In the unending land of automotive alphabet soup, trying to de-code which pickup truck is which these days can be tougher than trying to do a crossword puzzle upside down in a foreign language. AT4, ATX, ZR2, TRX, HD, TRD, PRO, F-150, 1500, 2500, the list goes on and on. But over the course of the last two-and-a-half decades, the Denali trim has been the definition of truck luxury. But more often than not, GMC only labeled its SUVs and crossovers with this top-tier tag. The full-sized Sierra 1500 pickup truck had been the lone exception until recently when the mid-sized Canyon began to be offered in the luxurious Denali trim. Now for 2023, the newest Canyon Denali is set to redefine what luxury can be in a pickup truck once again.
In what seems like a zig in an automotive world of zags, GMC has opted to offer the Canyon Denali in just one specific configuration: a four-door crew-bad setup with a 6-foot 2-inch bed. In this format, the Denali chimes in just about four and a half inches narrower, three inches lower in height, and a foot and a half shorter in overall length than its full-sized Sierra 1500 big brother. The Denali also comes with an extremely wide track, and we’re not talking about those old of your old enough to remember the “Wide Track” Grand Prix marketing campaign of the 1990s. With a 66.0-inch track, the Canyon Denali checks in just two inches shy of the massive Sierra 2500HD pickup truck.
Inside, the GMC Canyon Denali tries to capture the posh elegance the trim has been known to engender among its owner over the years. A digital gauge display sits front and center of the driver, while large infotainment touchscreen tops off the center console. The somewhat awkward walled-off transmission tunnel may give the front seats a bit of a claustrophobic vibe for some occupants, and the plastic panels that… adorn the doors do cheapen the feeling that should accompany a top-of-the-line trimmed truck. But a trim-specific Jet Black perforated leather interior, highlighted by heated and ventilated front seats, can quickly offset those feelings.
GMC continues with the “less is more” philosophy when it comes to engine choice in the Canyon Denali. Unlike its cousin, the Chevrolet Colorado, which features three versions of the same 2.7-liter turbo inline-four, the Canyon Denali offers owners two choices: that same 2.7-liter turbo four that makes 310 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque or go buy a Chevy Colorado. That power output is routed through an 8-speed automatic transmission and stout enough to move the hefty 4,786-pound Denali from 0-60 mph in a relatively scant 6.8 seconds and hustle through the quarter mile in 15.1 seconds at 90.4 mph.
Thanks to a relatively balanced 56/44% weight bias, the Canyon Denali is able to hustle around the skidpad to the tune of 0.76g of lateral grip, while powerful brake help scrub off speed from 60-0 mph in just 129 feet. In a world of EV and hybrid trucks, an EPA rating of 17/21/19 city/highway/combined mpg may not sound very impressive, but the Denali does sport a range of 407 miles.
The GMC Canyon Denali continues the tradition of the luxury pickup truck, just in a smaller, mid-sized package. And the cost for this prestigious four-wheel drive? A base price of $52,495, which may sound expensive, puts it on par with other top-trim versions of its competitors. Unlike so many other alphanumeric-laden trucks out there, the Denali sub-brand of GMC lives on and is easy to remember.