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A red 2023 GMC Canyon AT4x is shown from the front at an angle.

2023 GMC Canyon AT4X: the New King of the Hill


I’ve been waiting for this! The second generation of the GMC Canyon had a good run—even at eight years old, the Canyon and its more modest twin, the Chevy Colorado, ranked at or near best-in-class in so many categories that it was arguably the best mid-size truck on the market. But with a dated interior layout, an overhaul was certainly due—and now it’s here! The Canyon’s been totally redesigned for 2023, and although the line-up has been significantly simplified, a new configuration sits at the top of the trim mountain: the 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X.

You’ve heard of AT4, the GMC sub-brand, which is to off-roading what Denali is to luxury. But you may not have heard of AT4X, which was introduced on the Sierra 1500 in 2022. It isn’t hard to guess what this line is all about, though, kicking the off-roading prowess up a notch to the extent that the Canyon AT4X becomes a true GMC analog to the ultra-capable Colorado ZR2!

This is an exciting vehicle to study, thanks to the double-whammy of a new generation release and a new performance trim at the top of the line-up. Between best-in-class specs, first-in-class features, and the unique GMC character of off-roading’s newest serious competitor, the Canyon AT4X promises to be one of the year’s most exciting mid-size pickups!

Not to Brag, But…

The mid-size segment is absolutely thriving, thanks to the public’s interest in having a pickup truck they can actually park (or which doesn’t cost $200 to fill up every week). To stand out, every manufacturer needs to offer something that it’s the best at. For GM, that’s a consistent focus on delivering the easiest towing experience on the market! It’s no coincidence that most of the Canyon’s best-in-class claims relate directly to its basic purpose of doing hard work.

I would love to say that the AT4X offers the most towing capacity in the segment, for starters. Unfortunately, I can’t—the weight of underbody plating, among other factors, limits the AT4X’s capacity to a healthy 6,000 lbs. It’s a shame because the Canyon’s only engine—a high-output version of the Silverado’s 2.7L turbocharged L3B four-cylinder—successfully achieves what was previously the sole domain of the diesel, maintaining a class-leading 7,700 lbs towing capacity (now shared with the Jeep Gladiator) on all other trims.

But the AT4X still gets the engine! And that’s a big deal because the High-Output tune is specifically aimed at creating the low-end torque needed for both heavy towing and smooth rock crawling. This L3B is so torquey, in fact, that its 430 lb-ft is the highest standard torque in the segment! That qualifier is important since Gladiator’s optional diesel squeaks out a little more, but nobody else is within 120 lb-ft of any engine offering! Good luck getting stuck on the trails with that much twist at your behest.

The 2023 Canyon’s powertrain prowess is tremendously significant, but GMC’s real focus is on the navigation and ease-of-use side of the driving experience. That’s why the Canyon’s two other best-in-class claims have to do with visual technology.

The 11-inch digital driver information center (i.e. gauge cluster), which comes standard on the AT4X and Denali, is the largest in the segment, providing a highly configurable, easy-to-read display of important information right where you want it. I think the cooler party trick comes from the segment-leading ten available camera views, though, following in the footsteps of the Canyon’s big brothers, the Sierra and Hummer EV.

The best add-ons to achieve the full camera suite are the HD Surround Vision, complete with dynamic guidelines, and fore- and aft-facing underbody cameras (complete with washing systems), providing real-time answers to every “Think we’re gonna make it?” moment. GMC is taking a serious crack at rendering the old overlanding adage “When in doubt, get out!” obsolete with these views that make it possible to see where the obstacles are, how close you’ll come to hitting them, and how to get just the right line without once leaving the driver’s seat!

The interior of a 2023 GMC Canyon AT4x is shown from above the center console.

Canyon Did It First!

The underbody cameras are such a convenient feature that the competitors are sure to copy it—but for now it’s a GMC exclusive, leading right into Part Two of this review: the landmark features that the mid-size truck segment is seeing for the first time on the 2023 Canyon AT4X and Denali. I’ve already mentioned another—the 11-inch digital DIC is fully digital, making it another first for the segment that is sure to be found standard among its competitors in no time.

Other segment-first features continue to demonstrate GMC’s commitment to being the premium truck brand by offering quality-of-life features that no one else can claim. AT4X and Denali, for example, come standard with a 6.3-inch heads-up display (HUD). Think the digital gauge cluster is too “busy” and distracting? The HUD projects information directly onto the windshield, allowing you to monitor the absolute most important parameters (such as speed) without ever taking your eyes off the road!

