- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 22, 2004

The existing, and aging, GMC Sonoma compact pickup truck has been reborn in 2004 as the GMC Canyon. Although front-end styling is similar to the full-size Sierra truck, the Canyon uses a distinct body-on-frame construction that was specifically designed and engineered to serve a midsize truck. Sonoma’s sibling, the Chevrolet S10, has also been replaced by the all-new Chevrolet Colorado. Both new trucks are larger (their wheelbases and overall lengths have grown a few inches) than their compact counterparts and they can be considered ‘midsize” trucks. The classification by the Environmental Protection Agency remains “compact pickup.”

Canyon’s styling, especially at the front, is more upright and pronounced than its predecessor. The headlamps are stacked and are horizontally split by chrome bars that extend from the grille’s chromed perimeter. This visual cue also appears on the Sierra and Sierra HD pickups. Along the sides, tall fender flares accentuate the stance while body moldings on the door bottoms add a styling cue and protect the sheetmetal.

All 2004 Canyons arrive standard with a 2.8-liter inline-four that generates 175 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, and 185 foot-pounds of torque at 2,800-rpm. The larger 3.5-liter inline-five is optional on every trim model, and this engine produces 220 horsepower and 225 foot-pounds of torque. Inline technology allows peak torque to be accessed across a broad rpm range — up to 90 percent is available from 1200 to 5600 rpm on the 2.8-liter and from 1400 to 5200 rpm on the five-cylinder. Both are derived from the 4.2-liter Vortec inline-six that serves the Envoy. In fact, three-quarters of the components on the new engines are shared with the inline-six. Almost 90 percent of the parts are common to both the four- and five-cylinder powerplants.

Both new engines feature all-aluminum construction, dual overhead cams, variable valve timing, and four valves per cylinder. A high 10:1 compression ratio, electronic throttle control and exhaust cam phasing are features shared with the existing six-cylinder.

A five-speed manual transmission is fitted as standard equipment behind both engines. The transmission is designed to respond to high-torque situations, and is calibrated to provide smoother shifts, better launches and increased fuel efficiency. For the driver who prefers two pedals to three, a Hydra-Matic four-speed automatic transmission is available.

The Canyon rides on a ladder-type frame meant to increase torsional stiffness and durability. On 2WD models, the front suspension is independent and uses coil spring, while 4WD trucks get torsion bars up front. Both drive lines use live rear axles with leaf springs. Front stabilizer bars are standard.

Stopping power originates in dual-piston front disc brakes and rear drums with standard ABS. Several wheel and tire combinations are available, from basic 15-inch steel wheels with 205/75R15 all-season tires to 15X7-inch aluminum wheels with P265/75R15 on/off road radials (Z71 Off Road Package).

Four-wheel-drive models get shift-on-the-fly that activates via a dashboard switch. Two-wheel-drive trucks are available with traction control, and an automatic locking differential can enhance both 2WD and 4WD models with either engine.

Interior layouts vary, depending on cab choice. Regular Cabs provide seating for two or three as either two reclining buckets or a 60/40 bench seat are available. The Extended Cab version employs four doors and can accommodate up to five if the rear bench seats are chosen. Crew Cab models offer a 60/40-split folding rear bench and can seat six.

Safety was considered when designing the Canyon. The new truck comes standard with dual-stage front air bags and offers side-curtain air bags as an option. Regular Cabs feature this technology in the front seat, while the Extended and Crew Cabs use it in the rear. Side guard door beams and a reinforced cage protect the cab.

All options installed before delivery are covered under GM’s bumper-to-bumper warranty. Parts permanently attached by a GM dealer after purchase are insured for no less than 12 months or 12,000 miles.

Canyon prices start at $16, 530 for the SL 2WD Regular Cab, or $18, 875 for the SL 2WD Extended Cab; The SLE 2WD Crew Cab is $21,115; and the SLE 4WD Crew Cab $23,725. All prices include a $635 destination charge

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