2024 GMC Canyon AT4X AEV Edition
The GMC Canyon recently underwent a redesign to make it as capable as its twin, the Chevy Colorado. That redesign culminated in the GMC Canyon AT4X, which takes the off-road chops of the Colorado ZR2 and heaps on the luxury.
But GMC wasn’t done with the Canyon, so it asked the folks at American Expedition Vehicles to outfit the midsize truck. The partnership has produced the 2024 Canyon AT4X AEV Edition, which trades a bit of refinement for more off-road capability but you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the trade.
It’s better to start by comparing the new AEV to the “regular” Canyon AT4X, to see what the truck brings to the lineup. Both trucks are powered by a 2.7-liter turbocharged inline-4 making 310 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque. That Turbo High-Output engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Besides having the same engine, both the Canyon AT4X and the AEV Edition come with the same suspension, Multimatic DSSV dampers all around, though the AEV rides a bit higher. Those spool valve dampers are part of what makes the Canyon (and Colorado) so damn capable. Same engine, same transmission, same suspension. Same front and rear e-lockers, too.
The AEV Edition, however, comes with equipment that off-road and overlanding enthusiasts would likely add later on, such as beefier bumpers, extensive underbody protection and bigger tires on beadlock-capable wheels.
All of this hardware has been optimized to work together, according to AEV, yielding a turnkey overlander that’s ready to tackle the toughest trails straight from the factory. Indeed, these add-ons make a noticeable difference, albeit in good and bad ways depending on what you’re looking for.
Driving The GMC Canyon AT4X AEV Edition Off-Road
Our off-road test took us from Big Sky, Montana, to a series of narrow trails tucked into the Tobacco Root Mountains. The elevation ranged from around 7,200 to 8,600 feet. The 2.7-liter High Output Turbo had no trouble with the elevation, and both the AT4X and AEV Edition plodded along in the cool morning. Thank heavens for heated seats.
The drive would consist of a couple of hours on the road in either truck (all told) with checkpoints where we’d switch over to contrast the Canyon AT4X and AEV Edition against one another. The AT4X was our truck on the ascent, and it was just as plush as noted in our previous review.
Once we got to the trails, however, the AT4X needed more goading to get over obstacles than the AEV, and it was clear the latter is better suited for the wild.
The Canyon AEV Edition has a total of 12.2 inches of ground clearance courtesy of a 4.5-inch factory lift. This improves off-road performance compared to the AT4X, which comes with a 3-inch lift and has 10.7 inches of ground clearance. I used quotes earlier to distinguish the “regular” model from the AEV but there’s nothing regular about the AT4X, which is a highly capable machine as it is.
The AEV Edition takes things further with stamped-steel bumpers that give it a more aggressive appearance. The front bumper is set up for a winch, but that’ll cost extra. The front and rear parking sensors still work as designed by GMC. More importantly, the AEV bumpers change the truck’s geometry: approach angle is 38.2 degrees; breakover angle is 26.9 degrees; and departure angle is 26.0 degrees.
Compared to the Canyon AT4X, that’s an improvement of at least one degree in every metric. Matt Feldermann from AEV says the improved geometry comes mostly from the bumpers. But the bigger 35-inch tires also give the AEV Edition the upper hand on the trail when compared to the AT4X and its 33-inch tires.
The Canyon AEV boasts added underbody protection: while the Canyon AT4X has three skid plates made of steel, the AEV has a total of five protecting its radiator, steering gear, transmission and transfer case, fuel tank and rear differential. The AEV plates are made of hot-stamped boron steel, which is lighter and stronger compared to the steel the standard plates are made out of, so there’s no weight penalty for the extra protection.
The bumpers and bigger tires do add weight though, so GMC retunes the Multimatic suspension to account for the mass. There’s a full-size spare in the bed of the AEV, which is secured in a way that leaves clearance for overland kit such as rooftop tents and camper shells. I know full-size spares are par for the course when it comes to off-roading, but I’m impressed by the extra matching wheel and tire being standard on the AEV Edition. Turnkey, indeed.
The trails we drove were not exactly technical, but certain ruts and rocks forced AT4X drivers to consider their path, mind their trajectory, and monitor via the many onboard cameras of the Canyon. Matt reminded me to keep eyes on the path in front of me, however, which is good advice for those who are new to off-roading, and, thus, rely on cameras more often than not. Don’t forget to look up.
