2018 GMC Canyon Denali Quick Take
We already knew we liked the GMC Canyon. It offers SUV-like refinement, best-in-class towing capacity (up to 7,700 pounds), and cool looks, plus a choice of three engines including a diesel. So when we got the chance to drive the top-of-the-line Denali, we were curious to see what a $46,000 Canyon is like. You can get a Canyon Denali for less, but this model had the Red Quartz paint ($495) and a bed-mounted sport bar ($1,145) that’s reminiscent of the bars you saw running from the back of the cab to the bed on a Chevrolet Avalanche. This is purely a styling feature, one that in our opinion doesn’t really enhance the looks of an already attractive truck.
The Canyon Denali we tested reflects the basic Denali treatment: The price of admission includes several styling and luxury options as standard equipment. Ours had features like leather seats that are heated and ventilated for the driver and front passenger, heated steering wheel, Bose audio, and navigation. Forward collision alert and lane departure warning are standard on the Denali, and our tester also had wireless smartphone charging and the infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay. Denali-specific styling cues include the chrome grille, 20-inch aluminum wheels, and 5-inch chrome side steps. The Denali is the only Canyon that comes standard with a spray-in bedliner. The resulting exterior style is bolder than that of the standard Canyon.
The Denali trim adds some luxury to an already nice truck. It builds on the positive attributes of the Canyon -- namely, the V6 provides excellent power, which is only held back by the transmission that is sometimes slow to shift. The interior is pleasantly quiet, and the controls are intuitive and within easy reach, but as the truck segment continues to evolve and advance, the layout of the controls is starting to look dated. It would be nice if the Denali came with keyless entry and push-button start and fully power adjustable seats, even if it was just for the driver. The Denali touch wasn’t as obvious inside as it was outside, but the cabin is attractive, and there is no shortage of high-quality, soft-touch materials.
Why buy a relatively expensive midsize Canyon instead of a full-size Sierra? There are a few reasons. For starters, for that same price, you would have more capability in a Sierra, but not nearly as many amenities. And if you want a crew cab short bed, the similarly priced Sierra would be the SLE trim (one higher than the base model), powered by a 4.3-liter V6 that has less horsepower than the V6 in the Canyon Denali we tested. The other reason to consider this Canyon over a similarly priced Sierra is if you want a truck you can park in your garage. If your garage is 18 feet long, a common garage length, the Canyon is a snug fit, but the crew cab short bed Sierra is a no go. You’ll have to park it in the driveway or on the street. The Canyon Denali is the right fit for someone who wants a GMC pickup, but only needs to tow 7,700 pounds or less and wants the upscale features a of a Denali without the added cost of a full-size truck.