2009 Canyon New Car Test Drive
The GMC Canyon is a mid-size pickup designed to do what mid-size pickups do most. It's built primarily for carrying people and occasionally hauling heavy loads in the bed.
Three cab styles are available, Regular Cab, Extended Cab, and Crew Cab. We found all offer plenty of room for the driver and front-seat passenger. The Crew Cab has a back seat suitable for adult human beings.
On the highway, the Canyon feels solid and stable, with a smooth, comfortable ride. Yet the GMC Canyon is a serious truck capable of serious duty. Properly equipped, the Canyon is rated to tow 4,000 pounds, enough for transporting ATVs, dirt bikes, personal watercraft, light boats or small camping trailers. If you tow more than that, then you need a full-size truck.
The standard engine is a 2.9-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 185 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. The optional 3.7-liter five-cylinder engine produces 242 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque. These engines were introduced during the 2007 model year along with other improvements that included a smoother-shifting automatic transmission, a more powerful 125-amp alternator, a standard tire-pressure monitor, and more bright interior trim.
The Z71 is the off-road model, but it's remarkably civilized. The ZQ8 suspension package emphasizes sporty handling on paved roads.
The 2008 GMC Canyon is available in Regular Cab, Extended Cab, and Crew Cab configurations. Regular and Extended Cabs come with a six-foot bed. Crew Cabs come with a five-foot bed.
Three suspension packages are offered: The rugged Z85 is the standard setup and is available with two-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). The Z71 off-road suspension is also available with 2WD and 4WD. Appropriately, the low-riding ZQ8 sport suspension is only available with 2WD.
The 2.9-liter four-cylinder engine, rated 185 horsepower, comes standard all Canyons except Crew Cabs with ZQ8, Z71, and/or 4WD. The 3.7-liter, 242-horsepower inline-5 is standard on those Crew Cabs, and optional ($1,000) and/or included in various option packages on all other Canyons.
A five-speed manual transmission is standard with the four-cylinder engine in Regular and Extended Cabs. A four-speed automatic ($1,095) is optional in those models, standard in all Crew Cabs, and mandatory if you order the five-cylinder engine.
The most basic Canyons are the WT (work-truck) models, offered as a Regular Cab 2WD ($14,885), Extended Cab 2WD ($16,995), Regular Cab 4WD ($18,340), and Extended Cab 4WD ($20,245). Seats are vinyl, floors are hose-it-out rubber, and only the base suspension is available. Air conditioning is standard, however, along with tilt steering, cruise control, a basic AM/FM radio, and a 60/40 split bench seat. A tachometer and Driver Information Center are standard as well, along with 205/75R15 tires on 15-inch steel wheels. Carpeting is available, as is cloth upholstery and an upgraded stereo ($450) with CD/MP3 capability.
SL trim ($15,420) makes the cloth seats and carpeting standard, along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and fog lights. SLE ($15,955) adds four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio, reclining bench seats, OnStar, and chrome interior accents; plus niceties such as assist handles and storage in the front arm rests. Tires upgrade to 225/75R15 on 15-inch aluminum wheels. (Prices quoted are for Regular Cabs with 2WD; other cab styles and/or 4WD are priced proportionately higher.) SLE is also the lowest trim level at which you can choose the Crew Cab ($21,265), which comes with power windows, locks, and mirrors.
A Convenience Package ($500) adds power windows, locks, and mirrors to SLE-level Regular and Extended Cabs. A Preferred Equipment Package, which GMC sometimes calls SLE-2 ($1,630-3,225) includes the Convenience Package and adds the five-cylinder engine, automatic transmission, bucket seats, floor console, XM Satellite Radio, and, on Extended and Crew Cabs, deep-tinted glass and a sliding rear window
SLT trim for Extended ($23,465) and Crew Cabs ($24,870) means heated leather bucket seats, eight-way power adjustment for the driver's seat and six-way power for the passenger, a sliding rear window, a six-speaker stereo, and a self-dimming rearview mirror with compass and temperature readout.
The Z71 off-road suspension increases ground clearance by about an inch and a half, depending on cab style. Ordering 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 come with brushed aluminum side steps. Z71 requires SLE or SLT trim.
The ZQ8 suspension is designed for improved on-road performance, and lowers the Canyon about an inch relative to the standard suspension. Canyons with ZQ8 ride on a more tightly tuned chassis that includes quick-ratio steering, high-pressure monotube shocks, and rubber/urethane jounce bumpers
Safety features include the mandated front airbags with GM's Passenger Sensing System, which shuts off the right front 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. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) come standard on all models. Side-curtain air bags are optional ($395). Optional OnStar enhances safety.
OnStar is now offered on all models, and is standard on SLE and SLT. XM Satellite Radio ($200) is available on all but the WT. A Sun & Sound package ($795) for Crew Cabs bundles a power tilt-and-slide sunroof with XM Satellite Radio. Many other options are available as well, and GMC dealers also offer a range of accessories, including a bed extender, hard and soft tonneau covers, tubular assist steps and splash guards. All can be installed at the time of delivery and can be financed as part of the deal.