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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
The [V-8] Canyon mainly hauled ass
These trucks trail the competition in every way
Car and Driver
Acceleration and hauling performance is lackluster
For 2009, GMC increases the fuel economy of the four- and five-cylinder engines offered in the Canyon, but the big news is the availability of a V-8.
“Even though this engine lacks overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, it delivers a potent 300 hp at 5200 rpm and 320 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm,” says Automotive.com, adding, “The Canyon mainly hauled ass, although it also endured more than a 100 miles of boat towing in the dead of winter without whining.” TheCarConnection.com confirms the torquey, relaxed appeal of the V-8 Canyon and finds it much more appealing than the four- and five-cylinder engines otherwise offered.
Reviewers can't find much, if anything, to love from the standard 2.9-liter inline-four (185 hp) or the optional inline-five (242 hp). ConsumerGuide feels that the Canyon GMC's four-cylinder offers "adequate power for around-town driving." Car and Driver, however, decries the Canyon’s smaller engines as "thrashy" and claims 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, which Edmunds points out "is below average for this type of truck."
“On the highway, the Canyon feels solid and stable, with a smooth, comfortable ride,” says MyRide.com. But Car and Driver is turned off by the Canyon’s handling, griping that the "steering is high-effort with a numb feel"—echoing what TheCarConnection.com’s editors observe. Fortunately, the 2009 GMC Canyon redeems itself with its good braking performance, which ConsumerGuide says makes for "quick, even stops with good pedal feel."
Automobile Magazine tests a 2009 GMC Canyon with the retuned, high-performance ZQ8 suspension/package and states, “The steering response is rapid and accurate, yet the ride is supple, even over Michigan's bombed-out excuse for pavement. The lack of steering feel will surely disappoint BMW worshippers, but a ZQ8-fortified Canyon is about as good as trucks get.”
Concerning the Canyon’s drivetrains, Cars.com says the 2009 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 lean 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,” adding that "a five-speed manual transmission [is standard on most four-cylinder Canyons" and a "four-speed automatic is standard on five-cylinder trucks and optional with the smaller engine."
When it comes to fuel economy, the official EPA estimates for the Canyon GMC range up to 25 mpg highway for four-cylinder models. Two-wheel-drive Crew Cabs with the five-cylinder engine can return 16 mpg city, 22 highway, as do manual-transmission Regular Cabs with the four-cylinder engine. The V-8 model is rated lower, at 14 mpg city, 19 highway, but TheCarConnection.com observes nearly 18 mpg in enthusiastic driving, indicating that drivers are likely to see reasonably good mileage, thanks to the Canyon's relaxed, unstressed demeanor.
The new 5.3-liter V-8 makes up for the deficiencies of the smaller engines and places the 2009 GMC Canyon in a more competitive position.