Driving the 2016 GMC Canyon 2.8L Duramax diesel [First Drive]

2016 gmc canyon duramax diesel
2016 GMC Canyon Duramax

The 2016 GMC Canyon 2.8L Duramax diesel makes 181 horsepower and a burley 369 lbs-ft of torque. It’s hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission spinning a 3.42 rear axle – and it can tow up to 7,700 lbs. If you opt for the 4X4, it drops down to 7,600 lbs. The 2016 GMC Canyon 2.8L Duramax diesel has a 1,420 lbs payload capacity (the petrol V6 is over 1,500 lbs payload with a maximum of 7,000 lbs towing).

For the record: the current RAM 1500 Quad Cab, Big Horn 4X4 with the 3-liter EcoDiesel and a 3.92 rear end is rated at 7,950 lbs towing and 1,241 lbs payload.

2016 GMC Canyon 2.8L Duramax turbo-diesel
2016 GMC Canyon 2.8L Duramax turbo-diesel

Is $3,730 worth it for the diesel?

That’s a big markup over the V6. Our loaded SLT Crew Cab 4X4 priced around $45,000. That’s 1/2-ton territory. Still, the capability of the 2016 GMC Canyon 2.8L Duramax diesel is hard to ignore. Those towing numbers are far more than your average boat or camping trailer would require. Towing that much weight is downright impressive and merits a test with a proper two-horse (or more) trailer.

The odd thing was: at our press event, the GM representatives only had a large jet-ski and trailer available for the towing test. At the MOST, it’s 2,000 lbs and nowhere near the capability maximum of the little diesel. The trailer was so small, it wasn’t hooked up to the standard brake controller.  Fortunately, I was able to trigger the “exhaust braking” toggle switch which worked just like it does with the big boys. It drops and holds a gear way down as you slow. It’s not very loud either. In fact, from the inside, it only does a (noticeable) baby diesel rattle when powering up or down-shifting.

2016 GMC Canyon
2016 GMC Canyon

“A diesel engine was part of the Canyon’s portfolio plan from the beginning, meaning the chassis, suspension and other elements of its architecture were engineered to support it,” said Scott Yackley, assistant chief engineer. “That means there are no compromises with the Canyon diesel. It offers exceptional capability delivered with a confident feeling of control.”“ The new 2.8L Duramax was designed specifically for trucks and has undergone many of the same validation tests as the 6.6L Duramax offered in the GMC Sierra HD models, advancing the Duramax brand’s legacy of durability and reliability,” said Yackley.

Power off the line is pretty good and, like all of the other variants, it’s almost car-like in its handling. The extra diesel grunt makes it feel slightly more manly, especially when you are powering up a steep hill. Maximum torque comes on at 2,000 rpm. It takes a second, but the turbo spools up in a reasonable amount of time and you’re off. Man than torque feels good.

I began to take note of the real-time and average MPGs. We averaged between 28 and 31.5 MPG. I wasn’t driving conservatively either. With the 21-gallon tank, you could get over 500 miles to the tank. Remember the days when only small cars got 30 mpg? On our trip back to the airport, our driver averaged over 33 mpg for a while. It can run on B20 too.

The interior has comfortable seats, nice looking stitching and a pleasing decor; however, the door panels are rock-hard where you place your elbow by the window ledge. Some of the plastics are rough in spots and the rotary dial for the lights is the same size, shape and about an inch away from the 4WD selector. Backseat space is great for average-sized adults and I was comfortable at nearly 6’2″ sitting behind a 5’9″-ish driver.

2016 GMC Canyon
2016 GMC Canyon

This truck is a bit of a conundrum. I can’t answer the question of its extra expense, hardcore towing ability or daily drivability until we get one locally for real testing. I can say this: they did a damn good job with the diesel and this truck makes a compelling argument for pricy mid-sized trucks. You know… it would fit nicely in my garage.

Check out this first-drive video of the 2016 GMC Canyon 2.8L Duramax diesel!

Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.
Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed

Here’s a little bit more information for you.

Engine features:

  • Iron cylinder block and aluminum DOHC cylinder head
  • Forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods
  • Oiling circuit that includes a dedicated feed for the turbocharger to provide increased pressure at the turbo and faster oil delivery
  • Piston-cooling oil jets
  • 16.5:1 compression ratio
  • Common rail direct injection fuel system
  • Ceramic glow plugs for shorter heat-up times and higher glow temperatures
  • Balance shaft that contributes to smoothness and drives the oil pump
  • Laminated steel oil pan with upper aluminum section that contributes to engine rigidity and
    Other features include:
  • Segment-first CornerStep rear bumper design, which is standard. It is chrome on all models, except All Terrain, which is body-color
  • Segment-first EZ Lift-and-Lower locking tailgate that uses an internal torsion bar to make raising the tailgate easier with one hand, and a damper for more-controlled lowering. It is standard on SLE and SLT models, and available on base models
  • Thirteen reconfigurable and four stationary tie-down locations throughout the bed for use with available, removable cargo tie-down rings
  • Available factory-installed spray-in bed liner
Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.