On The Road 5/14: 2021 GMC Canyon 4WD AT4

2021 GMC Canyon 4WD AT4
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2021 GMC Canyon 4WD AT4

By Peter Perrotta

One of my favorite sports terms used to describe a basketball player is “tweener.”

What’s a “tweener?”

It’s a player who is not quite big enough to be a power forward, but at the same time, he’s too big to be a classic point guard. Hence, he’s a “tweener.” He falls between the two positional categories.

Probably, the most famous tweener of all-time was Kobe Bryant (RIP). Kobe wasn’t quite a point guard, neither was he a classic power forward. But, none of that mattered because his skill set was so superior.

Well, if basketball players can be tweeners why not cars or trucks?

There are so many crossover segments in the vehicle categories these days that I feel that quite a few models fit the classic tweener mold.

The 2021 GMC Canyon 4WD AT4 Crew Cab is precisely one of those vehicles. While most of the automotive press calls this truck a mid-sized pickup, I think tweener is a more appropriate description.

I recently climbed behind the wheel of the 2021 GMC Canyon 4WD AT4 for a one-week test drive to check out what this new trim level for the Canyon model was all about.

While the Canyon pickup isn’t a new model, the AT4 (all-terrain) version is new for 2021. It is designed to be more rugged looking and better off-road capable than the other trim levels offered in this model.

“The new 2021 Canyon AT4 broadens the appeal to midsize truck customers who live an active lifestyle,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global Buick and GMC. “Much like the Sierra AT4 has attracted new customers from outside GMC, the Canyon AT4 will attract outdoor enthusiasts looking for a premium midsize truck to GMC with the capability, technology and refinement they’ve come to expect.”

First off, I like the size of the Canyon. It’s not so big you feel totally overwhelmed behind the wheel, and it’s not too small either. For me, it’s actually a perfect size.

The bolder, more aggressive look of the AT4 versions suits this vehicle well. It features a larger, more aggressive looking front grille, oversized tires with blacked out rims, red tow hooks and dark chrome finishing touches.

The interior ergonomics are designed to give it a more rugged look as well with bolder stitching and rugged looking all-weather mats.

For me, the total package offered on the AT4 works well.

This Canyon is powered by a 3.6 liter V-6 engine that puts out 308 horsepower. It is paired to an eight speed automatic transmission.

For on-road driving, I really like the Canyon. Because it has a shorter wheel base than the average pickup, you don’t get as much of a bumpy ride most traditional pickups feature.

But, for the off-road experience, it really shines.

The AT4 model features greater off-road capability from its 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler tires with 17-inch aluminum wheels.

It also has an off-road tuned advanced suspension system that comes with an advanced hiss descent mode.

Moreover, when you add in the off-road transfer case skid plates and a four wheel drive system with a locking rear differential, you get an impressive off-road capable vehicle.

My overall driving impression was positive. It is adequately powered enough for most everyday driving situations and it provides a generally comfortable ride.

I thought the head and shoulder room were ample, but I found the front seat leg room to be a tad tight for me at six feet tall.

The on-road driving was comfortable, but it excelled in the off-road performance when I took it on some sandy trails in the Brendan Byrne State Forest.

It is easy enough to switch it on the fly from either two wheel drive to four wheel high or low with a simple twist of a button on the dash. Moreover, the center console drive mode selector makes it equally as easy to pick which off road mode you need to be in.

The AT4 Canyon I tested for one week carries a bottom line sticker price of $45,780 with options and destination charges includes. The base price of this model is $40,000.

Added options included $3,195 for the AT4 off road performance package; $995 for the GMC infotainment system with navigation and $395 for a driver alert system.

The EPA fuel consumption ratings for this vehicle come in at 19 miles per gallon overall – 17 mpg in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway.

The EPA estimates that it will cost you about $2,150 a year to run this vehicle as it uses about 5.3 gallons of gas per every 100 miles driven.

In the government’s crash test ratings, this vehicle achieved a 4-star rating overall out of a possible high score of 5.

Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. He can be contacted at pperrotta@comcast.net with comments or questions.