Welcome back to our 2015 GMC Canyon long-term test. To read the whole series, click here.
The GMC Canyon has performed admirably in our tests so far, but how is it at towing? Most folks who choose to buy a midsize truck over a half-ton are probably not going to be pulling a heavy trailer regularly, but these trucks have been given an SAE-rated tow rating of 7,000-lbs, so I set out to test the claim.
To properly test its capability, we hooked up an Airstream International 30 to the back of our rig. This particular trailer carries a dry weight of 6,382 lbs while transferring about 880 lbs to the tongue, putting it close to the Canyon’s maximum tow rating. To get the full 7,000-lb rating, the Canyon has to be outfitted with the Z82 trailering package, which includes a hitch and seven-pin light connector.
Since the trailer was so heavy, we used an aftermarket load-distributing hitch complete with an extra sway control bar, a recommended practice when towing anything over 3,000 lbs. or 20′ long. It’s also worth noting that the name Airstream is quite appropriate, as these are some of the most aerodynamic trailers on the market, making them less strenuous to tow than large square trailers.
Hook-ups on the Canyon are well laid out and easy to use thanks to conveniently located light jacks that sit above the rear bumper and easy to access safety chain connections.
With all of our equipment rigged and in place we set out and quickly realized that the Canyon actually lives up to its claims. Trailer sway was easily dispatched by the added sway bar on the hitch and performing emergency lane changes on the highway felt solid. There was some bucking from back to front, but never to the point of feeling like the trailer was controlling the truck. Best of all, the suspension provided a comfortable ride while not going to far to the squishy side, allowing the truck to remain confident. A long-distance drive would be no sweat with a trailer of this size.
The powertrain felt like it was just about completely wrung out, but it wasn’t outmatched. Tow/haul mode keeps the engine at high RPMs where the power lives, with the truck rarely making it to fifth gear. On the highway, it comfortably cruises along in fifth, sitting just below 3,000 RPM at around 65 MPH. On ramps were easily conquered by the Canyon, which had no trouble hitting highway speeds before having to merge.
We performed a standing start on a 16-percent grade to get a feel for the truck on an incline and once again it performed well. Hill hold worked perfectly even with the trailer, making sure we didn’t roll back before taking off. And once throttle is applied, the truck snorted to life, working damn hard but accelerating rather quickly, even upshifting into second at the very end of the short climb.
Despite the Canyon impressing us with a load on the hitch, GM actually doesn’t outfit the truck as well as it could for towing, probably because they don’t expect many owners to push the truck to its limits regularly. There is no standard trailer brake controller and no option to add larger mirrors. We used a Tekonsia Prodigy aftermarket brake controller for our test, which worked well. A Kurt brake controller is offered through the GMC accessory program for $95 and is a must if you plan to haul heavy loads. Ditto for aftermarket tow mirrors.
So what did we learn from our day of hauling? When the Canyon is hooked up with the proper equipment, it pulls admirably, demonstrating that the maximum tow rating is not just an empty claim.
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Trailer provided by Can-Am RV