By on November 16, 2020

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]

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14 Comments on “Grazing Bison: GMC Canyon AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition Package...”

  • avatar

    3% of these will be sold to people who have an actual use for the off-road abilities. The other 97% will be sold to people who want the most butch-looking truck in the mall parking lot.

    • 0 avatar

      “who want the most butch-looking truck in the mall parking lot.”

      You think a Canyon with an off-road package is the most butch-looking truck available? If anything I’d say this is one of the more subtle-looking off road packages.

    • 0 avatar

      3% is 50% higher off-road use than Jeep owners.

    • 0 avatar
      CKNSLS Sierra SLT

      tell us something we don’t know………….

    • 0 avatar
      SD 328I

      I don’t know, I think ZR2 owners are more off-road oriented people than posers.

      If they wanted image, a mid-sized truck won’t do it. At the price point of the ZR2, they could easily get a more loaded full sizer.

      The ZR2 is more for the faithful.

    • 0 avatar


      Ten or so years ago I was in Wyoming where they actual need pickups that can handle bad roads. And, there were a lot of 4×4 pickups all right. But, none of them were jacked up pretty boy trucks with lift kits, quad shocks, etc. Where I live there is negligible need for off road capability, but we have lots of pimped up pickups — don’t you dare get a speck of dust on my ultra rugged machine.

      And, is it just me or are there starting to be more lifted, supposed-to-look-rugged pickups with, oh help, dubs?

  • avatar

    What is the consensus on the red tow hooks? (I could see arguments for and against)

  • avatar

    If a four door truck is the new sedan and skidplates are the new Rich Corinthian Leather then this is pretty much the new Cimarron. 5300 cc away from desireable in 2014 and 5300 cc away it remains.

    • 0 avatar

      “then this is pretty much the new Cimarron”

      I disagree. The Cimarron was taking an economy car and putting it into your premier brand to compete with a BMW 3-Series because you can’t be asked to do actual work. You might think these off-road packages are gauche, but they aren’t exercises in historical brand destruction either.

      I think the “Rich Corinthian Leather” part of what you wrote is more accurate. These are today’s Cordobas and Monte Carlos.

      • 0 avatar

        A bit melodramatic but I stand by the foundation.

        GMC, in the good trims, is GM’s premier brand.

        A 10 year old Thai work truck with no torques is, with truck myopia, an economy car.

        Five grand for the skidplates is pretty minor contempt of customer but that’s only because GM burned up that equity already. If they could charge 20 they would.

        • 0 avatar

          I still disagree. No one is going to remember this Canyon AT4 as a massive corporate failure 40 years from now, GMC has never been as prestigious of a brand as Cadillac was, even the “good trim” GMCs have had a dose of cynicism to them, and this Canyon isn’t as embarrassing against the competition as the Cimarron.

  • avatar

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

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    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.

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