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2023 GMC Canyon: Is this midsize truck worth a luxury price tag? [First Drive]

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General Motors has launched two new midsize trucks for 2023: the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. While they are both built on the same platform, the Canyon has some significant upgrades – and a $7,700 premium – over its Chevy sib.

So, is the GMC truck really that much better? We think so. Here’s why.

High-output turbo engine

The best thing about the 2023 GMC Canyon has to be the 2.7-liter turbocharged engine. Yes, this is the same engine we see in the Colorado, but it gets the high-output tune as standard fare, and it delivers 310 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque.

Though I haven’t driven the Colorado yet, Publisher Tim Esterdahl has, and he thought the lesser-tuned engines were lacking power. In contrast, we both found the 2023 Canyon to be peppy – both on curvy back roads and highways. It had excellent passing power as well as nice off-the-line start.

Plus, there was the right amount of engine noise that feeds back into the cabin, so even though this is a turbo-4, it sounds and feels like something more.

Yes, you can get this high-output tune in the Colorado, but first you have to opt for the Turbo Plus version, which costs an extra $1,420 in the WT trim, and then you have to go to a dealer (yep) to have them program the extra horsepower for another $395. That would push the price of the WT trim up to $32,510 – versus $38,395 for the base Elevation Canyon.

Quiet cabin

As you would expect for a GMC product, the 2023 Canyon gets more sound deadening materials. This means the road and ambient noise you might hear in the Colorado is all but absent in the GMC truck. We were especially impressed by the lack of tire noise filtering into the cabin. Even when we were driving the AT4X trim with the beefy 33-inch mud terrain tires, the noise creeping into the cabin was much less than expected. At speeds over 60 MPH and when turning corners, you could hear some extra noise, but at lower city speeds, the noise was virtually nil.

And, as mentioned above, you could hear the engine, but it wasn’t a whiney, wimpy sound. It was something you actually wanted to hear. So, the gist is, GMC managed to filter out much of the distracting noise while keeping the good stuff.

2023 GMC Canyon

2023 GMC Canyon Denali trim (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

Up-level materials

We spent the most amount of time in the AT4X trim, and it was handsome with the white leather trim on the dash and seat tops, red seatbelts and red dial accents as well as attractive stitching on the dash, doors and seats. As the highest-priced trim for the 2023 Canyon, you’d expect this to be nice.

But here’s the thing, even the base Elevation trim was solidly appointed with black leather trim on the dash, digital cluster, 12.3-inch infotainment screen, heated seats and reverse stitching on the wheel. It just happened to be a little plainer than the other trims.

All the trims had nice fit and finish, pleasing touch points and attractive accent pieces.

Some good things on the 2023 Canyon

Outside of the “big three” listed above, the 2023 Canyon has some other good things going for it. We loved the exterior styling, complete with bed step, beefy tires and bold grille. We also mostly like the available wireless charging pad because it doesn’t overheat your phone. Keep reading to see what we didn’t like about it.

The digital displays, Google operating system, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, large infotainment screen and seat comfort are all things that fall on the like list.

2023 GMC Canyon AT4X trim after a trim through the mud pits. (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

Some bad things on the 2023 Canyon

While we really liked the 2023 Canyon, it’s not completely without faults. First and foremost, access to the cabin is hard. Because of the factory lift, step-in height can be a bit cumbersome for those who are not flexible or on the short side of the spectrum. To make matters worse, there is no grab handle on the driver’s side, so you have an awkward hop or steering-wheel grab to boost yourself into the cabin. The Denali version does come with running boards, but you probably don’t want those if you’re planning to take the truck off road. Which you should.

Picking a few nits, the cup holders fall in the too big or too small category. My Yeti water bottle didn’t fit in the door holders, and when I put it in the holder at the back of the armrest, there was no rubber to hold it and it bobbled around, making an annoying knocking sound. The Yeti did fit in the main cup holders ok, but smaller bottles did not.

Finally, while the wireless charging pad leaves your phone cool to the touch, it doesn’t always keep your phone in the right position to charge. There isn’t anything to hold your phone in place, so it slides around with turns or off-road bumps and stops charging.

The bottom line

Unless you need to tow heavy stuff, midsize trucks seem to hit a sweet spot these days. They’re small enough to fit in urban environments, nimble enough to do some rough off roading and capable enough to tow moderate stuff. The 2023 GMC Canyon adds extra off-road prowess from the factory and a touch of class.

While a price range of $38,395 (Elevation) to $56,995 (AT4X) is steep for a midsize truck, keep in mind it is a GMC and you get a lot of extra amenities. Only you can decide if it’s worth it.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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