The smallest Denali doesn’t deliver as much as its price tag promises.
– Moab, Utah
With high-zoot Denali trim levels accounting for a quarter of all GMC sales, it isn’t really surprising the brand decided to extend the treatment to its Canyon midsize pickup. The brand’s shoppers, it seems, are drawn toward these pricey models. “The kind of vehicles our customers are looking for tend to be more highly contented,” says GMC senior marketing manager Stu Pierce.
What also isn’t too surprising is that it’s tough to dress up a vehicle that starts up as a back-to-basics truck. The GMC Canyon itself is great, but the Denali treatment doesn’t make enough of a difference to match up to its sticker price. You might be better served by sticking with the second-to-top trim level, SLT.
Improved powertrain. All 2017 GMC Canyon trucks with the V6 engine get some mechanical updates, and they only serve to improve the way the pickup trucks. The 3.6-liter engine produces three more horsepower and six more pound-feet of torque, while the automatic transmission has eight speeds instead of six. Though those tweaks sound small, the Canyon is notably livelier than before. It downshifts more eagerly, pulls with more urgency in lower gears, and doesn’t feel quite so lazy as the last V6 Canyon I drove.
Stylish outfit. The Canyon Denali is an eye-catching design, and so long as you’re okay with having more reflective surfaces than a Broadway dressing room, you’ll like it, too. Note the 20-inch chrome wheels, chrome side steps, chrome mesh grille, chrome front fascia trim, chrome foglight surrounds, chrome door handles, and chrome mirrors. Though I am not always a fan of dressing up modern vehicles in chrome, somehow it works on this Dark Slate Metallic truck.
Many basic features inside. For all the talk that Denali is code for “lots of equipment,” this Canyon Denali lacks a handful of amenities you can find on, say, a Honda Civic for half the price. You have to put a key in the ignition switch, manually recline your seats, and hold the power window switches. I don’t necessarily expect push-button start, full-power seats, and full-auto windows in every midsize pickup truck. But when there’s a Denali badge on the hood and a $44,155 price tag in the window, I do.
Little interior differentIation. Looking around the cabin, I struggle to tell what turns a Canyon SLT into a Canyon Denali. The differences, of course, include a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a wireless charging mat for your smartphone, and a Bose sound system. Yet visually, there’s nothing that instantly leaps out as more premium than in other Canyon trim levels.
No fuel economy benefit. Often, installing an updated engine and a transmission with more gears improves efficiency. Not so in the 2017 Canyon; its EPA ratings are identical to those of the 2016 model. For better economy, the 2.8-liter turbodiesel engine is still offered as an option; it gets as much as 30 mpg in two-wheel-drive Canyons.
Photos: Jake Holmes / Motor1.com