In the off-roading world, one could argue that having the right equipment the one time you need it makes it worth having all the time. That's the philosophy behind the GMC Canyon AT4X and the AT4X AEV, trucks offering more proof that modern off-roading has become an extravagant affair.
Think of the third-generation Canyon as essentially another trim level of the Chevy Colorado pickup with which it shares nearly every bolt and button—even its key-fob case. The major equipment that separates them are bumpers, badges, head- and taillights, wheels, and the Canyon's amber marker lights at the center of its plastic fender flares that the Colorado doesn't get. However, just like the Colorado, every Canyon is a four-door crew cab with a five-foot, two-inch bed.
The GMC is intended to be grander than the Chevy, so it skips the Colorado's two lowest trim levels and their less powerful versions of the turbocharged 2.7-liter four. Instead, all Canyons pack 310 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque in the high-output engine that Chevy saves exclusively for the Colorado's ZR2 trim. In the Canyon Elevation, AT4, and Denali, that's good for an impressive 7700 pounds of max towing. The trailering capacity for the AT4X drops to 6000 pounds.
The Canyon AT4X debuts as the rock-ready trail basher that GMC regretfully didn't offer until now. Its new features include Multimatic DSSV spool-valve dampers, 10.7 inches of ground clearance, and 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory Mud Terrains at each corner. This beats the snot out of the 31-inch rubber and 8.4 inches of ground clearance on the last-gen Canyon's most aggressive offering, the AT4. There are also electronically locking front and rear differentials, skid plates, rock sliders, 10 cameras (some of the paparazzi use spray nozzles to clean themselves), and a clever Terrain drive mode.
We spent a few hours piloting the AT4X over slippery rock-covered off-road trails near Big Sky, Montana. The trails required a slow 5- to 10-mph roll but admittedly weren't anything a Jeep Wrangler Sport or a Ford Bronco Big Bend couldn't handle. The most technical sections required the use of 4Lo. Using the Canyon's one-pedal Terrain mode in L1 or L2 brings aggressive automated stopping when you lift off the gas. L3 is more like a normal drive crawl and doesn't immediately stop the truck, making it the smoothest. Still, Terrain strikes us as something you'd engage for the occasional slippery descent rather than an entire section of trail.
The paved roadways between our hotel and the trailhead made a stronger argument for choosing a Canyon (or a Colorado) over its trail-ready rivals. Even while spinning the AT4X's chunky tires at highway speeds, this GMC is supremely quiet—something that Broncos, Wranglers, and Gladiators, all the machines that come with removable tops and doors, can't achieve. Add with the exceptional dampening, passengers may forget they're under the roof of a pickup.
AEV: More Letters, More Equipment
The partnership with American Expedition Vehicles—which fills an impressive catalog of aftermarket overlanding parts for Jeeps, Broncos, and Rams (and famously fit a pickup bed and a 6.4-liter V-8 into a Wrangler before Jeep did)—adds tough stuff for the Canyon.
The AT4X AEV is effectively GMC's ZR2 Bison. It wears as much body protection as an NHL goaltender. There's also a marginal improvement here for approach, departure, and break-over angles thanks to AEV hot-stamped steel front and rear bumpers, which the parts maker claims are tougher than getting out of a warm sleeping bag at 3 a.m. to use the bathroom.
Bigger, 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory Mud-Terrain tires wrap the AT4X AEV's exclusive 17-inch Salta beadlock-capable cast-aluminum wheels. With 12.2 inches of ground clearance, the AT4X AEV sits 1.5 inches higher than the AT4X. Unfortunately, the hydraulic jounce bumpers we raved about during our drive of the ZR2 Bison don't come standard here like they do on the Chevy.
The full-size spare is mounted vertically in the bed, where it blocks about 50 percent of the rear window. This seems like an obvious opportunity to showcase GM's rearview-mirror camera, found on models such as the Chevy Corvette, the Cadillac Escalade, and even the Sierra HD AT4X AEV, but it's not available here. For AT4X AEV owners, then, hindsight is always 315/70R-17.
Every Canyon AT4X AEV does come standard with three auxiliary connections in the kick panel for aftermarket upfitting. The switches are optional on AT4X models.
The headrests in the AT4X AEV are stitched with the company's logo. While red knobs and switches add style to the interior, the door panels and dashboard have that same plastic feel as the cheaper models. The 11.3-inch infotainment display with Google built-in looks nice but may hold too much responsibility (operating the headlights, for instance). The front seats are heated and ventilated, and the heated steering wheel gets hot enough to fry an egg.
At $55,895, the AT4X is some $7500 dearer than a Colorado ZR2. It's also slightly more expensive than the full-size Ram 1500 Rebel and nose to nose with the 405-hp Ford Ranger Raptor that debuted early this year. Add another $10,100 for the Canyon AT4X AEV equipment. They say that having the right tools pays, but when you're talking off-road pickups, clearly it also costs.
2024 GMC Canyon AT4X
Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear/4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door pickup
Base: AT4X, $55,895; AT4X AEV, $65,995
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 166 in3, 2727 cm3
Power: 310 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 430 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
Wheelbase: 131.4 in
Length: 213.2–214.6 in
Width: 72.4 in
Height: 81.6–81.8 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 59–60/43 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 4950–5300 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 7.1–7.4 sec
100 mph: 23.3–23.7 sec
Top Speed: 100 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/City/Highway: 16–18/16–17/16–20 mpg
Yes, he's still working on the 1986 Nissan 300ZX Turbo project car he started in high school, and no, it’s not for sale yet. Austin Irwin was born and raised in Michigan, and, despite getting shelled by hockey pucks during a not-so-successful goaltending career through high school and college, still has all of his teeth. He loves cars from the 1980s and Bleu, his Great Pyrenees, and is an active member of the Buffalo Wild Wings community. When Austin isn’t working on his own cars, he’s likely on the side of the highway helping someone else fix theirs.