Behind the Wheel

2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Review: More truck than most anyone will need in a midsize package

GMC added the Canyon AT4 to its lineup for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of GMC

It's no secret that Americans love their pickup trucks and SUVs, so much so that a few automakers have stopped making most car models altogether. GMC is just a truck and SUV brand, so it's not surprising to see it expand its existing offerings with more specialized, technical models in an effort to broaden their reach. The 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 is one of them and brings a hardcore off-road attitude to the midsize pickup line.

I recently had an opportunity to spend a week behind the wheel of a GMC Canyon AT4, and was left a bit conflicted by that time. The AT4 is more truck than I, or most anyone else, will ever need, and it offers several of the most desirable new tech and comfort features. On the other hand, it's not quite as premium inside as its brand name or price tag would suggest. That said, the AT4 is more than competitive in its segment, and is a direct shot at Ford, whose Ranger pickup truck is still not offered in a Raptor configuration in the United States.

2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition The GMC Canyon AT4 is more than competent off road. Photo courtesy of GMC

At nearly $40,000 before any options, it's hard to think of the Canyon AT4 as a bargain, but the price tag not out of line with the list price of its competitors. That money buys a truck that is surprisingly refined on the road, capable off-road, and comfortable enough for daily driving and family hauling.

The Canyon is offered with three engine choices, but the base four-cylinder isn't available in the AT4 variant. There's a four-cylinder diesel engine, but its price tag won't be easy to swallow for many buyers. The sweet spot is the 3.6-liter V6 that came in the test truck. With 308 horsepower on tap it helps make the Canyon AT4 one of the quickest trucks in its class. It comes paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and offers cylinder deactivation to save fuel on the highway.

One downfall of compact pickups is that off-road suspension and knobby tires can make them feel as if they're riding on stilts, especially at highway speeds. The AT4 is much more planted and stable than that and offers a comfortable ride that is far smoother than it has any business being. Broken pavement and rough roads present little challenge for the AT4's suspension system, and on the other side of the coin, it remains confidence-inspiring when the roads become curvy.

2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition Too many hard plastics dominate the interior of the truck for its price point. Photo courtesy of GMC

Inside, there's a mix of high-function but low-rent materials that includes more plastic than there should be at the AT4's price point. The tester came equipped with optional heated leather seats that felt premium and remained comfortable, even on longer drives, but the remainder of the cabin lacks the same upscale appeal. That said, it's a nice place to spend time, and with options it can be decked out with most of features that people really want in a truck.

The eight-inch touchscreen runs GMC's excellent and easy-to-use infotainment system, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The software is responsive, colorful, and offers an easy way to interact with the truck's functions without taking eyes off the road. True to General Motors' form, the AT4's tech can be upgraded in a number of ways, including a navigation system and a Bose premium audio system.

Though it's available with several advanced safety technologies, the Canyon falls victim to the issue that many pickups do: Spotty crash test results. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the 2021 Canyon and rated it Acceptable in both Small overlap front driver-side and Side crashworthiness. All other areas earned Good ratings, except for the headlights, which were rated Poor.

2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition The seats in the 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 are comfortable. Photo courtesy of GMC

The Canyon AT4 is comfortable, capable, and wildly customizable, but it's got some heavy-hitting competition to contend with in its segment alone, not to mention vehicles in the full-size pickup category and upcoming models in the compact pick segment.

The Jeep Gladiator made a big splash when it arrived in 2019 by offering the same off-road-ready attitude and beefy styling as the Wrangler, while Ford continues to press forward with not-quite-a-Raptor-but-close Ranger models. Perhaps the biggest elephant in the room is the Toyota Tacoma. Despite lacking some of the comfort and convenience options that the GMC offers, the Taco is one heck of a truck, and brings legendary reliability along with its backwoods street cred. It's hard to go wrong with any of those trucks, really, but for buyers dead set on buying American, the GMC Canyon is a solid choice.

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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder arrives on dealer lots this summer.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't have to be capable of rock crawling or deep water fording. What it has to do is service the needs of families in their daily life and give them the opportunity to competently go off-roading on rocky trails should they desire. The new, fifth-generation models does just that and adds in enough nifty features to make it among the most compelling choices for three-row SUV buyers.

The 2022 Pathfinder is thoroughly modern though not the boxy off-roader it once was. The SUV's styling harkens back to that time with a tilted, darkened C-pillar and a return to a more muscular body style. That styling makes straightforward visibility good but for shorter drivers seeing what is immediately in front of the grille is a challenge that necessitates using surround view camera technology (available only in upper trim levels) when navigating challenging terrain.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can easily handle the roads less traveled.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that offers up 291 horsepower and torque - plenty to do the job without complaint. The SUV's nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the previous generation and delivers smooth shifts. Though low-end torque isn't as robust as I like it to be, once up over 35 mph, the Pathfinder's powertrain delivers smooth, powerful sailing.

The redesigned architecture and components underpinning the Pathfinder make it stable on the road and don't allow it to wallow on winding roads. Even off-road, the suspension provides the right blend of stability while the drive dynamics allowing the driver to feel engaged with their surroundings whether on freshly paved roads, city streets, or muddy trails.

