BANDERA, Tex. -- Bumping and grinding over washboard ruts on a limestone-littered trail in the Texas Hill Country, the new 2015 GMC Canyon SLT mid-size truck in 4-door crew-cab configuration with a smart 4-wheel-drive system sending the V6 engine's muscular torque to all four wheels manages to smooth out so many ruts and chuckhole indentions to deliver a stabile ride quality which, despite the absence of hard pavement, borders on the cushy.
It's a sophisticated ride quality -- way different from the image of a rough-riding and rugged truck -- yet this new model offers a choice of powerful yet fuel-thrifty new engines and scores high marks for hauling and towing to rank as a serious machine for truck-tough work.
Canyon returns to the GMC's 2015 product line after a 2-year absence with a bumper-to-bumper reset that produces two cab variations designed with more personal space and more comfort features, four trim tiers ranging from work-truck basic to leather-loaded fancy, and a truckload of high-tech electronic controls to make the vehicle downright easy and safe to drive.
The 2015 editions of Canyon employ a welded steel superstructure that rises from a boxed hydroformed steel frame in H-shaped pattern with cross bracing.
Exterior styling for Canyon borrows design elements from GMC's full-size Sierra truck and projects a powerful face dominated by a slat-bar grille and corner headlamp clusters. Overall shape of the truck is rather cubistic with squarish corners yet aerodynamic concessions like the sloping aluminum hood and canted windshield. The prow houses active aero grille shutters, which close at certain highway speeds to enhance aerodynamics.
Cabs consist of an Extended Cab with two rear-hinged doors set behind the two front doors, and the Crew Cab with four conventional front-hinged doors.
Canyon Extended Cab gains extra space behind first-row seats with a flat-load floor. There's a pair of jump seats in the rear plus below-seat storage bins.
Canyon Crew Cab installs a rear bench with enough room to house three full-body adults comfortably. Front seats in the Crew Cab consist of twin buckets with a center console and floor-mounted shifter.
There are two different lengths for the rear truck box -- 6'2" (74 inches) and 5'2" (62 inches), each with CornerStep bumpers, 2-tier loading system, bed rail and tailgate protectors and 13 tie-down locations plus optional EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate with internal torsion bar and a spray-in bed liner. Canyon Extended Cab comes with the 6'2" box while Canyon Crew Cab lists both box lengths.
Canyon trims consist of SL, Base, SLE and SLT, each available in rear-wheel 2-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive.
To propel the 2015 Canyon trucks, GMC lists two high-tech engines featuring dual overhead cams (DOHC), electronic throttle control (ETC), direct injection (DI) technology and variable valve timing (VVT).
The standard plant is a 2.5-liter cast aluminum 4-in-line engine which develops 200 hp at 6300 rpm and 191 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm.
The optional engine is a cast aluminum 3.6-liter V6 which knocks down 305 hp at 6800 rpm and 269 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm.
Primary transmission is a fuel-saving 6-speed electronically controlled automatic, but for the Base Extended Cab edition a 6-speed manual shifter is available.
A rack and pinion steering system gets electric power assistance, which contributes to powertrain fuel efficiency.
Brakes include a disc at every wheel -- ventilated front and rear -- with Duralife brake rotors and linkage to a 4-wheel anti-lock brake system with electronic traction and StabiliTrak electronic stability control including Hill Start Assist, plus optional Hill Descent Control.
Canyon's standard technology gear on-board includes a 3.5-inch driver information screen in the instrument cluster, a color 8-inch touch screen for SLE trim, multiple USB drives and a rear-vision camera.
Optional equipment ranges from OnStar telecommunications, MyLink and navigation systems to forward collision alert and lane departure warning devices.
GMC's price-chart numbers for 2015 Canyon models extend from $20,955 to $37,250.