Capability matters, and few manufacturers deliver. As most vehicles become more fragile, impossibly complex, and reliant on “appearance packages,” a few brands are bucking the trend and doubling down on authenticity. GMC is one of those brands; their entire culture is focused on trucks and SUVs, with their AT4x line squarely targeted to overlanders.
GMC Canyon AT4x Overland Specifications:
- Goodyear Wrangler Territory 33-inch MT tires
- Beadlock-capable 17-inch wheels
- High-clearance front bumper
- Available factory hidden winch mount with ComeUp winch
- Improved skid plates, including front aluminum radiator and steering guard
- Front and Rear e-locker differential locks
- GVWR recover points front and rear
- Underbody cameras
- Multimatic DSSV Dampers with integrated reservoirs
- Three-inch lift over stock Canyon
- Multiple drive modes, including towing, off-road, terrain, and Baja.
The 2023 Canyon uses an all-new drivetrain, powered by the GM-engineered and manufactured L3B all-aluminum 2.7-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged gasoline motor. With dynamic fuel management and variable valve timing (featuring three cam profiles), the motor can be optimized for everyday driving, maximum fuel economy, or peak torque. Combined with the 22 psi max PSI dual-volute BorgWarner turbo, the engine makes an impressive 310 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. GM first launched the motor in 2019 for the Sierra 1500 and, most notably, in the Cadillac CT4-V sports sedan. Reported reliability issues have been minimal, with the dependability of this motor contributing to GMCs recent #1 ranking in the J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study.
Acceleration is brisk, clipping 0-60 in under seven seconds and pulling hard through all eight speeds in the automatic. The transmission is well-tuned in drive mode, with rapid adjustment to throttle position and rate of acceleration, holding gears to optimize power application. While it does lack a traditional “sport” mode, there is an “L” for manual gear selection via a rocker switch on the shifter. This option does provide gear holding, but I found that it attenuates throttle response, resulting in a lack of directness on tip-in. The one hack I found to nearly every spirited driving scenario was Baja mode, which is just what the Scotty ordered, holding gears and down-shifting with aplomb. Caution is needed when using this mode on the dirt (or even on the street, wink-wink) as this is full-on naughty mode with most of the nannies either disabled or reduced.
The eight-speed automatic is connected to a two-speed part-time transfer case with 2H, 4H, 4H “auto,” and 4L. Auto mode should not be confused with all-wheel drive, as there is no center differential, but an electronic coupler that engages should wheelspin be detected. The 4L reduction is 2.7:1, which results in a crawl ratio of 42:1 (first gear of 4.56 x final drive 3.42 x low range 2.7), which is adequate. It does feel that the AT4x would benefit from a 3.73 or even 4.1 final drive ratio to help accelerate the 33-inch tires. The last drivetrain feature of note, and one of the most important, is the front and rear driver-selectable locking differentials. The rear locker can even be engaged in 2WD (think full oversteer fun mode), but the front (understandably) is reserved for low range only.
On the Trail
Technical terrain is where the AT4x shines, besting any IFS mid-size truck we have tested to date. And while some competing model loyalists may feign a rebuttal, physics and specifications don’t play the brand game. The tire size is one of the largest on any IFS mid-size, the suspension is higher, and nothing beats a factory winch and front/rear differential locks. In reality, you would need to compare the AT4x to a Gladiator Rubicon to find similar specs anywhere else in the market.
Once in low range, the driver can use off-road or terrain mode, both of which have advantages. I like off-road, as it adjusts many intervention thresholds and complements mechanical lockers and left-foot-braking. Terrain mode amplifies all available systems for optimal tractive performance, including aggressive traction control intervention and well-tuned one-pedal drive (lockers also work as expected in this mode). I do like the one-pedal drive tuning, but I am probably too much of an analog driver to use it regularly. Protection in the rocks is comprised of full-length rock sliders and several underbody steel and aluminum skid plates.
When the speeds start to increase, the performance of the AT4x becomes even more apparent, besting anything else currently available in the class (it is on par with the Ranger Raptor, which we have tested in South Africa). The high-speed capability is enhanced by the 66-inch-wide track, the Multimatic DSSV dampers, and the (much better than expected) Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT tires. The package is well-tuned for moderate to high speeds, providing stability, balance, and confidence across all legal trail speeds. We even had several spirited runs on a closed course with excellent results. The chassis remained neutral, with good turn-in under heavy braking, and even the lightest oversteer under trail braking (what you want). Throttle-induced oversteer was easy to modulate because of the minimal turbo lag and long wheelbase.
The AT4x rips and is only limited under prolonged high-speed sessions or steeper descents due to some brake fade and even a brake temp warning. It never compromised safety or performance, but it will affect the amount of time the Canyon can be operated at those limits. Similar brake fade has been experienced by nearly all competitive mid-size products.
As an Overlander
The AT4x was designed from the beginning to be an overland vehicle, with attention paid to nearly every attribute a vehicle-based traveler needs. The interior is quiet and comfortable, with technologies like adaptive cruise to reduce driver fatigue on long highway transits. The interior is also spacious, with ample room for loading and lashing gear in the back seats or securing heavier items in the rear passenger floorboard. Without question, the Canyon is the most comfortable mid-size on the market and even has air-conditioned seats (don’t knock it until you try it).
I would love to see the AT4x available in an extended cab, standard 6-foot bed, but it is only available as a crew-cab short bed. This clearly reflects consumer demand, but the 5-foot bed has limitations for camper fitment and bed storage. The upside is that the bed is wide, nearly the same wheel-well-to-wheel-well width as a full-size truck from the 1970s. The tailgate also has a mid-height position to allow for hauling longer items and motorcycles. Optional accessories include MOLLE panels on the interior bed sides and front and various other lashing points. At 1,212 pounds, the payload is below our mid-size standard of 1,500 pounds. Fortunately, the 1,212 pounds reflects all of the accessories fitted to the AT4x, so the remaining payload can be dedicated to people, equipment, and fluids.
Self-recovery is an essential consideration for the overlander, and the AT4x is available with a hidden winch bumper and ComeUp winch. The free-spool clutch is easy to operate from the front of the bumper, and the winch is delivered with synthetic line. It is important to note that the line is difficult to access, and visibility of the line is limited, so vigilance will be important during operation. For technology, the AT4x even has an overland mode on the infotainment screen, providing the navigator with a compass and latitude/longitude.
The AT4x is one of the best mid-size overland trucks ever sold in North America, providing capability never seen from an IFS offering. It has become the Swiss Army knife of mid-size overland pickups, working as well in technical terrain as it does at speed in the desert. The 33-inch tires, lockers, and Multimatic dampers all work together in concert to impart significant driver confidence in the vehicle. Who would have imagined in 2023 that a truck like this would exist and that GMC would bring it to the world? We have some plans cooking to take one very far afield—stay tuned.
Best performing mid-size truck overall
Class-leading driver comfort
Throttle response in “manual” gear selection mode
Brake heat is the limiting factor for high-speed dirt use
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The Denali model will tow 7,700 pounds