Nissan has given the Pathfinder a 6,000-pound towing capacity and even when maxed out the engine's functionality is strong as ever. The transmission can get held up in a gear mid-range when performing this function, however, with 5,000-6,000 rpms registering on the tachometer but a quick release of the gas pedal recalibrates the offering bringing it down to a more traditional 2,000 rpm range.

The eight-seater Pathfinder clearly has the Toyota Highlander in its sights, with good reason. It's the top-selling three-row SUV in the country. Nissan boasts that three adults can fit across the rear bench seat of the Pathfinder and, as long as they're average size or smaller, the marketing talking point holds up. There is gobs more room back there than there is in the Highlander.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Nissan has given the Pathfinder ample cargo space.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Getting in and out of the third row is easy thanks to one-touch buttons on the outboard side of the second-row chairs that move the SUV's captain's seats forward creating enough room to get through to the back. Smartly, Nissan's engineers have put duplicates of these buttons on the back side of the same seats allowing third-row passengers to simply press the button to move the seat up.

The third row can also be accessed via a split between the captain's chairs as well, a space traditionally occupied by a center stowage bin/cup holders/arm rest. Owners can quickly remove the center console by opening a panel on the front and pulling the release mechanism. The one-handed operation takes seconds and the console can be easily stored in the under-floor trunk space behind the third row seat for ease.

Speaking of cargo space... The Pathfinder is one of the most spacious midsize SUVs on the market today for both passengers and cargo. There is a substantial amount of room behind the third-row seat and the under-floor storage area is nearly twice the size of the one in the Highlander. Plus, it has a feature that allows the area cover to be automatically propped up when pushed up by a user. This is especially help when carrying groceries or plants home and keeps them from being crushed.

The first- and second-row seats are suitably comfortable, even for extended periods of time and standard trig-zone climate control makes finding the right in-cabin mix easy. Bottle holders in the pockets of the front doors are exceptionally large, fitting even bulky water bottles.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder's front row seats are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In front of the driver is a standard tachometer, speedometer, and 7.0-inch driver information display. Buyers can upgrade to a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and head-up display but they're not reason enough to upgrade to the top-tier Pathfinder Platinum on their own.

Nissan packs the new Pathfinder with a host of desirable features that make living with the Pathfinder easier including one-touch auto up/down windows, a wireless phone charger, grocery hooks in the rear cargo area, USB ports in all three rows, second-row sunshades, rear door keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a motion-activated lift gate.

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is priced to start at $33,410 for the two-wheel drive S base model and $35,310 for the four-wheel drive S base model. The model tops out around $50,000 with destination and delivery included, which seems fair when comparing the Pathfinder to other vehicles in the market.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you're thinking of purchasing a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Highlander, do yourself a favor and schedule a test drive of the new Pathfinder when it arrives at a dealer lot near you. You may just be surprised how seamlessly it fits into your daily life compared to the competition.

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The 2022 Acura TLX has the technology enabled.

Photo courtesy of Acura

Toyota and Lexus announced that the WarnerMedia RIDE app would be coming to their models earlier this year. Now, Honda and Acura will be offering the same.

On certain Wi-Fi enabled Honda and Acura vehicles, AT&T unlimited in-car Wi-Fi users will have access to the WarnerMedia RIDE app. The app allows users to connect multiple devices in their vehicles to browse, stream and share premium content from the WarnerMedia library while on the road.

Honda and Acura vehicle owners have been able to use their on-board modem as a hot spot for connecting up to seven devices since 2017. Models compatible for the new tech include the Acura RDX (2019-present), Acura TLX (2021), and Acura MDX (2022) across all trim levels. Honda vehicles with the tech include Accord (2018-present, Touring), Odyssey (2018-present; Touring, Elite), Insight (2019-present, Touring)., Passport (2019-present; Touring, Elite)., and Pilot (2019-present; Touring, Elite, Black Edition).

The WarnerMedia RIDE App allows passengers to access 1,000+ hours of live and on-demand entertainment. The app includes hit TV shows and movies from top brands such as Cartoon Network, CNN, HBO Max, TBS, TNT and TruTV, spanning animation, entertainment, news, sports and more.

WarnerMedia RIDE app The WarnerMedia RIDE app allows users to choose their own avatar.Photo courtesy of Acura

Users can set up profiles and personalize their user exerpience with an avatar from the WarnerMedia library. Profiles also ensure age-appropriate content with options for adults to restrict access to their profiles with an access code.

"Wireless connectivity and connected car services continue to be key features for customers and our long-standing relationship with AT&T continues to be one way we deliver exciting new content to Honda and Acura owners," said Art St. Cyr, vice president of North American Auto Strategy for American Honda. "Honda will continue working to enhance the in-car experience, including the capabilities of the AT&T network and access to top content with WarnerMedia RIDE."

"We're always looking for new and innovative ways to elevate the connected car experience for our customers. With WarnerMedia RIDE, we are delivering a connected experience that's perfect for journeys," said Joe Mosele, vice president, Mobility & Internet of Things, AT&T. "Our collaboration is keeping Honda and Acura owners connected wherever they travel with hours of news and entertainment for the whole family."

WarnerMedia RIDE is available now in the App Store and on Google Play for all U.S. unlimited data plan subscribers. WarnerMedia RIDE is included at no additional cost for existing and new unlimited subscribers.

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