Ever since Chevrolet dropped its trail-ready Colorado ZR2 pickup in 2017, GMC fans have been left waiting and wondering.
The wait is officially over, with the hardcore 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X cranking up this midsize truck’s off-road looks and abilities. Though the Canyon has been available in AT4 guise for a couple years now, the addition of the X moniker makes it even more extreme.
GMC calls the new Canyon AT4X the midsize segment’s “most advanced” truck, with several segment-first features to back up that boast. It’s the first midsize truck to offer underbody cameras that provide views of rough terrain and trail obstacles under the vehicle. Like the full-size Sierra, the Canyon is now available with a fully digital instrument display, massive touchscreen with an integrated Google infotainment system, head-up display, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections.
The Canyon AT4X is powered by an “off-road optimized” version of the 2.7L turbocharged four-cylinder found in the new Sierra. This little engine packs a lot of punch, with 310 hp and 430 lb-ft torque (up from 420 in the Sierra). Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, it’s the only engine offered in the redesigned Canyon.
All Canyons will come in a four-door configuration with a short bed bolted to the back and a widebody look overall. Exterior Design Manager Rob Hunwick said it was the kind of project that designers are excited by, since the highly carved sheet metal and chunky wheel arches continue across the lineup instead of being a single-model moulded plastic add-ons.
It’s underpinned by a new platform, and will be mechanically identical to its Chevy Colorado cousin. The front air dam was removed for a better approach angle, and the front axle was moved forward to improve its stance.
All Canyons come standard with an off-road suspension package with a 51-mm (two-in) factory lift and ultra-wide track for Elevation, Denali, and AT4 trims, but the AT4X gets a standard 76-mm (three-in) lift. There’s 272 mm (10.7 in) of ground clearance, better departure and breakover angles, and the AT4X front bumpers feature cutaways for better ground and tire clearance. There are no rear corner steps, since off-roaders find they’re easily damaged on the trail and expensive to replace.
One of the most exciting additions to the new Canyon is the spool valve suspension setup developed by Canadian firm Multimatic. Standard on the AT4X model, these highly sophisticated dampers are resistant to high temperatures (such as desert racing), and can handle extreme compression yet are capable of maintaining a smooth and compliant ride on-road.
There are front and rear electronic lockers (activated by a toggle switch) and five new drive modes: baja (exclusive to AT4X), for high-speed off-roading; terrain for low speed trail obstacles; off-road for regular trail driving; normal for everyday use; and tow/haul for trailering. The Canyon is good to pull 3,493 kg (7,700 lb), while the AT4X can handle 2,722 kg (6,000 lb). Underneath are heavy-duty skid plates, a transfer case shield, and rocker protectors.
A limited number of AT4X “Edition 1” models will be offered, and while GMC reps couldn’t tell us how many will be available, they did confirm that it will include front and rear underbody cameras with wash function; an off-road bumper; an off-road grille bar; winch; 17-inch bead-lock capable wheels; reconfigurable bed rail system; performance front skid plate; and a unique Edition 1 tailgate badge.
Each Canyon will have its own unique interior. Denali models feature a new sunroof, diamond stitched leather on seats and door panels, open-pore wood, and satin chrome; and AT4X gets ceramic white trim and anodized red switches.
Standard on Denali and AT4X is an 11-inch digital instrument cluster (eight-inch in lower trims); 6.3-inch head-up display; and seven-speaker audio system. Standard on all Canyons is a package that includes automatic emergency braking; front pedestrian and bicyclist detection braking; automatic high-beam headlights; following distance indicators; and lane-keeping assist. An upgrade kit includes rear cross-traffic braking and blind-spot monitoring with steering assist, while another one comes with rear pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and surround-view monitoring.
The 2023 GMC Canyon is slated to begin production early next year, with the AT4X expected to arrive in dealerships in the first quarter. There’s no available pricing yet, but with the current Chevrolet ZR2 short-box starting at $48,383, we can expect the Canyon AT4X to start somewhere above that.