Do you like that the Gladiator supports an open-air experience, but you don’t like the hassle of removing body panels? Look no further than the universally optional first-in-its-class power sunroof of the 2023 GMC Canyon! On the one hand, it seems like a strange feature to be missing from an entire segment. On the other hand, that segment is mid-size pickups—a classically function-and-budget-first segment currently undergoing a significant revolution. (I just can’t believe Honda didn’t do it first.)

Surprisingly, wireless connectivity to project your phone onto the infotainment system via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is a segment first as well, as is the wireless charging option found standard on the AT4X and Denali trims. A small caveat: the charging pad doesn’t accommodate today’s larger smartphones, so your mileage may vary, but in the AT4X you’ll have it, and you’ll know you chose the one truck that made it possible.

The AT4X-Factor

Now, all that would be pretty sweet on its own. None of those features or capabilities are exclusive to AT4X, and they turn the Canyon Denali into a more premium truck than it’s ever been before. But the AT4X ups the ante entirely on its own because it puts GMC into the game of the burgeoning mid-size off-roader segment with serious credentials and without sacrificing any of Canyon’s premium features.

For years now, the Colorado ZR2 has been a bright spot in the segment—one thing that Chevy was arguably doing better than anybody else. Now GMC has adopted all of the ZR2’s performance credentials and integrated it into the Canyon to create the AT4X!

It starts with the lift. Every 2023 Canyon features an upgraded off-road suspension and a two-inch lift from the base Colorado platform (a la Trail Boss trim), but the AT4X gets the ZR2’s three-inch lift instead for a total 10.7-inch ground clearance. It also gets ZR2’s 66.3-inch ultra-wide track for stability and 17-inch Mud-Terrain tires! The outcome of all this geometry is the approach, breakover, and departure angles of 36.9, 24.5, and 25 degrees, respectively, making the AT4X a close second to the Gladiator Mojave for overall flexibility out on the trails.

The off-road modes are really interesting, too, with unique settings for Overlanding, Terrain, and AT4X-exclusive Baja Mode. Each delivers a distinctive character not only through the performance settings but also from the type of information communicated via the center infotainment screen. Overlanding shows a compass and altimeter, providing an aura of aeronautics to its adventuring. Terrain loads up on details like a 3D depiction of pitch and roll (with high scores saved, of course) and individual tire pressure readouts. Baja takes a similarly data-oriented approach, focused on showing the transfer case mode, a wheel slip indicator, the steering angle, and a map of vertical and lateral G-forces—again presented with high scores for showing off!

Okay, that’s cool, but I bet you’re still holding out on being impressed. Are you waiting for the big deal? I know I am. I hope you’re getting hyped up for it because the AT4X also gets a piece of tech that was born on the F1 race track and somehow, some way, found its way to the ZR2 and now to the AT4X. It’s one of the best pieces of suspension technology in the entire automotive industry, and that is not an exaggeration. Do you know what I’m talking about? Of course you do—it’s MultiMatic’s legendary DSSV dampers!

This Canadian firm has supplied one of the industry’s truly great damper designs to the Ford GT, Camaro ZL1, and Colorado ZR2, just to name a few; now, the AT4X gets to share in the supremely well-managed fun. With a special valve for handling the extreme wheel travel and high-impact events unique to off-roading, the Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve design earns acclaim wherever it goes for providing excellent damping in all circumstances. The responsiveness and range of variation of MultiMatic’s mechanical systems are unrivaled by electronically controlled competitors and lend any system graced with their presence substantial performance credibility—hands down. This is the final piece of the incredible off-roading puzzle that has been the Colorado ZR2, and it is gloriously now also presented in the Canyon AT4X.

A red 2023 GMC Canyon AT4x is shown from the rear at an angle.

A Different Kind of Truck Wars

The off-roading mid-size pickup segment has gotten seriously competitive, with the 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X throwing itself into the ring as being every bit as capable as the others, and yet with a premium edge to justify its price tag and attract discerning buyers. People may scoff at a $60,000 mid-size pickup, but—with the most torque, some of the best towing, the most high-tech of modern amenities, great looks, great angles, and fantastic off-roading equipment—doesn’t the AT4X deserve to be called the king of the hill?

If you disagree, well… good luck trying to push it off the top.

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