There’s a certain type of vehicle that defies labels. You can’t say whether it’s a pickup, an authentic off-roader, or a daily driver. Maybe it’s none of those, or all of them simultaneously. The 2021 GMC Canyon and the 2021 Ford Ranger both fit in this undefined territory. While they may be pickup trucks on paper, the facts tell us that there’s more to these trucks than meets the eye. From ferocious trims that are ready to crawl over rough terrain to towing capacity that defies the segment and turbocharged engines that wave goodbye to the rest of the class from the fast lane, the Canyon and the Ranger reflect the vehicle of the future: impossible to pin down, but a whole lot of fun to drive. So, in the battle of the 2021 GMC Canyon vs 2021 Ford Ranger, who is the best of the best?
How do you even start to compare the 2021 GMC Canyon and the 2021 Ford Ranger? For most of us, buying both is out of the question, which means a choice must be made. The best way to start the process is to lay out all the details, side by side, to determine which features, trims, and options are best for you, your life, and your driving style.
Power and Capability
For many fans, the most important detail about a truck is how it drives and what it can do. A pickup truck needs power first, and then the street credentials will follow. You need something that will do its job without complaint, and that can bring the fun after the work is done.
The standard engine on the 2021 GMC Canyon proves that this truck takes its role very seriously. The 2.5L inline-4 provides 200 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque and an impressive fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon city and 24 miles per gallon highway. This engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The Denali trim is equipped with a standard 3.6L V6 engine coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission. An available option on lower trims, this engine proves that the Canyon is ready to go with a best-in-class 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque. This engine will also grant you the maximum payload capacity of 1,609 pounds.
GMC offers something for diesel lovers, too, in the form of a 2.8L Duramax Turbo-Diesel. This powerful engine generates 181 horsepower and a mighty 369 lb-ft of torque. When the diesel engine is selected, the 2021 GMC Canyon is capable of towing up to 7,700 pounds, an exceptional capability for a vehicle of its size and stature.
Ford is very slowly releasing details about the 2021 Ranger, creating a sense of suspense and anticipation. As of this release, only one engine option is anticipated: a turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder with 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired with a ten-speed automatic transmission. The 2020 Ford Ranger also only had one engine option, so it seems likely the 2021 model will continue that trend.
Choosing the Right Trim
Selecting an engine that can get the job done may be the most important feature of a truck, but right behind that is reviewing the features that make you want to drive that truck. You want to choose the right trim to ensure you get all the features you need, plus the extra ones that you want. Luckily the Canyon and the Ranger both have some new and exciting trim offerings for 2021.
The 2021 GMC Canyon’s new trim offering is known as the Elevation. Offered as Elevation Standard and Elevation, these two trucks are largely identical, with just a few differences in features. Both include convenient standard aspects, such as a built-in rear bumper corner step, halogen projector beam headlamps, front seat USB ports, and cab mounted cargo area lighting. Standard safety features include a rear vision camera, tire pressure monitoring with tire fill alert, airbags, and the Teen Driver program.
From there, drivers can customize the Elevation Standard with a plethora of available options or select the Elevation trim, which offers a few additional features. These extra features include LED fog lamps, cruise control, remote start, and a 4G LTE Wifi hotspot. You’ll also find standard OnStar service, a 6-way power adjustable driver’s seat, automatic climate control, and remote start with remote keyless entry.
The AT4 trim takes a walk on the wild side, with its off-road-ready features and rugged appearance. The 3.6L engine comes standard on this trim, and GMC has added off-road suspension, standard four-wheel drive, an automatic locking rear differential, and a transfer case shield. As if this weren’t a serious kit, to prove that the AT4 is intended for off-roading, this 2021 Canyon trim includes standard Advanced Hill Descent Control, which allows for a controlled descent regardless of the terrain- without having to pump the brakes continuously. The AT4 also includes an 8-inch touchscreen armed with the GMC Infotainment System. This system includes compatibility with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with heated driver and passenger seats and a rear folding bench seat.
