A Transformative Engine

You might be thinking, "How can GMC's compact pickup feel like a muscle car?" Well, there's more to it than stuffing a 5.3-liter V-8 under the hood, but that engine goes a long way toward giving the Canyon its burly performance. It can rocket from a stop if you've got a lead foot, and the engine doesn't feel burdened by the truck's two-ton curb weight. Granted, I didn't put anything in the cargo bed of my rear-wheel-drive test model, but I really had to be prudent when pressing the gas pedal to avoid wheelspin. The truck has standard traction and stability systems and an optional limited-slip differential to combat this.

The V-8 teams with a four-speed automatic transmission that's both smooth and quick to downshift when you need a quick burst of power for passing or merging. On the whole, it's a good drivetrain with a pleasing V-8 sound — it makes a nice rumble without being raucous — but it would have been nice to see GM give the Canyon V-8 the six-speed automatic transmission that's available with the 5.3-liter V-8 in its full-size trucks; the extra gears have the potential to boost performance and efficiency. As it is, this version of the Canyon gets an EPA-estimated 15/21 mpg city/highway.

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