GMC Canyon beefed up with Duramax muscle, all-terrain skill

Staff reports
Farm Forum

GMC offers an enticing choice for truck buyers wanting a midsize pickup with both workhorse capability and great fuel economy. This new-for-2016 option for its Canyon pickup is a 2.8-liter Duramax I-4 turbodiesel.

According to General Motors, the decision to offer a diesel engine in its new-generation midsize trucks (Chevy Colorado as well) was part of the vehicle’s plan from the beginning. The chassis, suspension, and other components involved were engineered in sync with the powerplant.

Complementing the SLE crew-cab test-truck’s diesel muscle in handling heavy work challenges is a 6-foot-2-inch-long cargo box, 4×4 traction, Trailering Equipment Package, and All-Terrain Adventure Package. The diesel option, available on SLE and SLT 2WD and 4WD models, adds $3,730 to the vehicle’s standard $34,660 price. The premium Bose audio and IntelliLink navigation systems, as well as a special Cyber Gray Metallic paint, push the tester’s drive-out total to $43,790.

Mated with a six-speed automatic transmission, the Duramax generates 181 horsepower at 3,400 rpm and, impressively, 369 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,000 rpm. Estimated fuel economy for the 4WD Canyon is 20 miles per gallon city and 29 mpg highway. Two-wheel drive ups fuel economy numbers to 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

Truck buyers shopping for a Canyon should carefully assess whether diesel capability and fuel efficiency are worth the extra expense when compared to the gas engine. The 3.6-liter V-6, which is standard on crew-cab long-box models, propels the truck with 305 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 269 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. Estimated fuel economy is 17/24 city/highway (4WD) and 18/26 mpg city/highway (2WD).

The Duramax’s high torque at low rpm gives it a towing edge over the V-6. Packing diesel muscle, the crew-cab long-box 4×4 Canyon can pull a trailer weighing up to 7,600 pounds (7,700 pounds 2WD). This compares to the V-6’s 7,000-pound 2WD/4WD trailering capacity.

A work-truck advantage of the V-6 over the diesel crew-cab long-box 4×4 is its 1,470-pound base payload capacity, which edges the diesel’s capacity by 50 pounds. Payload capacity increases with the 5-foot-2-inch short box to 1,550 pounds for the gas engine and 1,470 pounds for the diesel.

The diesel powerplant tips the scale at 240 pounds more than the V-6, and is constructed of an iron cylinder block, DOHC cylinder head, and forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods. Features contributing to operating efficiency include a common-rail direct-injection system; an oiling circuit with dedicated feed to the turbo, providing increased pressure at the turbo and faster oil delivery; piston-cooling oil jets; ceramic glow plugs for shorter heat-up times; a balance shaft that contributes to smoothness; and laminated-steel oil pan with aluminum upper section that contributes to smoothness.

GM reports its Duramax is the cleanest diesel truck engine it has ever produced, and credits this achievement, in great part, to a cooled exhaust recirculation system. B20 bio-diesel is an alternative fuel for the engine.

A smart diesel exhaust-brake system improves vehicle control and lessens brake wear on steep grades. Diesel models also come standard with an integrated brake controller.

Driving the diesel-powered truck both on- and off-road, the engine proves capable in a variety of conditions. It supplies the low-end grunt to move the truck up rocky inclines, as well as on-tap acceleration at highway speeds. Turbo lag is undetectable. The engine is quiet by old-school standards, but it’s clear there’s a diesel at work under the hood.

The All-Terrain package, which adds $3,585 to the price, enhances off-road capability with a Z71 off-road suspension, 17-inch all-terrain tires, transfer-case shield, and hill-descent control. Exterior pluses include Dark Argent Metallic cast-aluminum wheels, rear body-colored bumper, assist steps, spray-in bedliner, rear sliding window, and All-Terrain badging.

Inside the spacious crew cab, the All-Terrain package adds comfort and convenience amenities. Most evident is the seat upholstery, which is a multi-textured jet-black cloth with red stitching and All-Terrain logos on the seatbacks. The front buckets are heated and power adjustable, including power lumbar controls. New for 2016 is Apple CarPlay capability, which allows many functions used on an iPhone to be displayed on an 8-inch color touch-screen.

Expanding consumer options with fresh technology, including the Duramax turbo-diesel, is a GM strategy that appears to be effective in this bold resurrection of its midsize-pickup family.