2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Review

Popular mid-size truck gets new trim level promising extra off-road prowess.

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The Canyon AT4 is a new model for the 2021 model year. It extends GMC’s line of off-road-ready vehicles by adding the AT4 trim level to the existing Canyon, which has been on sale since 2014 alongside its Chevrolet Colorado counterpart

The 4WD truck comes with several mechanical and cosmetic enhancements to prepare it for life off-road, notably 31in Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires on 17in wheels, off-road-tuned suspension, a transfer case skid plate, a hill descent control system and an Eaton G80 automatic locking rear differential.

2021 GMC Canyon AT4 pricing

We tested a short-box Crew Cab AT4 with leather trim and the 3.6-litre gasoline V6. The MSRP in Canada is C$41,898, in the States it’s US$40,000. Our truck came with two cost-options: a spray-on bed liner (C$550/US$475) and trailering package (C$295/US$250). In both countries, the price increase to the long box AT4 is only $600.

The AT4 sits above Elevation models but below the Denali in the Canyon lineup. The cheapest short-box, Crew Cab Canyon is the 2WD Elevation Standard: C$29,998/US$28,300 with a 2.5-litre, inline-4 engine. Top of the range is the 4WD Denali with the 2.8-litre Duramax turbodiesel at US$44,400/C$49,098.

AT4’s upgraded exterior styling

2021 GMC Canyon AT4. Photo: Amee Reehal
2021 GMC Canyon AT4. Photo: Amee Reehal

The AT4 is distinguished from other Canyons by dark chrome finishes, a new, larger grille design and red recovery hooks. The standard LED fog lamps look like an aftermarket upgrade, in a good way. With or without the changes, we think the Canyon remains one of the best-looking mid-size trucks. Our truck’s Summit White paint is one of only five available exterior colours (four in the US) on the AT4.

2021 GMC Canyon AT4 interior and equipment

On the inside, the new model gets ‘Kalahari’ stitching on the leather trim (cloth is also available) and ‘AT4’ headrest embroidery that bring the same look and feel found in other GMC AT4 models. Nevertheless, as befits the off-road mission, the focus here is on function not form: the somewhat plain cabin is clearly differentiated from the Denali’s more upscale aspirations.

2021 GMC Canyon AT4. Photo: Amee Reehal
2021 GMC Canyon AT4. Photo: Amee Reehal

That the Canyon has been in the market a few years now – and versions had appeared in international markets before it came to North America – is reflected in the cabin tech. The screen feels a little behind the curve and there’s no USB-C, but it all does what you need it to do. If you fancy speccing up the AT4 then wireless smartphone charging and a Bose audio system are both available as options.

A bigger issue for us than the lack of the latest gadgets was that we found the legroom in the rear a little tight. We had no problem with the space or driving position in the front seats, however.

Driving Impressions: how does the Canyon AT4 perform?

Unfortunately, we were unable to take the Canyon off-road during our short time with the truck, but with a two-speed transfer case on hand, the retuned suspension and 275 lb-ft. from the 308-HP V6, we’re sure it’d do just fine. Note that anyone in search of extra torque can opt for the 2.8-litre diesel, which offers a healthy upgrade to 369 lb-ft.

2021 GMC Canyon AT4
2021 GMC Canyon AT4. Photo: Amee Reehal

Back in everyday use around town, the truck is much more manageable than a full-size like the Silverado Trail Boss we recently drove and happy on the highway. The soft suspension provides a comfortable ride. Fuel consumption is pretty much what you’d expect: we recorded 14.3L/100km in city driving, only a little worse than the official figure.

2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition

Shortly after we tested the AT4, GMC announced the Canyon AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition, which adds further capability for drivers heading away from the beaten track.

A suspension leveling kit and air-dam-free front end together improve the truck’s approach angle by more than 35% to nearly 30°. There are rocker panel protectors and front and mid skid plates made from 5/32in aluminum to help protect the lower radiator, front differential, steering gear and oil pan, in addition to the AT4’s standard transfer case plate. Cosmetic enhancements are 17in gloss black wheels and exhaust tip, and ‘carbon’ black AT4 logos. The spray-in bedliner is standard, as are floor liners.

2021 GMC Canyon AT4. Photo: Amee Reehal
2021 GMC Canyon AT4. Photo: Amee Reehal

Unfortunately, this model is only available in the US. GMC Canada says only that the current Canyon portfolio, “is aligned to meet the needs of Canadians looking for a great mid-sized truck”.

What’s the Canyon AT4’s rated towing capacity?

The V6 AT4 can tow up to 7,600 lb (3,447kg). The optional trailering package fitted to our test truck provides a 2in receiver hitch and 4-pin and 7-pin connectors for trailer lights and brakes.

Takeaway: is the 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 worth it?

The AT4 will appeal to buyers looking for a more rugged Canyon to rival the 2020 Tacoma TRD Off-Road, or as a starting point for further, off-road-focused aftermarket modifications. We’d have thought that the new Off-Road Performance Edition will make particular sense in the latter scenario; it’s a pity it’s not available north of the border.

2021 GMC Canyon AT4
2021 GMC Canyon AT4. Photo: Amee Reehal

Pros

  • Practical off-road upgrades
  • Still good to drive around town
  • Torquey diesel option

Cons

  • Cabin design lacks spark
  • Could use more rear legroom
  • No Off-Road Performance Edition in Canada

Exterior and interior 2021 Canyon AT4 pictures:

Graham Heeps
Based in Calgary, AB, Graham’s outlets include Autocar, Professional Motorsport World, Turnology.com and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology. A lifelong motorsports fan, he’s a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), the Guild of Motoring Writers and the Motor Press Guild, speaks German and collects Matchbox cars (at the same time).

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