We may never know whether the GM decision-makers were more interested in cutting costs or increasing fuel economy on the 2008 GMC Canyon, but either way, they unfortunately chose to offer a pair of underpowered engines that provide disappointing performance.
GMC offers two engines for the 2008 GMC Canyon lineup, but neither is very exciting. Edmunds states that "the standard 2.9-liter four-cylinder makes 185 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque," while the "optional 3.7-liter inline five-cylinder produces 242 hp and 242 lb-ft of torque." ConsumerGuide feels that the Canyon GMC's four-cylinder offers "adequate power for around-town driving." However, in comparison to the competition, Edmunds says "the Canyon's engines can't match the power and performance of the V-6s and V-8s offered by the competition." Car and Driver reviewers agree, decrying the "thrashy engine" on the GMC Canyon and claiming that "these trucks trail the competition in every way."
In terms of work capabilities, the GMC Canyon falls short as well. The smaller engine reduces the maximum towing capacity to 4,000 pounds. Edmunds points out that this "is below average for this type of truck."
The 2008 GMC Canyon is available with several different transmission options, and Edmunds notes that these include either "a five-speed manual transmission [that] is standard on most four-cylinder Canyons" and a "four-speed automatic that is standard on five-cylinder trucks and optional with the smaller engine." In addition, Cars.com says the 2008 GMC Canyon is "available with rear- or four-wheel drive" and a "choice of three rear axle ratios." Reviews of the transmissions read by TheCarConnection.com trend toward the positive end of the spectrum, and ConsumerGuide reviewers love the "quick-shifting automatic transmission." Edmunds agrees, claiming that the four-speed automatic's "shifts are smooth and well-timed."
Despite having just four or five gears to choose from, the 2008 GMC Canyon makes the most of them when it comes to fuel economy. The official EPA estimates for the Canyon GMC are 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway for the 4WD Crew Cab, while four-cylinder Crew Cabs should get 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway. Two-wheel-drive Crew Cabs with the five-cylinder engine can return 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway, as can manual-transmission Regular Cabs with the four-cylinder engine. Rounding out the 2008 GMC Canyon lineup are the 4WD Regular Cab with the four-cylinder and an automatic transmission at 17/22 mpg, as well as the Regular Cab with the five-cylinder and automatic at 15/21 mpg.
Most reviewers say little about the Canyon’s handling, but Car and Driver is turned off, griping that the "steering is high-effort with a numb feel." Fortunately, the 2008 GMC Canyon redeems itself with its good braking performance, which ConsumerGuide says makes for "quick, even stops with good pedal feel."