GMC has a sneaky good thing going on; they’ve created 2 sub-brands which practically act as their own nameplates: Denali and AT4.
And they’re so hot and in demand that they often sell for sticker, sight unseen. AT4 was introduced in 2018 to be the off-road foil to Denali’s opulence.
GMC is still completing the rollout across its lineup and next up is this 2021 Canyon AT4.
The off-road segment is the hottest in the industry. Everyone wants a piece of the Jeep life and automakers of all-kinds are jumping in including Subaru with their upcoming Wilderness sub-brand.
And of course, the Canyon AT4 is designed with outdoor adventures in mind – an all-terrain package that’s available on every GMC with the exception, ironically, of the Terrain but that’s coming as well for 2022.
Their small pickup has been updated this year across the board, and now the AT4 adds off-road confidence through standard 31” Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires, a specifically tuned suspension with an Advanced Hill Decent Control System, an automatic locking rear differential and a transfer case skid plate.
It possesses a bolder exterior design with dark chrome finishes, a larger grille and red recovery hooks. But this truck doesn’t stop there. With the addition of the Off-Road Performance Package you get a suspension leveling kit for the front end. Combined with the removal of the front air dam this Canyon’s approach angle is a friendlier 30 degrees. It’s also paired with rockers for added body protection and more skid plates for the middle of the truck.
There are also unique 17” gloss black wheels, Carbon Black AT4 logos and a gloss black exhaust tip. All-weather floor liners and a spray-in bed liner round out the upgrades at an added cost of $3,195. It’s a great looking truck in Summit White powered here by the standard 3.6-liter V6 producing 308 horsepower through an 8-speed auto, returning 19mpg.
You can also spec this AT4 with a diesel at a significant price increase but either way the AT4 is only available as a full 4-door Crew Cab with either a short or long box.
Mine also adds lane departure warning, forward collision alert and onboard navigation for a final MSRP of $45,780. Whoa. That’s some sticker shock for me considering I still need to use a key to start it, it’s missing LED headlamps, there’s no side blind zone alert and not even a surround view camera which is an off-road helper.
That being said, it drives great and feels particularly at home when the blacktop ends. On-road you might find the suspension tune a little stiff, but once it gets worked going over uneven and low-friction surfaces it has Ford Raptor-level smoothness.
And I love how it drives even when you’re not in the woods – this is as close to the Ford Ranger in terms of segment-leading drivability as it gets. It’s tight and car-like. It can also tow 7,000 pounds.
And having a 4-wheel drive auto setting in addition to 4-high and 4-low is what you want for changing road conditions. You can even drive it around in 2-wheel drive when it’s not needed.
It’s no Chevy Colorado ZR2 in terms of its off-road prowess but it’s a nice middle ground for those that don’t do technical rock crawling, etc. and it costs about $5,000 less when comparably equipped.
Where the AT4 loses me is in here. The Colorado and Canyon have been refreshed on the outside but this cabin looks ancient at this point.
Now, there’s still good stuff like heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, park assist, an EZ lift and lower tailgate and under seat storage but the rear seats are tight, the front seats have short bottoms and visually this all just looks old even for GM.
With the next gen Nissan Frontier right around the corner and a recently introduced, beefed-up Honda Ridgeline and Ranger Tremor Off-Road Package already on sale, there are a lot of compelling choices in this segment that will give the Canyon AT4 a run for its money.
2021 GMC CANYON AT4 TEST DRIVE BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES | TESTDRIVENOW 2021(c)