Hit the gasthrottle accelerator and the motor pulls smoothly and as strongly as its specifications suggest. A six-speed automatic transmission is the only one available, but it has a thumb-activated manual shifter on the gear selector for extra control when youre heavy hauling.
I didnt get the opportunity to push its load limits, but I did take the little guy to some seriously steep hills, and it had no trouble scurrying up them. Ditto coming back down.
Like GMs heavy duty diesel pickups, the Canyon has an exhaust brake that uses the turbocharger to create backpressure to deliver an engine-braking effect. Its tied to a Tow/Haul mode that downshifts more aggressively when you tap the brake pedal and works with the cruise control to manage speeds better on downhill grades. It works very well and should be a boon if you often pull a trailer or have a full bed, which are the main reasons to choose this truck. For better or worse, its not the same as a semi's Jake brake, so it operates without the rapid-fire racket one of those makes as it silently goes about saving your brake pads.
As far as saving fuel is concerned, two-wheel-drive Canyon diesels have an unbeatable EPA economy rating of 31 mpg highway, while four-wheel-drive models come in at 29 mpg. Of course, thats if you can trust the EPA. It turns out that I saw as high as 38 mpg over a 40-mile stretch in a 4x4, and was regularly getting 35 mpg as I fruitlessly searched for a convoy to join.
Thats impressive, but dont expect to fill the bed up with stacks of cash. At todays fuel prices, the diesel is pretty much a wash at the pump compared to the V6, which gets as much as 26 mpg. And the premium for the engine is $3,730. Also, its available for now only in higher-end trim level Canyons, and the cheapest one starts at $36,520. That puts you within spitting distance of a full-size Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, which is more potent and nearly as efficient.
But the Rams been on sale for a couple of years now, so if you wanted one of them, youd already be trying to stuff it into your garage. The Canyon should fit just fine, even if it doesn't sound like it will.
2016 GMC Canyon Diesel 4WD Crew Cab Short Box
Base price: $40,435
As tested: $44,365
Type: 5-passenger, 4-door pickup
Engine: Turbocharged 2.8-liter 4-cylinder diesel
Power: 181 hp, 369 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
MPG: 20 city/29 hwy
Gary Gastelu is the FoxNews.com Automotive Editor. You can follow him on twitter @garygastelu