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2018 GMC Canyon Denali 4X4 Test Drive Review

Every new year brings with it new resolutions. Perhaps you decided that 2018 is the year you’ll change jobs. Maybe you’re determined to go back to school and get your master’s degree. Or it could be that you’re going to stop borrowing your neighbor’s truck every time you need to move something heavy and get your very own pickup.

There are plenty of options out there. Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, and Ram all make heavy duty trucks with robust gas V-8 engines and diesel power plants with torque ratings that are so high you’d think they’re made up. Ford and Ram, in particular, seem to be in a race to get to 1,000 lb-ft of towing and hauling grunt. No matter which automaker gets there first, all truck-lovers will win.

The full-size truck segment offers a variety of choices, as well. Ford’s 2018 F-150 (aka the “Truck of Texas”) has more technology than before, a more powerful 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6, and – coming this spring – an available 3.0-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V-6. A next-generation Chevy Silverado will arrive for the 2019 model year. Ram’s new 1500 will also show up at that time.

In the midsize sector, Toyota still has plenty of life left in its third-generation Tacoma. Nissan is still going strong with the current version of the Frontier. Ford is working on bringing the Ranger back to the North American market. Chevrolet offers the Colorado. Its corporate cousin GMC sells the more upscale Canyon. It’s available in SL, Canyon, SLE, All Terrain, SLT, and Denali trim. According to GMC, “Cab and bed configuration choices include an extended cab model with a 6’ 2” bed, a crew cab with a 5’ 2” bed and a crew cab with a 6’ 2” bed.” Power comes from a 2.5-liter I-4, 3.6-liter V-6, or segment-exclusive 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel I-4 (the Colorado gets the same powertrain assortment).

General Motors recently sent us the pinnacle of its midsize truck offerings: a 2018 GMC Canyon Denali 4X4 with the Duramax diesel under its hood. It went a step further and added the $395 Dark Slate Metallic paint job. Over the course of a week, we found the Canyon Denali to be handsome, user-friendly, powerful, and fuel-efficient. If this is the year you’re going to get your own truck, the Canyon Denali will make your neighbor grateful…and jealous.

2018 GMC Canyon Denali Exterior

The Canyon Denali was a mixture of both style and substance. It had a prominent grille, squared-off wheel arches, body work that accentuated those right angles, and a 5’ 2” bed that was ready to get work done with its spray-on bedliner, soft-drop tailgate, and helpful corner steps in the rear bumper. The Denali trim package added a tasteful amount of brightwork in the forms of a unique grille, chrome fog lamp surrounds, special badging, 20-inch Ultra-Bright machined aluminum wheels with painted accents, and LED bed lighting. It never failed to catch our attention – or a second glance from us.

2018 GMC Canyon Denali Interior

It’s safe to say the Canyon Denali is the most dressed-up version of the truck that GMC makes. The interior certainly reinforces that image. Think formal wear. The leather seats are the tuxedo and the contrast stitching is the crisp white French cuff shirt. Consider the Burnished Aluminum trim the studs and cuff links.

We were perfectly comfortable in the outfit. The front seats were ventilated and heated. The steering wheel was also heated. We appreciated it on cold mornings when we forgot to bring gloves. Connecting a smartphone to the Bluetooth system and 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot through the eight-inch touchscreen couldn’t have been easier. The large audio system and HVAC knobs made changing the volume of the Bose premium audio system and cranking up the fan speed nice and quick. Four USB ports meant our mobile devices would never run out of juice.

Thanks to features such as inlaid doors and triple door seals, the Canyon Denali’s cabin was as quiet as it was dapper. We only heard a small amount of wind noise from the driver’s side mirror and a well-muffled roar from the Duramax up front.

2018 GMC Canyon Denali Performance

As the only diesel engine in its class, the 2.8-liter Duramax I-4 has a lot to live up to. It needs to be both powerful and efficient. We’re glad to say it did not disappoint us. It routes its 181 horsepower and 369 lbft of torque – available at 2,000 rpm – through a six-speed automatic. Forward thrust was never in short supply or too long of a wait. Had we needed to carry or pull anything heavy with the Canyon Denali, we would’ve been able to haul up to 1,462 pounds in its bed and pull up to 7,600 pounds behind it. A trailer brake controller and brakes-saving diesel exhaust brake were there to help our truck just in case our neighbors needed the services of our press truck.

Those towing and hauling specs weren’t our favorite numbers from the Canyon Denali. Its fuel economy figures were. The EPA rated it capable of getting 20 city, 28 highway, and 23 combined mpg.** We averaged 23-24.

2018 GMC Canyon Denali Safety

In addition to front, front side-impact, and side head curtain airbags for both rows, the Canyon Denali is equipped with traction control, stability control, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, robust Duralife rotors, and the Driver Alert Package. That includes Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning. As a result of the Canyon’s construction and safety features, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave it five-star side impact safety ratings and an overall score of four out of five stars.

2018 GMC Canyon Denali Overall

Is 2018 the year you’re finally going to get your own truck and stop asking your neighbor if you can use theirs? If it is, make a resolution to go to an AutoNation GMC dealership and test drive a 2018 GMC Canyon Denali. Prices start at $39,600.* And don’t break it—the resolution or the truck.

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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