirror those found on its twin Chevy Colorado pickup (with which the Canyon shares a ladder-frame platform), but the Canyon steps up the swagger with more tools, more interior décor and a range-topping Denali tuxedo trim.

2023 GMC Canyon AT4X pickup

The Denali dresses up with a fancy chrome grille, 20-inch rims, and quilted seats for a night out at the country club. But it’s AT4X that really sets the tone for Canyon’s “high and wide” theme. The Canyon is wider, higher — and higher priced — than the previous model with the entry Elevation model starting at about $40,000 (compared to the previous generation’s $32,200) and the AT4X stickering at $63,350.

The previous generation Canyon’s off-road AT4 trim rode in the shadow of Colorado’s tree-chewing ZR2 off-roader that brought Multimatic shocks, twin-locking differentials and gnarly Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain rubber.

“GMC is flexing the might of our off-road muscle,” said GMC Global Vice President Duncan Aldred of the AT4X trim that first dressed the Sierra full-size pickup.

The Canyon AT4X's redesigned grille incorporates standard LED headlights.

For 2023, AT4X catches up with Chevy’s ZR2 offering on all counts — then adds a standard front winch for when you get too deep in the mud. Integrated into the front bumper with a front bash and light bar, the COMEUP winch leads a comprehensive re-imagining of Canyon design. The grille is a departure from the traditional, chrome-framed GMC design — the grille integrating with bodywork and standard LED headlights to emphasize the pickup’s 37-degree approach angle.

So focused is Canyon on off-road that even Denali ditches its front air dam. Denali emphasizes off-road toughness with its high chin and front bash plate. The AT4X has three skid plates in all to complement its 10.7-inch lift.

The 2023 GMC Canyon lineup includes the off-road-focused AT4X, center, and upscale Denali, right.

All four trims of Canyon — including the base Elevation and AT4 models — get a widened, 3.5-inch track over last year’s model for better off-road balance. The widened track is accentuated by big, blistered steel fenders on the Canyon for a muscular look. The fenders are highlighted by yellow lights — usually found on heavy-duty tow rigs — that allow drivers to better locate their fenders in the dark off road.

Vehicle width is complemented by Canyon’s 3.5-inch longer wheelbase to smooth the ride on-road.

“That extra length means that benefits the AT4X, with 33-inch all-terrain tires, to ride better on-road as well as off-road,” said Cory Taulbert, Canyon performance variant manager, at a media preview.

The Canyon AT4X comes with 33-inch tires, the better to chew up off-road trails.

Like Colorado ZR2, the 33-inch Wrangler tires are augmented by Formula One-inspired Multimatic shocks that set AT4X apart. The capable suspension allows five dive modes: NORMAL, TOW/HAUL, OFF-ROAD,  TERRAIN and BAJA. Terrain focuses on low-speed, one-pedal precision driving, while Baja armors the pickup for maximum off-road speed. To aid in extreme off-road conditions, the AT4X also offers up to 10 cameras, including self-cleaning, under-body lenses. Drivers benefit from a blizzard of off-road data, including g-force, altimeter and pitch/roll stats.

Ground clearance is standard on al trims at 9.6 inches with a further 1-inch lift for the AT4X on 33-inch tires. The regular AT4 trim gets 32s.

Taking a page from Henry Ford and the Model T, the 2023 GMC Canyon offers whatever bed size you like, as long as it's 5.5 feet.

While off-road capability is the Canyon’s headliner, it also gets significant upgrades inside and out for daily chores. Bowing to customer preference, Canyon will only be available in Crew Cab with a 5.5-foot bed. An innovator in tailgate tech with the six-way Multi-Pro tailgate, GMC equips Canyon with a storage area in the rear tailgate that can be used for tools — even a cooler, complete with drain plug. The feature is shared with Colorado.

Befitting the truck’s off-road focus, a graphic of Telluride, Colorado’s peaked mountains and Moab, Utah’s sculpted sandstone is etched into the tailgate’s top.

Inside, Canyon addresses criticism that its interior design fell short of the Denali trim standards. “Therein lies our biggest complaint about the Canyon’s interior: even in Denali trim, it never feels like a premium environment,” wrote enthusiast magazine Car and Driver about the last-gen truck.

2023 GMC Canyon Denali pickup interior

The new Canyon is a big step up. In addition to all-new 11-inch instrument cluster (8-inch on Elevation/AT4) and 11.3-inch infotainment digital displays that echo big brother GMC Sierra, Canyon gains a Google operating system, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and premium dash-and-door materials. Head-up display and Bose audio come standard on AT4 trims.

Standard safety features include pedestrian detection, emergency braking and auto high beams. Additional packages include blind-spot assist and adaptive cruise control.

The rear seat did not benefit from the wheelbase’s 3.5-inch extension, so rear quarters remain tight for six-footers. But the interior gains a sunroof to let the sun shine in.

Propelling the new beast down the road is the same 2.7-liter turbo-4 found in the base GMC Sierra (as well as Colorado). The torquey turbo-4 has three configurations, with the AT4X boasting 310 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. Some may miss last-gen’s diesel offering, though Taulbert says the turbo-4 actually producesd more torque.

2023 GMC Canyon Denali pickup

“We applied complexity where it matters,” he said of the Canyon’s simplification of engines/cab while increasing available technology.

The GM pickup twins seek to raise the bar in a class where they are perennially No. 2 in sales behind the Toyota Tacoma. The ‘23 Canyon goes into production early next year with AT4X to follow in spring.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

Comments are closed.