$7,635 - $15,063

2011 GMC Canyon Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 GMC Canyon was new.


Performance: 7.2

The 2011 Canyon has relatively good performance, although many reviewers say that its four- and five-cylinder engines are underpowered.  Reviewers were impressed with the power provided by the 5.3 liter V8 engine, as well as the handling of the ZQ8 suspension.

  • "Not that the 3.7-liter inline-five-cylinder engine isn't a strong performer, but all other compact trucks - with the exception of the Ford Ranger - offer strong V-6 engines, and the midsize Dakota has a 4.7-liter V-8." -- Cars.com
  • "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." -- PickupTrucks.com

Acceleration and Power

The GMC Canyon comes with one of three engines -- a 2.9-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 185 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque, a 3.7-liter five-cylinder that makes 242 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque, or a  5.3-liter V8 engine that makes 300 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. The V8 is optional on the extended and crew cab body styles, and standard with the optional ZQ8 suspension.  The four-cylinder is available with either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic, while the five-cylinder and V8 comes with the automatic.  The base trim comes standard with the four-cylinder engines with the option to upgrade to the five-cylinder.  The SLE trim also comes standard with the four-cylinder engine, but can be optioned with either of the larger engines.

While the four- and five-cylinder engines get acceptable gas mileage for a truck, the V8’s fuel consumption is on par with a full-size truck’s, eliminating one of the common reasons consumers choose compact and midsize trucks in the first place.  The EPA estimates that a two-wheel drive Canyon with either the four- or five-cylinder engine gets 18/25 mpg city/highway, while the V8 models get up to 14/20 mpg city/highway.

  • "The four- and five-cylinder engines are smooth enough, but performance lags behind that of the larger V6s of the Canyon's competitors. The available four-speed automatic transmission doesn't offer as many gears as its rivals, though at least its shifts are smooth and well-timed." -- Edmunds
  • "With either transmission, the 4-cylinder engine has adequate power for around town driving, but lacks reserve for passing or hauling heavy loads. Five-cylinder versions are sprightly with 2WD, adequate with 4WD. That engine is particularly well-matched to the quick-shifting automatic transmission." -- Consumer Guide
  • "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." -- PickupTrucks.com

Handling and Braking

The GMC Canyon's ride and handling get mixed reviews from critics, as does its steering feel. Reviewers who tested Canyons with the ZQ8 suspension report that it can be fun to drive. PickupTrucks.com mentioned that the Canyon drives like a car – a great compliment for any truck.

  • "Fast, responsive steering and a taut suspension create a driving experience that's decidedly untrucklike, and they give the Canyon a performance-car edge." -- PickupTrucks.com
  • "Better than most compact pickups, provided you stick with the base suspension. Still evident, however, are abrupt vertical motions over bumps and dips, with some jittery feel on badly broken surfaces. The base suspension furnishes the best ride. Canyon's available off-road suspension grows tiresome on long trips, while the sport suspension is brutally stiff." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The body-on-frame chassis is extremely rigid and you can feel it in the way the Canyon handles, both off-road and while cornering. Even over washboard roads, the Canyon exhibited none of the dash-rattling or squeaks that might be expected, although the rear axle does hop around quite a bit.” -- Kelley Blue Book

Towing and Hauling

When properly equipped, the Canyon can tow up to 6,000 pounds, an average amount for compact pickup trucks.  The Toyota Tacoma can tow a max of 6,300 pounds, but does not offer a V8 engine.  The Dodge Dakota V8’s 7,200 pound towing capacity is the best out of all compact and midsize pickups.

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