2005 Canyon New Car Test Drive
The GMC Canyon belongs to a new breed of pickups. Though designed for buyers who don't need or don't want a full-size truck such as the GMC Sierra, this newest generation of pickups is bigger than past models. Called compact pickups in the past, the latest models have arguably outgrown that label. Automakers are beginning to call them mid-size pickups, though the government holds on to the old label. Call them what you want, they boast roomier cabins than the old compact pickups. The latest crew cab models offer back seats that are actually suitable for human beings.
The Canyon last year was launched as an all-new truck with an all-new nameplate. Canyon is longer and taller than the Sonoma pickup it replaced, and it looks tougher and more truck-like, with aggressive styling that represents a major departure from the smooth-sided Sonoma. And although the Sonoma's long-bed option is gone, Canyon's standard beds are deeper, for more volume; and Canyon's chassis is rated for higher payloads.
As the first all-new GMC truck in its class for more than a decade, the Canyon is significantly improved over the Sonoma, with a stronger frame and a suspension that's friendlier to the fanny. Canyon is roomy and comfortable inside and has a nice, quiet ride. Even the Z71, the serious off-road model, seems remarkably civilized. On the highway, the Canyon feels solid and stable. Yet this a true pickup, with a unique frame not shared with any SUV (although it is shared by Chevrolet's mid-size pickup, the Colorado).
Canyon's towing capacity is considerably less than the old Sonoma's because GM designed it to do what mid-size pickups do most: Carry people and, occasionally, haul heavy loads in the bed. So Canyon is tuned for ride comfort rather than brute trailer-slogging strength. If you and your buddy Ben need to schlep four Arabians to the chariot races, then GMC can sell you a full-size Sierra pickup instead.
Canyon is available with a choice of two engines, both all-new last year and more powerful than the corresponding offerings in the Sonoma. Both have an inline configuration, one with four cylinders and the other with five. The five-cylinder delivers good performance, better than some competing V6 engines.
GMC Canyon is available in two trim levels: SL, which is essentially work-truck trim, and SLE. The five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions are available for the four-cylinder and five-cylinder engines; exceptions are 4WD and Z71 Crew Cabs, which come only with the five-cylinder and automatic. Rear-wheel drive (2WD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) models are available with regular, extended, or crew cab bodies.
The Canyon SL Z85 is the base model with the base suspension (retailing at $16,025 MSRP for Regular Cab 2WD Z85). It comes standard with air conditioning, AM/FM radio, and 15-inch aluminum wheels. The front seats are a split-folding cloth bench, the floor covering is vinyl, and rear jump seats for extended cabs cost extra ($45). The SLE ($17,140) adds or substitutes front bucket seats, a floor console and armrest, color-keyed carpeting, CD player with MP3 capability, a standard rear seat on extended cabs ($20,260), and a leather-wrapped tilt wheel and cruise control on extended cab and crew cab ($21,290) models.
The Z71 High Stance off-road package increases the ground clearance by more than three inches. Z71 also adds larger color-keyed fender flares, P265/75R15 on/off-road tires, a locking rear differential, and, on 2WD models, traction control. Z71s with 4WD get skid plates and tow hooks. Ordering Z71 boosts the price of an SL Canyon $1,700-$1,800, but the package includes SLE goodies such as the bucket seats and CD player. Adding Z71 to an SLE ups the price anywhere from $2,000-$4,100, depending on cab style and how many wheels are driven. A 4WD SLE Crew Cab with Z71 retails for $28,020.
Side-curtain air bags are optional ($195-$235, depending on the cab style). A power convenience group (windows, locks and mirrors) is standard on Crew Cabs and optional ($500) on other SLEs. New Gen 6 OnStar ($695), with improved hands-free operation, is offered on SLE only. Leather-upholstered, heated, and power adjustable driver and front passenger seats ($1,495) are available as a package on crew cab and extended cab models during the 2005 model year, and a sunroof will be available.
Commercial fleet models are also available with steel wheels and skinny tires (starting at $15,045).