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GMC unveiled its redesigned 2023 Canyon pickup truck at the Outdoor Adventure Centre in Detroit this week.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Competition is fierce when it comes to pickup trucks, especially smaller ones. New, redesigned, hybrid and electric models such as the Hyundai Santa Cruz, Nissan Frontier, Ford Maverick and Rivian R1T are all in the space and now GMC has unveiled a major overhaul for its 2023 Canyon midsize truck.

Since it’s last major redesign in 2018, GMC has sold 17,122 Canyons in Canada. But last year sales of the Canyon and its stablemate, the Chevrolet Colorado, combined were less than the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Maverick. The company hopes this new model with its premium touches and increased off-roading capabilities will help sales.

“What makes this truck so special in the segment is that its high and wide all of the time,” said Rob Hunwick, GMC’s exterior design manger. “It always has an aggressive lifted stance, a vast variety of trims, and we always have a high-output 2.7-litre motor so from a performance standpoint off-road and on-road we’re standing out.”

Officials took the wraps off the new 2023 Canyon at the Outdoor Adventure Centre in Detroit this week. The star of the show was the first-ever Canyon AT4X trim, the most capable and expensive model in the family. It builds on the off-roading prowess of the AT4, which stands for All-Terrain four-wheel drive.

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Technology includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and available Google Built-In.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Across the Canyon lineup, all trims come with a short bed, crew cab configuration. Compared to the last generation, this Canyon sits higher and wider for improved approach, departure and breakover angles. Visually, the AT4X stands out from other trims owing to its bolder and aggressive styling. At the front is a massive front grille with GMC in red in the centre, large LED headlights, an off-road bumper safari bar and front winch along with a front heavy-duty AT4X skid plate, a transfer case shield and rocker protectors to tackle rugged terrain. Located over every wheel is a fender light, a new GMC design element, that’s aesthetic and functional. When reversing, drivers can see the rear-fender and box to avoid hitting objects in the dark. Along the side, the AT4X has a rock rail to protect against damage when off-roading or rock climbing. But it desperately needs a running board and driver’s grab handle inside – it’s high and tricky to step inside the cabin. Thankfully, the other trims have a running board. Similarly, on the AT4X, there are no side corner steps in the rear bumper to get into the bed – the other trims have it and it’s useful. But it does have a smart feature - a water-tight tailgate storage system hidden in the bed for added functionality, allowing you to store gear, tow straps or ice and drinks. It even has a built-in drain plug.

Besides the aggressive design, the AT4X has a higher factory lift and ultra wide track to enhance off-roading performance. The factory lift enables 10.7 inches of ground clearance and a 36.9-degree approach angle. It also comes with 33-inch MT tires, Multimatic DSSV shocks for better control and comfort, enhanced front and rear e-lockers, which allow drivers to engage the front or rear axles to lock both wheels at the same time, and an exclusive Baja drive mode for high-speed off-road driving. Also useful for off-roading are waterproof underbody cameras, including front- and rear-facing views underneath the vehicle with a camera washing system, an off-road performance display, accessible via the centre touchscreen, so drivers can track real-time data including g-force, pitch and roll stats. Under the hood of all trims is a 2.7-litre turbo engine, which delivers 310 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque. The AT4X can tow up to 6,000 pounds; the other trims up to 7,700.

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The AT4X’s interior boasts bolder red accents.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

While the AT4X shares components with its cousin, the Chevy Colorado ZR2, the “capabilities and duties we feel are very different even though mechanically they can do similar things,” said Hunwick. The AT4X is “more about the slow speed exploration while the ZR2 has a bit more playfulness to it. It wants to go out to the desert, it wants to go fast. Even though the trucks mechanically are similar, aesthetically and some of the gear, like the bedrail system, is different on them for different customers.”

Across the lineup, no interior is the same. Each Canyon trim is designed with its own identity. The Canyon Denali trim is elegant with laser-etched wood and leather appointments; while the AT4X’s interior boasts bolder red accents. Technology includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and available Google Built-In.

For now, GMC isn’t discussing an electric Canyon, but that may change. “I can’t talk about future products,” said Hunwick. “But I can tell you to stay tuned because I think we’re all hyper focused on the fierce competition out there and we want to be No. 1 in the segment so we’re always thinking about future products.”

The 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X begins production at the GM Wentzville plant in Missouri in early 2023 with deliveries expected next spring. A limited number of Canyon AT4X Edition 1 models will be available in Canada. Canadian prices haven’t been announced yet. But U.S. prices start at US$63,350 for the 2023 Canyon AT4X Edition 1 model. Prices for other trims will start around US$40,000.

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Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

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