2021 GMC Canyon AT4
The GMC Canyon AT4 is an all new trim level for 2021. GMC released the current version of the Canyon in 2014 as a 2015 model year and this 2nd generation is nearing the end of its life. However, before it goes GM has given it a facelift and minor update for the 2021 model year.
For added off-road capability the Canyon AT4 trim adds 31” DuraTrac tires from Goodyear, suspension more oriented for off-road travel, G80 real locking differential, and additional skid plates. In the looks department GM has painted the tow hooks red, added a larger grill, and AT4 badging.
Apart from the larger more aggressive grill up front, the exterior remains the same as previous model years. There are LED fog lights mounted vertically at the corners of the front bumper, and LED headlights up top.
Moving down the side there are two notable differences. The first is a large AT4 badge on each of the front doors. The second is the Goodyear Duratrac tire selection. They are noticeably more aggressive than the rest of the tires in the Canyon lineup.
A very nice standard feature is the rear corner step in the bumper. While the Colorado ZR2 drops this feature for better departure clearance, the AT4 retains it.
Inside the Canyon AT4 is better appointed than the Colorado, but only slightly. Heated leather seats and steering wheel are standard. The headrests have an embroidered AT4 logo on them. At the time of writing, GMC does offer a non-leather version of the AT4 as well.
The AT4 has some additional standard features like wireless charging, but for the most part the interior is the same as an upper level Colorado. It’s a little smaller than the Tacoma but about on par with the Ranger and Frontier. Rear seat leg room is adequate for average sized adults, but taller people will be cramped.
Steering wheel controls put all the necessary functions at the driver’s fingertips, making radio adjustments, cruiser control, and display changes easy without taking your eyes off the road. The 4wd selector dial is also within easy reach, but a little hard to see on the dash behind the left side of the steering wheel.
The Canyon AT4 rides better than other Canyon trims on-road thanks to the off-road tuned suspension. The rear end doesn’t feel as stiff and doesn’t get as disturbed when hitting potholes or bumps.
The standard engine on the AT4 is the 3.6-liter V6 with 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. While the power is adequate, it doesn’t come on until higher rpms. In many situations more throttle is required than desired. Also, the engine is noisy and a little rough in the mid-upper rpm range, but smooth below 3,500 and above 4,800 rpm. We had this same feeling when testing the Colorado ZR2.
Paired to the V6 is an 8-speed auto that shifts smoothly and performs well, but does tend to stay in a higher gear whenever possible. It isn’t as bad as the Tacoma, but this engine needs to be higher in the rpm range for power. The transmission often downshifts for minor hills is and keeping a set speed without using cruise control requires more driver effort and awareness.
Off-road the AT4 performs quite similar the Ranger FX4 and the Frontier Pro-4x. All these trucks have rear locking differentials and slightly off-road tuned suspension.
For high speed off-roading the Canyon AT4 is smooth over smaller bumps and dips. Notwithstanding, on the bigger bumps it runs out of suspension travel on the front end making for a harsh ride.
On steep rutted hill climbs the G80 locks in and stays locked providing good traction. The brake-based traction control system also transfers some power but isn’t as aggressive as systems in other vehicles. A selectable rear locker is preferable for those who will be off-roading regularly, but the G80 is nice for those who don’t want to worry about having to lock and unlock the rear depending on the conditions they are in.
There are still some features on the AT4 that need addressing for it to be a better off roader. The front air dam hangs down very low, there is no rocker panel protection, additional skid plates are needed for the front end, and easier access to the tow hooks would be nice. GMC does offer an Off-Road Performance Edition that remedies most of these issues.
Pricing the Canyon AT4
The base price for a GMC Canyon AT4 V6 is $40,000. Our test model was equipped with the GMC infotainment system with nav for $995 and the Drive Alert Package for $395. Adding in the $1,195 destination charge brings the total MSRP to $42,585. This is about on par with the Chevy Colorado ZR2, Nissan Frontier Pro-4x and Ford Ranger FX4.
The GMC Canyon AT4 is a nicely equipped Canyon with aggressive tires and slightly better suspension for off-road travel. If all you need is a little more capability over the Elevation trim, then the AT4 is for you. However, if you’re looking for more capability then step up to the AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition or even into the Colorado ZR2. The interior isn’t any worse in those other two trucks, but the off-road capability is significantly better.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.