The Canyon Denali takes the term “premium” to heart, as demonstrated by its chrome grille and LED fog lamps. Inside, the seats are leather, power adjustable, and heated and ventilated to boot. A Bose audio system comes standard, along with standard wireless charging and navigation. The included Driver Alert Package offers forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and rear park assist, along with a Hi-Def rear vision camera.
In contrast, very little is known about the 2021 Ford Ranger trim offerings. Experts feel confident that the XL, XLT, and Lariat will carry over from 2020. A Ford Ranger Raptor is not completely out of the question, however, with some truck experts predicting a smaller version of the famous Ford F-150 Raptor to be released in the US in 2021.
Using the 2020 Ford Ranger as a starting point, drivers can expect the 2021 XL to be fairly basic, with features such as power windows, USB and auxiliary inputs, and safety features such as forward collision alert and a rearview camera. The 2020 XLT takes a considerable jump ahead with the full Ford CoPilot 360 driver assist bundle, which includes blind spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, trailer monitoring, and lane-keep assist. The XLT also adds an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, with 4G Wifi and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. The Lariat trim adds leather interior with power adjustable, heated seats, push-button start, and LED headlamps.
One of the highlights of driving a truck is taking advantage of the customization available. The 2021 GMC Canyon offers a few compelling packages, while Ford has released a significant amount of information about two new packages that will be available on the 2021 Ranger. Both of these trucks are going to be pretty impressive when fully pumped up.
The Canyon Elevation trim can be decked out with the High Elevation Package, which adds Jet Black leather seating, heated front seats and steering wheel, and power lumbar adjustment for the driver. Drivers of the Denali trim can add the Power Package, which adds cat-back exhaust and a power air intake system, or a Performance Skid Plate Package, which adds front and mid skid plates.
Ford, on the other hand, has released extensive information regarding two new Ranger offerings: the STX Special Edition and the Tremor Off-Road Package. The STX Special Edition is generating an early buzz with a combination of upgraded aesthetics and technology. This Ranger version will feature 18-inch black painted, machine-finished wheels, along with silver-painted interior accents and rear privacy glass with defrosting. Inside, drivers can enjoy dual-zone climate control and a comprehensive infotainment system that includes an 8-inch touch screen, Ford’s SYNC 3 system, and integration with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The STX Special Edition will be offered for the XL trim in either a rear-wheel or all-wheel drive format for both SuperCab and SuperCrew configurations. Drivers can also choose to bundle the STX edition with the FX4 Off Road Package, which, based on the details of the 2020 FX4 package, will offer rugged features such as off road shocks, heavy-duty skid plates, and all-terrain tires, to name a few.
However, if serious off-roading is in the cards, the 2021 Tremor Off-Road Package is an easy choice. Ford is touting the Tremor package as the most off-road ready Ranger available from the factory, and the features align with this claim. This package includes a factory-lifted suspension for a total of 9.7 inches of ground clearance, with a 30.9-degree approach angle and a 25.5-degree departure angle.
FOX 2.0 monotube dampers and rear piggyback reservoirs are standard, along with 32-inch Continental General Grabber all-terrain tires. The Terrain Management System includes four specifically calibrated drive modes for normal terrain, sand, mud, as well as grass, gravel, and snow. Altogether, the Tremor has been intelligently engineered to provide a solid, reliable ride no matter where the wheels take you.
Comparing the 2021 GMC Canyon and the 2021 Ford Ranger may seem like comparing apples to oranges on paper, especially while Ford focuses on the upcoming 2021 Bronco. We are leaning towards the 2021 GMC Canyon as the winner in a battle between these two trucks, as its multiple engine options are sure to give us the power we really want from a truck. At the same time, it’s clear that both the Canyon and the Ranger are vehicles that defy explanation. They are both pickup trucks, with highly capable engines and the ability to tow a sizable load. They both offer off-road options and appearance packages that allow drivers to customize their ride. But are they trucks for work, for play, or daily driving? The answer, of course, is “all of the above.”