Grazing Bison: GMC Canyon AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition Package

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

While GMC is synonymous with trucks, General Motors has also made it a pseudo-luxury brand in relation to Chevrolet. Customers who have cross-shopped the GMC’s Sierra against the Chevy Silverado already know this. Pricing differences may start off tight but the Sierra quickly runs away with things when High Country and Denali trims start coming into play. It’s a largely similar story with the two brands’ midsize Canyon and Colorado. Chevy’s entry is the more value-oriented truck and can be equipped to boast superior off-road capabilities.

The Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 trounces the GMC Canyon AT4 when both are thrown squarely at Mother Nature. But this was by design, explaining why the latter model phased out the automaker’s “All Terrain” badging. GMC is supposed to be the brand you want to relax in and often yields slightly nicer interiors than its Chevy equivalent. Unfortunately, this has allowed pickups like the more-capable (and expensive) Colorado ZR2 Bison shame GM’s “truck brand” as delivering lesser ORVs. GMC is hoping to remedy the issue by offering the 2021 Canyon AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition — which adds some items that make it more of a contender whenever pavement is in short supply.

Truth be told, we really don’t see much of a reason for anybody to get bent out of shape that Chevy is offering the superior dune hoppers. The Colorado ZR2 was designed to be better off-road than the Canyon AT4 and that’s where it shines brightest. But most of us spend the brunt of our time in traffic jams and parking lots — limiting the more-expensive ZR2’s appeal against the AT4. The Canyon AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition seems poised to close the performance gap while maintaining that slight edge in terms of overall luxury.

We first heard talk of a more-brutish AT4 when GM Authority started issuing leaks back in January. But General Motors gave it an official showcase on Monday, confirming much of what was already being speculated. Rocker panel protectors and a series of skid plates help keep the truck’s sensitive areas from getting banged up. Ditto for the now absent air damn, a decision which improves the AT4’s approach angle by 35 percent and keeps it just shy of 30 degrees.

There’s also a suspension-leveling kit and an array of cosmetic goodies like 17-inch gloss black wheels, black badging, and black finishers on the exhaust tips. That’s in addition to the standard AT4’s Eaton G80 rear locking differential, 2-inch lift kit, Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires, recovery hooks, hill descent system, and Kalahari interior stitching. The 308-hp, LGZ 3.6-liter V6 gasoline engine mated to an eight-speed auto will also carry over. But customers should retain the option to pick the 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel and its obligatory six-speed automatic.

GMC has yet to share pricing but an announcement should be fast approaching since the company plans on taking orders before year’s end. It looks interesting enough and adds a bit of attitude to the Canyon, though clearly falls short of transforming the AT4 into something entirely different. While that’s not a bad thing if comfort remains your priority, those wanting the most off-road capability they can get from an American midsize pickup should probably stick with the ZR2 Bison or take Jeep’s Gladiator out for a spin.

[Images: General Motors]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 14 comments
  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Nov 17, 2020

    Leveling kits make little sense, but then again, I like to use my truck as a truck.

  • DC Bruce DC Bruce on Nov 18, 2020

    Just FtR, "High Country" is Chevrolet's premium trim -- the equivalent of GMC's "Denali." Last time I shopped 1/2 tons, those two trim levels were equivalent, including in price. GM is trying hard to make "Denali" a brand apart from GMC, especially with the new Yukon/Tahoe SUVs. So, it may be that a Yukon Denali is a little spiffier than its Tahoe equivalent and a little more expensive.

  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is delaying an oil change for my Highlander by a couple of weeks, as it prevented me from getting an appointment before a business trip out of town. Oh well, much worse things have happened.I also just got a dealership oil change for my BMW (thanks, loss-leader prepaid plans!) and this didn't seem to affect them at all.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Gonna need more EV fuel.