2015 GMC Canyon Long-Term Review: Transmission Troubles?

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Welcome back to our 2015 GMC Canyon long-term test. To read the whole series, click here.

My first real issue with our long-term GMC Canyon has arisen. After four months of driving this truck, the transmission seems to be having some troubles.

The issue first came to light while I was driving home from work. As I accelerated just after taking a sharp right-hand corner, a slow shift made the truck feel like it was hesitating for about two seconds. The transmission answered with uncertainty when I asked for more power; it’s an uncomfortable feeling.

This same sensation happened again several times over the past month. It seemed to only happen right in the middle of the throttle range and never at full tilt. There was no hesitation when I pushed the pedal all the way to the floor, just a hard downshift and a surge of power. But when I asked for just a little more power, the transmission seemed to get confused. Another issue also cropped up during this time: rough, clunky shifts. The tranny would think, then bang down into gear a little harder than felt proper.

2015-GMC-Canyon-MainSo I did the one thing men (foolishly) never do; I picked up the owner’s manual. And low and behold, my answer was sitting there in plain text. It reads:

“The vehicle has a shift stabilization feature that adjusts the transmission shifting to the current driving conditions in order to reduce rapid upshifts and downshifts. This shift stabilization feature is designed to determine, before making an upshift, if the engine is able to maintain vehicle speed by analyzing things such as vehicle speed, throttle position, and vehicle load.”

After reading this, the behavior started to make more sense, but the next two sentences are the most revealing.

“If the shift stabilization feature determines that a current vehicle speed cannot be maintained, the transmission does not upshift and instead holds the current gear. In some cases, this could appear to be a delayed shift [emphasis added], however the transmission is operating normally.”

This put my mind at ease somewhat, but to be sure there wasn’t a larger issue brewing, I contacted General Motors Canadian Truck Product Manager Craig Couch about my problems. After going for a test drive, Couch assured me that there was nothing wrong. “The shift quality you were perceiving is normal, but the range of experience that the truck had over a short period of time meant that it had not ‘settled’ to its most stable shift points,” he wrote in an e-mail.

It is fair to note that this truck had been in a wide range of driving situations in the four short months we’ve had it. That includes having multiple drivers on a regular basis, plowing through one of the coldest winters in recent memory and frequently towing different size loads. That said, this scenario is certainly not outside the realm of possibility for a typical Canyon owner.

2015-GMC-Canyon-Rear-Small“Shift quality adapts are the largest area of adapting, the most complex,” Couch explained. “Some of these adapts run early in the ‘life’ of a new transmission/vehicle and then periodically over the life of the vehicle.  Other adapts have the ability to make adjustments continuously throughout the life, though as the adjustments hone in on the desired result they may become more stable and limit the size of the adjustment they are allowed to make.”

So it turns out that part of what I was feeling are natural transmission growing pains according to GM. These transmissions are constantly learning and with 8,500 miles logged, I guess ours was going through some pre-teen confusion. And it does seem to be growing out of it. In the past 3 – 4 weeks, I haven’t felt a delayed shift and can’t replicate it, even when trying.

Not all is right with the truck though. The rough shifting hasn’t gone anywhere. Occasionally, it still clunks down a gear with a pronounced thud.

Normal or not, this transmission has some weird quirks. The issues may only be occasional, but that leaves an overall feeling of being unrefined.

Discuss this story at our Chevy Colorado Forum

  • scottturner

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  • Isend2C

    Although different, my father had my old 2008 Sonata and 20k miles after it’s 2ND Transmission replacement it had a much worse issue. The car would lock itself into 3rd gear (out of 4) if you asked for more power – just the same as you – about halfway down. It would stutter and get confused and then thunk into 3rd. Flooring it would be fine, but not more than a mild demand for power. Silly issues. Unfortunately, he didn’t follow the required maintenance schedule like I did so he wasn’t able to use the lemon law.
    I’m glad the issues are fixed with your truck, for the most part it seems.

  • mani234

    92$/hour@guide

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  • Mike

    Glad I am waiting for the 16 Toyota Tacoma. More Government Motors JUNK.

  • Kayse

    Is there a fix a dealer can do to stop this from happening? This article perfectly describes what happens to my 2007 chevy malibu and I’m looking to replace it with the 2015 canyon. It bothers me in the car, not so sure how I feel about it in a pickup.

  • Rex Morgan

    I am still having problems with my transmission even with 22K miles and 2 yrs next month. Really disappointed that GM released this truck with this transmission. I regret not following a long standing rule of not buying a first year model vehicle. At the moment my truck is in the shop for routine maintenance. And I have a 2016 Canyon loaner from the dealer and it doesn’t seem to have the erratic transmission issues; it shifts smoothly. So when I hear Craig Couch talking about this adaptive transmission and how it’s operating correctly, I think BS. GM just doesn’t want to release and admittance to having a problem and to avoid a recall. They seemed to have fixed it in the 2016 loaner I’m driving; why can’t they do the same for the 2015’s. I hear Toyota is revamping the Tacoma for 2018; I think I’ll give it a look see. If you sell me crap and not own up to fixing it then there’s no own loyalty so why would I by another. Oh forgot to mention the poor software programming of the stereo system. Intermittent bluetooth connectivity. Phone is connected and plays music and receives calls but the HUD show no battery or signal and when I scroll through artist or song list it can’t buffer the list. It goes from A to D then skips back to A. I got a stupid answer from a tech that maybe I have to many songs on my iPod; why make a stereo to work with a mass storage device like and iPod and not give it enough memory or processing power to scroll the music on said device. I found out this morning when I turned in my truck for another reported issue that when using the recycled air feature that the vent no longer will close completely and older vehicles do. Turns out the regulations changed to not allow the complete closure so you’ll just have to breathe in that exhaust from the car in front of you because some bureaucrat though you should always have fresh air from outside even if it’s mixed with carbon dioxide.