GMC Canyon Grille
Jerry Kronenberg

2021 GMC Canyon AT4 is Built to Handle Anything on the Road (or Off of It)

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GMC Canyon Grille
Jerry Kronenberg

Canyon-Do Attitude

The 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 midsized all-terrain pickup truck looks like it'd be as comfortable conquering the Himalayas as it would the highway. An all-new trimline for 2021 (replacing the 2020 Canyon All Terrain trim), the Canyon AT4 boasts four-wheel drive, big Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires, an auto-locking rear differential, and other off-road-friendly features. The AT4, which trails only the top-of-the-line Denali among the GMC Canyon's trim levels, starts at a $39,395 MSRP. I recently checked out the four-door AT4 crew cab with a short-box cargo bed. (The model also comes in two-door versions, as well as in versions with a larger, "long-box" cargo bed.)


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GMC Canyon Exterior
Jerry Kronenberg

Exterior

My test AT4 featured a snazzy color scheme — Satin White paint accented with black door handles and other black trim. Overall, the AT4's exterior looked brawny, but not "monster-truck" like. The vehicle's large hood sat a hefty 4 feet off of the ground, perched atop a large grille decorated with a big GMC logo and two red tow hooks. This grille swept back to large front doors with big folding mirrors, 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels, and oversized, 31-inch DuraTrac tires that looked like they could handle the Amazon River Basin without breaking a sweat. All the way back, my test AT4 featured an easy-to-use tailgate that opened to an unlined cargo bed that measured roughly 5 feet long by 4.5 feet wide. That's plenty of room to handle pretty much anything this side of a motorboat. (And if you do need to transport a motorboat, GM rates the AT4's towing capacity at 7,000 pounds.)


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GMC Canyon Front Seats
Jerry Kronenberg

Front Seats

Climb into the AT4 (and since the cabin is some 20 inches off of the ground, I do mean climb) and you'll find a modest, comfortable interior. My test model came with a nice Jet Black/Kalahari interior color scheme, outfitted with trim that wasn't ultra-premium, but not spartan, either. My test car's heated, stitched-leather power front seats offered good legroom and hip room, as well as excellent headroom (not surprising given the model's high roofline). The vehicle also came with a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a classic-looking dashboard outfitted with a large analog speedometer and tachometer, plus smaller analog fuel and temperature gauges.


My test model had an optional GM Infotainment System ($995) that featured an 8-inch touchscreen to control the AT4's navigation, climate system, and Bose premium stereo. The audio system boasted AM/FM/SiriusXM radio, as well as Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and access to apps such as iHeartRadio and Spotify. Two other nice touches: My test AT4 included a wireless phone charger in front, along with a good voice-command system to run the stereo and other equipment hands-free.


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GMC Canyon Back Seats
Jerry Kronenberg

Rear Seats

The AT4's rear seats offered good headroom and hip room, along with decent legroom — although my lower back probably wouldn't have enjoyed a long journey back there. 

The rear seats are technically designed for three people, and three adults could probably tolerate them for an hour or so, although really long intercity journeys might get a bit uncomfortable. That said, the rear seats could easily accommodate three young children for even long trips. And when there are only two passengers in back, the AT4's rear seats come with a handy fold-down armrest/cupholder in the center spot.


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GMC Canyon Tires
Jerry Kronenberg

Road Test

On the road, my test AT4's 308-horsepower V-6 engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, and on-demand all-wheel drive teamed up to provide a good ride for such a large, versatile vehicle. The model's high-up road view and large windows and windshields combined to provide good sightlines. That made backing up the vehicle relatively easy, especially since the AT4 comes standard with a backup camera.


Parking requires some skill, given the vehicle's size, but the truck corners and brakes well. Acceleration is also relatively good for such a large vehicle, with my test AT4 revving fairly easily to 5,800 rpm to go from zero mph to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds while in two-wheel drive mode. (The model ran a little more sluggishly in four-wheel drive, but that's to be expected.) As for the AT4's off-road capabilities, my test truck came with not only oversized tires and an auto-locking rear differential, but also with a two-speed electric transfer case and a transfer-case shield. And if that's not enough, the model included an off-road suspension system and a special hill descent control.


As for fuel efficiency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rates the AT4 at 17 mpg/city, 24 mpg/highway, and 19 mpg/combined. I rang up 18.3 mpg in combined city/highway driving during a weeklong test drive, although I used mostly two-wheel drive to save gas.


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GMC Canyon cargo
Jerry Kronenberg

Pricing

A base 2021 GMC Canyon — the Elevation model with two-wheel drive and an extended cab — starts at $26,400, with a $1,195 destination fee taking that up to $27,595. That makes the Canyon less expensive than rivals such as the $37,665 Honda Ridgeline and $35,060 Jeep Gladiator, but more costly than the $26,015 Ford Ranger, $27,425 Toyota Tacoma, and $26,395 Chevrolet Colorado. As for my test vehicle, a GMC Canyon AT4 crew-cab version with all-wheel drive clocks in at a $40,000 base MSRP.  But $1,390 of options and a $1,195 destination fee took my test vehicle's total MSRP to 42,585. That's not cheap for a midsized pickup, but my test vehicle offered enough features, cargo capacity and performance to make it worth checking out.


As a bonus, large U.S.-branded vehicles typically come with generous incentives. As of this writing, General Motors was offering certain GMC Canyon buyers up to $3,500 in rebates or a zero-percent, six-year loan plus as much as $1,550 in rebates.


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