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2015 GMC Canyon SLT Crew Cab V-6 4WD Review

The future of the pickup truck is being decided in Malibu.

MALIBU, California - Well, it's not like we filled the cargo box of this 2015 GMC Canyon pickup truck with enough 2x4s to frame a backyard pergola. And we didn't tow a dirt bike on a light-duty trailer up to the sand dunes in Pismo Beach. It's Malibu, so we just kind of drove around a little bit.

Driving around a little bit is what L.A. people do with pickup trucks. This is why more midsize trucks are sold just in the city of Los Angeles than the rest of the country combined. Apparently size does matter when it comes to the pickup truck, only not in the way you think. And the all-new 2015 GMC Canyon midsize pickup truck shows us why.

Come on home, crossover owners

What do people in L.A. do with pickup trucks? Well, they drive around with the cargo box usually empty, and occasionally haul or tow things. This is what all pickup truck owners do. The difference is people in L.A. drive around in a very crowded place, and a smaller vehicle is easier to handle at a strip mall or parking garage than a big one. And after a visit to Home Depot for home improvement supplies, L.A. people must park their trucks in their home garage, not in the front yard.

The way that the truck experts at General Motors see it, truck people in L.A. have always found in the midsize pickup a more convenient, personal-size package. Over recent decades, they converted to midsize sport-utility vehicles in which they found more refined passenger-related capability without much compromise in trucklike capability. That's because sport-utes of the past such as the Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder were indeed just pickup trucks underneath the skin. But now that carlike crossovers have taken over the sport-ute market, some people might feel a little different about an Explorer or Pathfinder once they discover that a front-wheel-drive minivan has been parked under the utility badge.

And this means -- so the truck people at GM believe -- a useful number of people returning to the truck market to bolster the popularity of midsize pickups, sales of which amounted to 228,000 vehicles in 2013. Of course, there are those who say that a full-size pickup delivers much the same function as a midsize truck at only a slightly higher price, but we note that Edmunds.com says the average price of a pickup truck is $40,000 these days, nearly $10,000 more than the average price of a car. Meanwhile, the base price of a 2015 GMC Canyon ranges from $21,880 to $37,875. And as Angelinos ourselves, we think a savings of $10,000 would buy a lot of octopus salad and sauvignon blanc down at the all-natural grocery store in Malibu.

Drives like a big boy, plus it wears work clothes

The long and the short of the 2015 GMC Canyon Crew Cab V-6 is that it drives just like a big truck, only it fits in your garage. Unless you had your Stanley PowerLock steel tape measure in hand, you wouldn't know the difference between this midsize pickup and the full-size GMC Sierra. A five-passenger Canyon Crew Cab with a 6-foot-2 cargo bed (the longest variant of the Canyon) has an overall length of 224.6 inches on a wheelbase of 140.5 inches. In comparison, a Sierra 1500 Double Cab with a 6-foot-6 cargo box has an overall length of 229.5 inches on a wheelbase of 143.5 inches.

The front seat in the 2015 GMC Canyon cab is big enough for a full-size guy (a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel helps), and the cargo box is big enough for anything that comes out of the door at Home Depot. More important, this GMC truck is quiet and rides with composure on the freeway (good suspension damping plays a large role here). Just like any pickup, the Canyon's personality depends on the powertrain you pick, the choice of rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, and the tire selection. Basically you choose the 200-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine if you just carry stuff or pick the 305-hp 3.6-liter V-6 if you're planning to tow things.

Just as important, the 2015 Canyon offers all the little work-related features that make the modern pickup a miracle of utility compared with trucks of the past. For example, you have here a cargo box that has a liner, tie-down hooks, and a step-type rear bumper, plus an optional, modular cargo carrying system. Then you have a cabin with all the usual electronics including Wi-Fi capability. And the truck hardware includes a six-speed automatic transmission, leaf springs, long-lasting disc brake rotors, and a limited-slip differential. The 4WD truck powered by a V-6 that we drove had a payload of 1,470 pounds and a tow rating of 3,500 pounds. You can tow up to 7,000 pounds with a 4WD Canyon powered by a V-6 with the Z82 trailering package.

Midsize pickups are better, not just smaller

We could go on about the 2015 GMC Canyon since its nature is as deeply functional as that of a racing car, just like any truck. Instead you should just pore over the specifications and features and then ask your pals what they think, which is what truck guys do.

But the truth is, we've always liked smaller pickup trucks. We like the Toyota Tacoma, which owns two-thirds of the midsize pickup truck market because it offers so many cab/bed/powertrain alternatives. We like the Nissan Frontier, which owns the remaining third of the midsize pickup market, because it's a slightly better functional piece that we don't mind bashing across dirt roads. And we like driving the Tacoma and Frontier because they feel alert and mechanical, and we're actually a little disappointed that the 2015 Canyon and its companion, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, are so quiet and refined in comparison.

Even though we live in Los Angeles, we still like pickup trucks. In a way, we think the way we use pickup trucks here has a lot more to do with real-world America than the truck advertising that you see on television. And since we think the 2015 GMC Canyon has a bright future here in L.A., we're tempted to think it has a bright future even in places where not everyone uses a pickup truck to haul supplies up to a hillside in Malibu where they have, you know, a winery.

2015 GMC Canyon SLT Crew Cab V-6 4WD Specifications

  • Base price: $35,235
  • Engine: 3.6-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6/305 hp @ 6,800 rpm, 269 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, 4WD pickup truck
  • EPA Mileage: 17/24 mpg (city/highway)
  • L x W x H: 224.6 x 74.3 x 70.5 in
  • Wheelbase: 140.5 in
  • Weight: 4,500 lb
  • Cargo box: 49.9 cu ft
  • Towing: 3,500 lb