2006 Canyon New Car Test Drive
GMC is the up-market truck brand at General Motors. Sometimes GMC offers equipment and options that Chevy doesn't, but mostly GMC trucks just plain dress better: Think Dockers and golf shirts instead of blue jeans and silk-screened tees. Choosing one or the other is mostly a matter of image. On the other hand, the prices are often so close that choosing the GMC is easily justified. And so it is with the Canyon, GMC's mildly buttoned-down version of Chevrolet's Colorado.
Canyon and Colorado ushered in a new breed of midsize pickups. These new trucks boast roomier cabins, and Crew Cab versions whose back seats are quite suitable for adult human beings. More than their competitors, however, Canyon and Colorado are tuned for car-like ride and comfort. Towing capacity was deliberately limited in favor of a smooth ride and good fuel economy.
In short, the GMC Canyon was designed to do what small pickups do most: Carry people and occasionally haul heavy loads in the bed. Even the Z71, the off-road model, seems remarkably civilized; and now there's a ZQ8 Sports model that emphasizes sporty handling. On the highway, the Canyon feels solid and stable.
Yet Canyon is still a serious truck capable of serious duty, thanks in part to a full-frame chassis that's stronger than that of the Sonoma compact pickup that the Canyon replaced. Properly equipped, Canyon is rated to tow 4,000 pounds, enough for transporting ATVs, dirt bikes, personal watercraft, light boats or small camping trailers. Heavy-duty towing should be left to full-size trucks.
The GMC Canyon was launched as an all-new model for 2004, and there are no significant changes for 2006.
GMC has broadened the Canyon lineup for 2006. The ZQ8 Sport suspension, previously a Chevrolet exclusive, is now available on the Canyon. And there's a new leather-and-luxury flagship called SLT. At the same time, last year's deluxe SLE trim has been split into three sub-levels.
A 2.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated 175 horsepower comes standard in most models; a 3.5-liter five-cylinder rated 220 horsepower is optional ($1,000) on most Canyons and standard on some upper-level models. A five-speed manual transmission is standard with either engine, with a four-speed automatic ($1,095) optional. Regular Cab, Extended Cab, and Crew Cab configurations are available; although Crew Cabs are offered only with SLE or SLT trim.
The most basic models are the W/T (work-truck) models, offered as a Regular Cab 2WD ($15,330) and Extended Cab 2WD ($17,705), plus new Regular Cab 4WD ($19,126) and Extended Cab 4WD ($21,475) work trucks. Seats are vinyl, floors are hose-it-out rubber. Air conditioning is standard, along with tilt steering and cruise control. The radio is optional, however. A cloth-upholstered, 60/40 split bench seat is optional at no additional cost. Only the base Z85 suspension is available. The four-cylinder engine is standard, but the five-cylinder is available. And there's a choice of manual and automatic.
LS trim makes the cloth bench seat standard and adds basic niceties, such as AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio and aluminum wheels in place of stamped steel. SLE-1 adds carpeting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and upgraded seat fabric. SLE-2 adds reclining bucket seats and a floor console, power windows, locks, and mirrors, remote keyless entry, and deep-tinted glass. The automatic transmission is standard or a no-cost option, depending on cab style. Regular Cab buyers can step up to SLE-3 trim, which makes the five-cylinder engine standard as well and adds fog lights and a self-dimming inside rearview mirror with compass and outside temperature readout.
SLT trim for Extended and Crew Cabs comes with the five-cylinder engine, leather bucket seats, eight-way power adjustment for the driver's seat and six-way power for the passenger, a sliding rear window, recovery hooks, fog lamps, a six-CD changer, self-dimming rearview mirror with compass and temperature readout, and fog lights.
Any of the above, however, can vary considerably with cab style or suspension options (see below), so we urge you to see your GMC dealer for details.
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, and Z71 Crew Cabs now come with brushed aluminum side steps. A minimum of SL trim is required.
The ZQ8 suspension is designed for improved on-road performance. New to the GMC line for 2006, the ZQ8 Canyons ride 2.9 inches lower than base Z85 models, and ride on a more tightly tuned chassis that includes quick-ratio steering, high-pressure monotube shocks, and rubber/urethane jounce bumpers. ZQ8 adds an anti-roll bar to the rear axle and up-sizes wheels and tires to P235/50R17.
Safety features include the mandated front airbags with GM's Passenger Sensing System, which shuts off the right frontal airbag if the seat is unoccupied or occupied by a child or small adult who might be more injured than protected by an airbag. A light on the dashboard displays the status of the system. GM still recommends buckling children into proper safety seats in the rear compartment of the vehicle, and we enthusiastically agree. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) come standard on all models. Side-curtain air bags are optional ($395).
Gen 6 OnStar ($695) is offered only on up-level models. Power windows, locks and mirrors come standard on Crew Cabs but are optional on Regular Cab and Extended Cab SLE-1.