It’s a GMC Canyon Denali

All GMC truck owners have uttered this phrase at one time or another, “No. It’s not a Chevy, it’s a GMC.” Followed by, “I know it looks like a Chevy, but its better. It’s a GMC.” The first truck I got a chance to review was the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax, which I loved.

Now I had the new 2018 GMC Canyon Denali, with a Duramax diesel. It was time to find out why the Canyon is better than its separated-at-birth Colorado twin.

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Interior

This test model was the Denali; a luxury trim level, and the closest you’ll get to a Cadillac or Buick interior in the GM family tree. So I was surprised when I got inside and felt… disappointed. No blind spot detection warning, and a gear shift lever that looked like it was recycled from a 2002 Chevy Malibu.

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Yes, you do get a 7 speaker Bose audio system, an 8 inch touchscreen infotainment system, and a wireless charging pad. But, besides heated/ventilated seats, and leather wrapped steering wheel – which are now common features in modern vehicles – where is the Denali luxury?

The charging pad was too small to fit my (now old) Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. The seats are leather, but again this is 2018 and it’s a little hard to be impressed by a modern all-black leather interior.

GMC only offers the Canyon Denali with black leather interior, and the touches of wood sprinkled in the interior get lost in the emptiness of dark leather space.

It’s supposed to feel like a luxury interior package on an already premium brand. I should also point out that the Denali trim level is a four thousand dollar option. I have no idea where that money is going towards other than a Denali nameplate, a shinier chrome grille, and a bed liner that says DENALI.

Exterior

The 2018 GMC Canyon Denali redeems itself on the outside with its styling. The color on this test truck is called Dark Slate Metallic. Side by side this mid-size truck makes my 20 year old full-size GMC Sierra look like a Datsun mini-truck, yet it still looks well proportioned. It’s the ideal size for someone who maybe might not need a truck but still wants one (Very common in Texas).

 

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Sierra ’16, Canyon ’18 & Sierra ’97

 

Other pickup trucks have front-end faces that look like they are wearing football helmet face guards. Their front grilles spread out and cover the headlamps to look more aggressive. (The new Silverado is a perfect example of this.)

Trucks don’t always need to look like they eat their steak rare with a side of blood for gravy. It’s okay to design a beautiful pickup truck that can perform like a lumberjack that cuts downs trees with his beard.

GMC, thankfully, has reframed from following the herd in this Rambo styling trend. The Sierra and Canyon share similar features. Big square headlamps with round lights, a proud standing grille, and a front bumper that bends to give it a smile.

The GMC Canyon is a pretty-boy sporting a crooked smile trying to appear modest, while discreetly feeding its ego with attention.

Specs and Performance on the 2018 GMC Canyon Denali Duramax

You can option the GMC Canyon with three different engines. The standard 2.5 liter four cylinder engine which is unworthy of this truck’s capability. Buyers can upgraded to a 3.6 V6 with a surprisingly quick 308 horsepower, but for an added $3,370 you can get the Duramax diesel.

It’s a 2.8 liter turbo diesel four cylinder engine producing 180 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Bolted to a 6-speed automatic transmission.

On paper it might not sound like a lot but the GMC Canyon can reach 0-60 in 7 seconds. Put your foot down and Duramax responds allowing you to pass anything crowding the slow lane. The GMC Canyon has a payload of just over 1,500 pounds and can tow up to 7,600 pounds.

The 2018 GMC Canyon delivers a comfortable ride, and surprisingly great handling. I love that you can still drive this new Canyon like a good ol’ pickup truck. Turning the traction control off allows you to use every bit of Duramax grunt. The Canyon’s responsive steering and predictable throttle meant I could have some good ol’ boy fun on empty dirt roads. (Majority of truck buyers won’t be doing this but its nice to know what the Canyon is capable of.)

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Fuel economy with the Duramax is pretty good. A full tank will give the Canyon 600 miles of range with 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on highway. After a week behind the wheel I averaged 25 mpg!

Pricing is for the GMC Canyon Denali starts at $39k, but once you add 4×4 ($4,000 option) and the Duramax engine, expect to pay $50k for a Canyon. The one tested in this review was $48,420.

Final Thoughts on the 2018 GMC Canyon Denali Duramax

My one and only complaint with this luxury trimmed diesel mid-sized truck is the price. Having driven both the Colorado and Canyon, with the same Duramax engine, I don’t see why the Canyon Denali costs so much more. Because it’s a Denali? Okay, but then where is the luxury? A charging pad that’s too short and narrow for a typical smart phone? Heated seats can be optioned on just about any vehicle theses days.

Its like a pair of identical aviator sunglasses; one is from a run of the mill kiosk at the mall for $45, and the second costs $300 because it has a designer sticker on the corner of the lens. You’re paying for the brand’s reputation but not getting a massive improvement for the added cost. That’s my problem with this truck.

Anyone who buys this will one day talk to a Colorado Duramax owner and possibly feel cheated when they see that the Colorado also has leather seats, a bed liner, and 8 inch touchscreen. Paying extra for Denali’s reputation just isn’t worth it on this particular model.

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