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Avg. Price Paid:$7,057 - $15,151
Original MSRP: $15,085 - $25,070
MPG: 18 City / 24 Hwy
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2008 GMC Canyon Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 GMC Canyon was new.

The 2008 GMC Canyon is a good but not great performer. Coming in third for performance in its class, the Canyon is specifically highlighted as a smooth ride. As U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman puts it, "The Canyon, it turns out, has a rather gentlemanly ride for a truck."

The Canyon is available with a 2.9-liter four-cylinder engine or a 3.7-liter five-cylinder, both of which are more powerful than those found in last year's models. Kelley Blue Book is among proponents of the five-cylinder engine, calling it "an unappreciated gem." Other reviewers align more closely with the Arizona Republic, which says, "Although it looks good on paper, the engine lacks the power and refinement of the competitors' V-6 mills."

Opinions are less divided regarding the Canyon's ride, with the Wall Street Journal reporting, "We drove it on a variety of surfaces from highways to severely potholed, barely paved back roads, and it proved up to the challenge -- absorbing bumps instead of bouncing over them. Plus, it felt stable, even on twisty roads." Car and Driver is similarly effusive in its praise, writing, "The Canyon's ride-and-handling trade-off is nearly perfect, a major achievement for a tall-stance off-road suspension." The Canyon is available with front- and four-wheel drive, though the four-wheel drive system is not full-time, and should not be used on dry roads.

Acceleration and Power

The GMC Canyon comes with one of two engines -- a 2.9-liter in-line four-cylinder that makes 185 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque, or a 3.7-liter in-line five that makes 242 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque. The four-cylinder is available with either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic, while the five-cylinder comes with the automatic. New Car Test Drive offers its take on the engines: "The four-cylinder engine delivers adequate performance, costs less, and is a bit more frugal. The five-cylinder offers brisk acceleration, feels like an inline-6, and works well with an automatic." Edmunds, summing up the majority view, concludes, "The two available engines might leave power-hungry drivers wishing for more."

The four-cylinder, finds Kelley Blue Book, "is fairly potent for such a small engine. When ordered with the manual transmission, it also offers exceptionally good fuel economy." With two-wheel drive, a Canyon with a manual transmission gets an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 18 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway and, with four-wheel drive, 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. Those numbers for a Canyon with an automatic transmission drop to an EPA-estimated 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway and 15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway for the two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive models, respectively. "With either transmission," argues Consumer Guide, the "four-cylinder has adequate power for around town driving, but lacks reserve for passing or hauling heavy loads."

Opinions of the five-cylinder are particularly divided, with a slight majority left wanting more power. The Wall Street Journal likes it, saying that "acceleration felt brisk" and pointing out that it's "more powerful than several V6s in the truck segment." U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman calls it "sprightly and smooth." The Detroit News disagrees, noting, "You can't get a six or an eight on the Canyon. That wouldn't be such a big deal, except the Canyon's five-cylinder engine runs out of torque once you get much over 3,000 revs." New Car Test Drive points out that the "Canyon is admittedly short on peak torque compared to some of its competitors." The Arizona Republic has a number of complaints about the engine, saying, "The power is not up to the V-6 competition," and calling fuel economy "modest, about what the more-powerful V-6 compacts get." Two-wheel drive models get an EPA-estimated 15 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway, while four-wheel drive models get 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway.

Handling and Braking

The GMC Canyon's ride, reviewers find, is easily the best aspect of its performance. It is "unperturbed by even the worst pavement," says Automobile Magazine. Edmunds agrees, finding, "On smooth pavement the overall feel is softer than you might expect for a pickup." AutoMedia.com reports, "The Canyon gets down the road with a level of smoothness, a quiet, sure steering feel and general overall comfort that, if not equal to a luxury sedan, is at least commendable for a midsize pickup." Different suspension tunings are available for the Canyon. Consumer Guide claims that the "base suspension furnishes [the] best ride," while the "Available off-road and brutally stiff sport suspensions grow tiresome on long drives."

A high-stance off-road suspension is also available -- an option for those considering the four-wheel drive models. New Car Test Drive reports, "We were pleased with the operation of the four-wheel-drive system," finding, "it worked well in deep mud." Only one complaint about the Canyon's handling arises frequently. As Kelley Blue Book notes, "Oddly, despite its short wheelbase, the Canyon exhibits an unusually large turning radius."

Steering gets fair marks. Car and Driver reports, "Freeway tracking is excellent, with a strong sense of straight-ahead. There's minimal kickback, even on potholed roads, and the vibration that does wend its way up the column is, by truck standards, forgivable." The Detroit Free Press agrees that "the power rack-and-pinion steering was steady and responsive at high speeds," but finds it "required too much effort in sharp turns at low speed." As for the brakes, Consumer Guide says they "provide quick, even stops with good pedal feel."

Towing

The Canyon has a maximum towing capacity of 4,000 pounds with the five-cylinder engine. With the four-cylinder, the maximum towing capacity is 3,300 pounds. While this isn't impressive compared to many other trucks, New Car Test Drive points out, "The Canyon is designed to pull toys: ATVs, personal watercraft, snowmobiles, bass boats."

Hauling

The Canyon's bed can handle most light-duty hauling. As Kelley Blue Book explains, "The bed length for the Regular and Extended Cab is six feet, while the Crew Cab model offers a five-foot bed. Both beds feature tall sidewalls, for deeper storage." AutoMedia.com reports, "For the cargo hauling side -- which is, after all, what trucks were once built for -- there are eight tie-downs in the bed, two-tier loading, and one nice little feature of convenience" that is mentioned by many reviewers: "The tailgate straps can be adjusted to hold it at a 55-degree angle." This, points out Consumer Guide, permits "4x8 sheets to be carried atop wheelwells with support from [the] tailgate." Despite this, NewCars.com finds, "There's no clear winner between the GMC Canyon and the average compact crew cab truck regarding transporting cargo." The Canyon has a maximum payload capacity of 1,801 pounds.

Review Last Updated: 3/11/09

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