Test Drive: 2016 GMC Canyon Duramax Diesel Review

Jerry Reynolds | February 9, 2016
Test Drive: 2016 GMC Canyon Duramax Diesel Review

For months, people have been asking me to review the 2016 Chevy Colorado diesel or the GMC Canyon diesel, so this week I am behind the wheel of the all new 2016 GMC Canyon 4X4 and yes, it has the much anticipated 2.8-liter 4–cylinder Duramax Turbo diesel.

2016 GMC Canyon Duramax Diesel

This new engine has got 181-horses, which sounds light for a pickup, but as we’ve discussed in the past, with diesels, the torque is more important than the horsepower. This one has a very impressive 369 pound-feet of torque, which gives it a towing capacity of 7600 pounds. I would have never thought GM could get that kind of towing capacity out of a 4-cylinder, even a diesel one, but they did. This truck is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.

If you opt for a gasoline engine, there are two choices, a 4-cylinder and a 6-cylinder.

Let’s take a look at the truck itself. This is the top of the line SLT package. It has the usual GMC Professional Grade look about it, which is a bold, with an in-your-face grille, squared off fenders, and exaggerated fender flares built into the body. In fact, you have to look hard at this midsize truck to know you are not looking at the big brother Sierra. It comes with 18-inch polished cast aluminum wheels, and overall, it’s a tough looking truck.

Inside, leather, heated front seats are inviting and comfortable. I would like to see fewer hard plastic surfaces inside, but it is acceptable. As you look at the gauge cluster, in the middle is a color, configurable driver information center that operates from the leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Above the center console and shifter, is Intellilink, an 8” color touchscreen that operates the radio, the Bluetooth, and offers a number of apps including Pandora. You can call up Onstar, and hook your iPhone up to Apple Car Play. You can also turn the cab into a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. The screen also houses the terrific rear vision camera.

This short bed GMC Canyon SLT comes with a nice list of standard features like keyless entry, EZ lift tailgate, GM’s brilliant corner step rear bumper, power front seats, sliding rear window, remote start, power windows and locks, tilt wheel, and more.

My review truck has $5900 worth of options and includes $3730 for the diesel engine, which also gives you the trailer-towing package. $995 gets you a premium Bose stereo and navigation system. The metallic paint is $395, a spray-in bed liner is $475, and finally, for $395 more, you get forward collision alert and lane departure warning.

Also standard is an exhaust brake for trailer towing, which uses engine compression to slow the truck down, reducing the amount of conventional braking needed while driving downhill.   

The Duramax diesel is very quiet from inside the cab. After a very brief bit of turbo lag, the engine accelerates with strong determination. It drives more like an SUV than a truck to me, which is a good thing. I also thought the rear folding seat offered good legroom, even for adults over 6-feet tall.

So let’s talk fuel economy for a minute. The EPA says it will get 20 in town and 29 on the highway. It is doing the 20 in town consistently, but at 70-miles per hour, with the cruise control set, I had long stretches of 31-miles per gallon. It is also nice to look at the display that shows you have a range of over 500 miles.

Now, let’s talk price because this is where this truck gets a little dicey. I noted the price as a problem when I had the 2015 Colorado, too, but unlike most reviewers, value is a big part of what I consider before recommending a vehicle.

The window sticker on this truck is $44,365, and that’s a lot for a midsize truck - but on the other hand -  not a lot for a diesel truck that will tow over 7500 pounds. With the rebates that GM has offered on the full-sized Sierra, there won’t be a lot of difference in price, but again, this is a diesel.  I will also say that for $44 Grand, I expected air-conditioned seats, a moonroof, blind spot monitoring, and HD radio.

As a pickup, the Canyon is actually very nice and it’s easier to drive and park than a full-sized truck. So the question now becomes, gas or diesel?

If you go with the gas 3.6-liter V6, you get 7000 pounds of towing, 600 less than the diesel. The V6 is rated at 24-miles per gallon on the highway, 5 less than the diesel, but both have a combined city/highway rating of 20.

So do you come out financially with the diesel? The short answer is it depends on fuel prices. Diesel and gas today are both around $1.75 per gallon.  So to recoup the $3700 diesel upcharge, at the highway fuel economy ratings, you save $16 in fuel costs per month, so it takes a little over 19 years to break even.

Should fuel prices jump back up to $3.50 per gallon, your savings are $31 per month, so the breakeven point is only 10 years. 

Other factors to consider are the cost of diesel emission fluid over the life of the truck, but on the plus side, the diesel should easily go an extra 100,000 miles with no issues versus the 6-cylinder.

You’ll have to make up your own mind on the diesel, but either way, the Canyon is a great truck and a joy to drive.

  • What I liked most: The ride and drive quality, and fuel economy.
  • What I would change: Just the price, but there is no doubt, it will sell well.
  • MSRP: Base price $37,450, as equipped $44,395.
  • Fuel Economy:  20 City/29 Highway, 23 Combined.
  • Fuel Tank: 21 gallons.
  • Dimensions:  212.7” long/74.3” wide/70.7” high.
  • Weight: 4748 Pounds.
  • Trailer Towing: 7600 Pounds.
  • Miles When Tested: 800 miles.
  • Final Assembly Point: Wentzville, MO.
  • 2016 Canyon Duramax in a few words: Gas or diesel, you choose, but a great truck!
  • Warranty: 3-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper, 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty, with roadside assistance, two free scheduled maintenance visits.
  • Manufacturers Website: GMC
Tags: Duramax, GMC Canyon
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