2018 GMC Canyon Denaly

By: Bill Adam
It was about ten years ago when I went over to the “dark side”. My passion has always been with high performance cars, the ones with exceptional acceleration, braking and cornering, the cars that make your heart beat a little quicker just looking at them, but that all changed when I considered buying a high performance truck. No such thing you say? Well……..you’re right, as the phrase “high performance” took on a new definition, meaning that it had the ability to go over some pretty high obstacles and still keep going, with the performance part meaning that it could accelerate, brake and corner ………sort of!

My needs at the time, dictated that I buy something capable of towing my 7000 pound boat on my annual trip to Canada, where the mountains in West Virginia would reduce a gas powered vehicle to a nervous, wheezing 25 mph mobile road block. And a diesel pick up truck DID the trick, except that I got to know the local fuel supplier on a first name basis because of its’ thirsty 12 mpg fuel economy ( it’s hard to call this “economy”…!!).

The 2018 Canyon Denali is categorized as a mid size pick up by GMC and can only be had in the crew cab configuration - a design that really isn’t a negative at all since it’s an attractive size. The standard engine is a 3.6 liter V-6 with 308 HP and 275 lb.-ft of torque, and mated to an 8 speed transmission, the 4WD model gives a tow capacity of 6000 pounds. But the jewel in the options list is a smaller 2.8 liter, 4 cylinder Duramax diesel that puts out 181 HP and a massive 369 lb.-ft of torque, and increases the towing capacity to 6200 pound for the 4WD model.

It’s this huge increase in torque that makes this package so attractive as even with only a 6 speed automatic, hills won’t have you staring in your mirrors for fast approaching semi’s. Once upon a time, diesels were something of a joke as they were looked down upon for their death rattle clatter and clouds of black smoke belching from their exhaust pipe. Their performance was somewhere between sluggish and stopped and they were thought of as only good for buses or heavy haulers. Well, thanks to continuing design changes along with vastly superior electronics, modern diesels have exhaust emissions virtually invisible and are almost as quiet as gas engines.

Even the stigma of finding a fuel pump with a clean handle has changed, with more and more diesel stations appearing and you can now find a diesel engine optionon some of the most luxurious vehicles on the road. But as wonderful as the Duramax is for it’s ability to tow, it’s when you’re NOT towing that it really shines. Most driving after all, ISN’T when you’re towing, and it’s been hard to justify the negative fuel economy of pick up trucks powered by diesels. With this new Canyon, no longer will you have to put up with terrible fuel economy when you aren’t towing - which is most of the time - and at a steady 65 mph, I averaged an incredible 31 mpg!

Now think about this……in a truck that doesn’t have the best aerodynamics in the world and only with a relatively archaic 6 speed automatic, it’s giving better fuel economy than most mid size sport utes and cars. Amazing! I think we’ve all heard the phrase “drives like a truck”, when a reference is made to a car that has a particularly brutal ride, or one that neither wants to turn or brake. It’s not meant to be flattering in any way and truth be told, simply no longer applies to ANY pickup truck I’ve driven in many years.

Some are better than others for sure, but all trucks have reached a new level of civility that will outright shock those who haven’t driven a truck in some time. Driving the Canyon shows that it’s one of the better ones, and is a pleasant surprise on the highway. Free of excessive wind noise or even much noise coming through the chassis, the cabin was totally comfortable for both front and rear seat passengers to engage in conversations without yelling.

With the Denali name, we’ve come to expect a certain level of attractive attention to detail in the interior and even though nothing is of the quality that you might expect in a luxury car, remembering that this IS a truck, then the quality works well. it is both simple and very attractive, with all controls laid out in a logical configuration and easy to use without having to consult the manual - something that not every manufacturer seems to think of! The final complaint against some trucks, especially the crew cab configuration is their challenge to use around town. Driving my “ex truck” ( make and model discretely hidden here!), was always difficult because of the size and parking it was something akin to docking a boat. So it was a major surprise - a VERY pleasant surprise, when I found that parking the Canyon was no more of a challenge than a sport utility model. Excellent steering with a surprisingly tight turning circle, combined with the size made
this a slam dunk.

What GMC have done here is to create a comfortable truck that can be driven with ease under all conditions - a luxury we haven’t had in many trucks. Think of a sport utility that’s missing the rear roof section and this is what you have. It’s a winner!