Drive Review – 2016 GMC CANYON DuraMax SLT 4WD – By Ben Lewis



We recently tested the all-new 2016 RAV4 Hybrid. What does this have to do with the GMC Canyon Diesel? Nothing, except it does point to a trend. Fresh powertrain choices in well-established vehicles.

In the case of the Canyon – ok, just this once – the 2016 GMC Canyon 4WD SLT Short Box with 2.8L DURAMAX turbo diesel 4-cylinder – it means that the mid-size pickup buyer now has the opportunity to  enjoy the diesel goodness they’ve long been denied.

Diesel has always been the go-to for the big rigs, and for the heavy-duty, 250-series size pickups as well. Nissan just introduced a segment-busting TITAN XD that sits between the traditional 150-series and a something a bit larger, and powers it with an available V8 turbo diesel by legendary maker Cummins. And in the 150-class, in 2014, Dodge began offering its turbo V6 EcoDiesel.

So with the Canyon (and it’s identical twin the Chevy Colorado), that means you’ve earned the right to throw on a flannel shirt, pull down your trucker cap and eat pie at the local truck stop. Keep that coffee comin. The ice cream on that boysenberry?   You get an unbeatable combination of fuel efficiency and towing power.

In truck world, diesel gets a knowing nod, without the contempt many diesel car owners are getting with the current scandals at VW and Audi. It may have to do with not wanting to get in a stare-down match with a massive chrome grille up front and “I brake for Bull Moose” bumper stickers out back. Go figure.

Which shouldn’t make you think this diesel is low tech. With gear like a turbocharged and intercooled DOHC, 16-valve, direct injection, this Thailand-built, 4-cylinder is a modern powerplant. And while pumping out 181 horsepower probably won’t raise eyebrows, 369 lb.-ft of torque at just 2,000 rpm will certainly dilate your pupils.

More importantly, you can haul the goods, with best-in-class max towing capacity of 7,700 lbs. (7,600 lbs for 4WD models like our tester). Making sure you can stop the goods as well as haul, the Canyon features  a standard and exclusive integrated trailer brake controller as well as an exhaust brake. Big rig gear that’s truly welcome.

Part two of the diesel equation comes with efficiency. In our testing – which we should note, did not include towing, but we did stop for pie – we averaged a stellar 24 mpg. So basically you can drive a truck that gets the fuel economy of a Toyota Camry – with the ability to tow 2 Camrys. Pretty cool.

For comparison, our 4WD V6 Tacoma that we recently tested struggled to stay above 15 mpg. That’s a huge difference.

And while we did like the song of the Tacoma’s V6, there’s a gut-level thrill of driving a diesel truck. The chug-chug down low. And the incredible low-end punch of all that torque is impressive and addicting.


It’s also impressively smooth. Chevy/GMC did a lot of development work with the Duramax, and also designed the 6-speed automatic with a Centrifugal Pendulum Vibration Absorber (CPVA to you and me) to help quell the bad vibes and it does a great job. You still get a little shake, rattle and roll, but it suits the truck.

The ride is on the firm side, but not unlivable. And considering the spring rates required to handle those heavy loads, that’s an impressive accomplishment.  The braking is worthyof note; four-wheel discs with a brake pedal that has a superb, meaty feel. Sure to bring confidence when you’re trying to slow down a mountain pass with a big load in tow.

The rest of the truck is similar to what we have come to expect from the Canyon/Colorado twins. These are extremely handsome trucks – we’re partial to the big red GMC on the massive chrome grille. Our tester was a quicksilver metallic that gave some added elegance, and although none of these trucks are really “small” anymore, it was easy to negotiate your way around.

Inside is a little less successful for us. The design is clearly shared with the larger Chevy/GMC trucks, which are spacious and comfortable. We were surprised to find our Canyon felt a bit narrow up front. Maybe we should have gone easy on that pie…

That said, the quality of the materials themselves was very good, and the infotainment is first class, optioned out with a Bose premium audio system, 8-inch touch screen and connectivity desirables like Apple AirPlay, and a 4G LTE WI-FI hot spot.

Remember the RAV4 Hybrid we mentioned in the beginning? Well, there’s another similarity here. Like the RAV4, GMC has decided that the diesel engine will be a premium option, and that means things can get pricey.

While the Canyon line begins at $20,995, our 4WD SLT Crew Short Box started at $37,450. The Duramax diesel rang in at $3,730. The info-tainment system was another $995, Spray in bedliner, a reasonable $475, while the gorgeous quicksilver metallic paint  was a worthy $395. Topping it off was the Driver Alert Package, with forward collision alert and lane departure warning, a no-brainer at $395.

Totaled up our powerful, frugal little workhorse came in at $43,440.  Proof that while talk may be cheap, torque is priced at a premium.

It is a lot of truck for the money, but in the real world its biggest competitors are..well its biggest competitors. The ultra-competitive bloodbath that is the full-size truck market may put a heavily-discounted Sierra or F150 in your driveway with greater capabilities for less money.

Still, there is definitely a market for a smaller truck with big heart and a bird-sized appetite, even if it is pricey. GMC is estimating 1 in 10 of Canyons will find homes with the Duramax diesel under the hood. We think those buyers will be pleased as pie.