2019 GMC Canyon Denali Review

By Lyndon Conrad Bell

Anyone who knows me will tell you I shy away from pickup trucks.  And yes, I know I’m supposed to be an impartial journalist, capable of suspending my personal tastes and giving every vehicle a fair shake—and I really am.  Still, to say I was looking forward to the 2019 GMC Canyon Crew Cab Denali would be a stretch.

However, I can say I learned a number of things from the experience.It also led me to wonder why people think it’s OK to ask you to haul things when you have a truck.

 

More on that later; but for now, let’s get into this review.

The 2019 GMC Canyon is the fifth iteration of what was then an all-new design for the 2015 model year. Lauded by the motoring press as the most refined mid-sized pickup ever offered when it was launched, the 2019 Canyon (particularly in Denali trim) remains a remarkably sophisticated proposition. In fact, driving it felt more like piloting a good crossover SUV than driving a truck.

The road manners are just that good. Quiet, smooth and comfortable, even at highway speeds, the Canyon also delivers an upscale passenger compartment, particularly in Denali trim. Materials choices were pleasantly sumptuous and the appearance of the interior was quite impressive. It also bristled with tech.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard features—even in the base model. While I’ve never been fond of touchscreens (dial and pointer is my preferred solution; it’s too hard to hit a jiggly target when you need to be focused on the road) the GMC Infotainment system offered fast response and a logical layout. Bluetooth and WiFi pairing were easy and voice recognition actually worked, The screen’s graphics were crisp and looked thoroughly modern.  

Power came from a 3.6-liter V6 with 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission routed power to all four wheels.  Fuel economy averaged 20 mpg overall during my testing. The EPA says you can expect to see 17 in the city and 24 on the highway with the optional four-wheel drive powertrain my Canyon had.

The engine pulls strongly and the transmission shifts smoothly, although it seemed to prefer to stay in the highest gear possible. This trait does improve fuel economy, but I had to institute manual downshifts in a few too many instances. The Canyon is capable of towing 7,700 pounds.

On the road, as I mentioned above, the 2019 Canyon drove with far more sophistication than I expected from a truck. While I did note a lack of steering feel, the mid-sized GMC pickup responded obediently to inputs and tracked true. The brakes were reassuringly powerful and ride quality—again—was very comfortable, even when the truck bed was empty. Agility was better than expected, road noise was subdued and a long-ish road trip was accomplished with ease. The comfort level was just that high.

Meanwhile, immediately upon spotting the Canyon on my driveway, my neighbor suddenly remembered a whole lot of things he’d been meaning to get around to doing.

“Hey man, that’s a good-looking truck.; do you mind if we…?”

Next thing I knew, we were hauling half the contents of his garage to the dump, taking a sofa to a consignment store and fetching an insane number of gigantic bags of dog food, toilet paper, paper towels and a host of other goods from Costco. All of which promptly occupied the space all that other stuff had been taking up in his garage.

(Heaven forbid he’d actually put his car in there—but that’s another story.)

Now, to its credit, the Canyon graciously handled all of those tasks with remarkable ease. In so doing however, the GMC reinforced my deep-seeded belief the truck lifestyle isn’t for me. There’s just way too much manual labor involved.

The 2019 GMC Canyon starts at $21,500; Canyon Denali starts at $40,400.

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© 2019 Automobiles Illustrated