On one or two occasions I could feel the wheels slip, and I had to roll back, rocking to and fro for momentum. I activated my rear e-locker once, but if that trail had a difficulty rating, driving it in the AT4X would be a five on a scale of one to 10. About average, I would say, and much of it would be psychological if you’re afraid of heights.
On the way back, after we’d swapped into the AEV, the difficulty dropped to a two or three, tops. The AEV forges ahead with plenty of traction. No wheel slip. No rocking back and forth. All you need to do is pick your line and roll right on through. Maybe I’m biased, but midsizers are the golden mean that Aristotle wouldn’t shut up about. They’re the right size for serious trail work, and with models like the AEV, they’re ready to go out of the box. Well, ready to go on the trail, that is.
Driving The GMC Canyon AT4X AEV Edition On Road
The AEV is more at home on ruts and crawling over obstacles, but the Canyon AT4X is a better truck for (I suspect) 90 percent of what most people use their trucks for. And that’s just regular driving around town and on the interstate.
There, the AT4X’s lower height, ground clearance and smaller 33-inch tires are a boon, while the Multimatic dampers make the AT4X a good partner when the road gets twisty. It’s no sports car, but the AT4X can genuinely surprise you with its road manners. It never loses its composure when the lanes get tight, and even with a relatively aggressive stance (as the tallest, widest Canyon below AEV) the AT4X feels well-planted in turns. There’s little body roll, if any.
The AEV on the other hand? It has a higher center of gravity, and loses some of the sharp handling that makes the AT4X great. It feels more willing to go wide on turns, dulling some of the Canyon’s steering. Clearly, something has to give in the pursuit of off-road capability, and in this case that seems to be the Canyon’s ability to feel lighter and smaller than it is. The changes make the new truck go from an exceptional machine on the road to one that’s just average.
Call it aptitudes: the AEV has an aptitude for the off-road. The AT4X has an aptitude for both off-road and on — just to a lesser degree than AEV, as far as the gnarliest trail goes. Outside of that, the trucks are largely the same, and they boast plush cabins with excellent infotainment and more on-screen data than you’ll ever need. The Canyon is an extremely refined truck, which makes the blunted road manners of the AEV that much more obvious.
The truck will tell you all about its navigational orientation and pitch and yaw and degree of inclination. There are screens upon screens to cycle through for relevant information when you’re off-roading, and, of course, all the standard stuff on a luxury pickup truck, like wireless inductive charging, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Canyon has Google services built in if you don’t want to connect your phone.
One glaring omission that’s related to the infotainment and the truck’s interface is the lack of a stalk (or button or switch) for the headlights. Why, GMC? Why bury headlights in a menu screen when a stalk on the steering column will do?
It’s a misstep made all the more baffling by the AEV’s additional buttons and switches for things like off-road lights and a winch. Physical controls are good, apparently, but they’re not necessary for...headlights? Agree to disagree.
The GMC Canyon AT4X AEV Edition Verdict
The Canyon AT4x remains one of the best midsize trucks, but the AEV Edition can’t fully overcome its nature as a hardcore off-roader and overlander. In a way, GMC got exactly what it wanted. The AEV will take on trails effortlessly, and it gives you a sense of confidence thanks to its bigger tires and higher lift.
The AT4X is already a gnarly truck, but off-roading requires a marginal amount of effort while the AEV just rolls over anything in its way. The conceit of the new truck is that it’s an American Expedition Vehicle, excelling at overland tasks.
Are you going overlanding or off-roading on a regular basis? If yes, then go with the AEV hands down. Or don’t. Just get good by practicing off-road driving. But if you’re not going to go off-road more than a handful of times per year, then save whatever GMC is going to charge for the AEV upfits, and rest easy knowing that the Canyon AT4X has enough capability for most drivers and then some.
GMC says the Canyon AT4X AEV will be at dealers by the end of 2023, but hasn’t revealed what the pricing will be for the AEV extras. Whatever they cost, they’ll be installed by the time it gets to dealerships since these are fitted at the assembly line. The Canyon AT4X will start at $55,895, so we can expect the AEV to add a generous premium over that, likely going into the mid $60,000s.
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