Test drive: The 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 is dressed for off-road success


The 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 is the Canyon for people who like to drive their Canyons in canyons.

The new model replaces the All Terrain in the lineup as the most off-road capable Canyon and brings a rugged look with its upgraded equipment.

The AT4 starts at $39,595 and is available as a crew cab with either a short or long bed. It comes standard with a 308 hp V6, eight-speed automatic and full-time four-wheel-drive system with a low range transfer case and an automatic locking rear differential.

It also gets a unique front bumper with built-in recovery hooks, 31-inch all-terrain tires on 17-inch wheels, off-road-tuned suspension, transfer case skid plate, electronic hill-descent speed control and AT4 logo seats.

A $3,195 Performance Edition package steps things up a notch, so to speak, with a deleted air dam and one-inch front leveling kit that improve the approach angle for rough terrain, plus rock rails, additional skid plates, glossy black wheels and trim, rubber floor mats and a spray-in bedliner.

The Canyon’s 2.8-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine is an option that runs around $4,500, depending on the trim and can tow 7,700 pounds while the V6 is good for 7,000 pounds and a 1,531-pound payload.

The Canyon has been refreshed for 2021, but has been on sale since 2015, so its high-tech equipment is a mixed bag. It doesn’t have adaptive cruise control or automatic emergency brakes, but you can order a collision and lane departure warning system package for $395. A wireless smartphone charging pad is standard and the wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto 8-inch infotainment system can be upgraded with navigation and a Bose audio system for $995.

The AT4 is not an all-out high-performance pickup like the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, which has special shocks and a locking front differential for clearing big jumps and boulders, but is more than enough truck for most off-road situations. Just keep in mind the bumper has a composite skin, so you’ll want to pick up a steel one if you plan to push the AT4’s limits.

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The 8.2 inches of ground clearance isn’t excessive, but it managed a very scruffy rock-strewn wash without much fuss and can cruise down unpaved roads all day long. The auto-locking rear differential reacts quickly enough to be unobtrusive in most situations and the full-time all-wheel-drive setting is a boon if you spend a lot of time on the dirt or snow.

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The AT4 doesn’t give up much on-road comfort, either. It’s very quiet and the ride generally smooth, but the stiff tires can deliver a harsh jolt over small pavement bumps and ruts now and then.

The luxury-oriented Denali trim level may remain at the top of the pecking order, but the AT4 is what the Canyon was meant to be.

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2021 GMC Canyon AT4

Base price: $39,595

As tested: $45,780

Type: 4-door, 5-passenger four-wheel-drive pickup

Engine: 3.6-liter V6

Power: 308 hp, 275 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

MPG: 17 city/24 hwy



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