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BABY DURAMAX: 2018 GMC Canyon Denali Duramax CC 4x4  

By Bruce W. Smith  for GCN   8/10/18


Heavy-duty diesel pickups are the kings of tow, whether it’s hauling a trailer loaded with a piece of farm/construction equipment, or an RV trailer. But not everyone is comfortable behind the wheel of big pickups, nor do they have need to tow trailers in excess of six-tons. Some people just want a pickup that’s maneuverable in tight spaces, can be parked in the typical two-car garage, and that has the power and fuel economy to tow their toys and smaller trailers when the need arises.

GMC’s four-wheel-drive Crew Cab, Short-box Canyon diesel does just that behind the powerful and very fuel-efficient “baby” Duramax.  GMC’s mid-size, four-door diesel, which is exactly the same platform as the Chevrolet Colorado,  is as sweet a tow vehicle as you’re going to find in the small pickup segment. The 181hp 2.8L inline-four Duramax turbo-diesel has as more pulling power than the 308hp 3.6L gas V6 that comes as the standard engine – and it diesel delivers ten percent better fuel economy.


Tow power comes from torque, and the 2.8L Duramax cranks out 369 lbs.-ft @ 2,000rpm, compared to the gas V6’s 275 lbs.-ft @ 4,000rpm.

During a week behind the wheel of our Denali-trim Canyon, that pulling power was put to the test towing a Taxis Mantis expedition-style trailer over the Oregon Cascades and Coast Range passes. Not once did the 3,500-pound trailer feel like it was a burden, nor did we expect it to when this model Canyon has a max tow rating of 7,600 pounds. I loved the grade-braking and shift points of the diesel’s six-speed automatic, too.


The diesel’s pulling power comes alive when the tach rolls past 1,800rpm, and the little Duramax inline-four, backed with the six-speed automatic, pulls far stronger than the V6. The four-wheel-drive Denali Canyon is also comfortable, quiet and fuel-efficient: We averaged 13.4mpg towing the Mantis Trek for more than 300 miles, and 30.1mpg running empty along the coast between Lincoln City and Brookings.

Along every segment we found the seating is quite comfortable, and the Denali trim provides all of the creature features finicky buyers have grown accustomed to in upper-trim-level sedans.
  It handled more like a luxury sedan than a truck, the suspension absorbed road irregularities with aplomb, and the Denali trim provided all the amenities and latest safety features to keep us quite relaxed on our five-day camping trip through some of the most beautiful regions of Oregon. We never lacked leg room nor did we ever feel intimidated when we encountered a few unexpected snow flurries at the highest elevation—and travelled miles of Forest Service backroads.


2018 GMC Canyon Denali Crew Cab Short Bed 4x4

Engine                                     2.8L Duramax I-4 turbo-diesel

Horsepower                            181 @ 3,400rpm

Torque    (lbs.-ft.)   369 @ 2,000rpm

Transmission                           6-spd automatic

Transfer case                          Electric shift two-speed

Axle Ratio                                3.42:1

Curb Weight                            4,706 lbs.

GVWR                                     6,200 lbs.

GCWR                                     12,700 lbs.

Max Tow Cap.                         7,600 lbs.

EPA Fuel Economy                 City-20mpg; Highway 28mpg 

Observed Fuel Economy         City-22/Hwy-30.1/Towing-13.4

Base MSRP                             $43,070

MSRP (As tested)                   $48,290 (Diesel option: $3,730)



The 2018 GMC Denali Duramax does a fine job fitting in that niche where fuel economy of the power of a diesel are just as important as being in a pickup that’s comfortable in tighter surroundings be that in the city or deep in the backcountry. —BWS


About the author: Bruce W. Smith is a veteran automotive journalist and regular contributor to a number of national automotive and consumer publications. He’s been testing and reviewing pickups and SUVs for more than 30 years.

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