Let me begin by making one thing quite clear: I’m not exactly the truck-driving type. I’ve lived in New York City for more than a decade, which means that my main modes of transportation are walking, biking, subwaying and, lately, motorcycling.
But for a recent jaunt out of the city, specifically a snowboarding trip to beautiful Lake Placid in upstate New York, I knew I needed to step up the horsepower. So I was pretty psyched when GMC gave me the opportunity to test out their new Canyon Denali on the trip.
I was also a little apprehensive, because I’ve probably driven three trucks in my life and nothing as big as this behemoth. But after I distributed a bunch of mesh trucker hats to my passengers, I discovered it’s just about the perfect ride for any outdoor adventure. Here, in order of how my crew and I experienced them, are just a few reasons why.
The beast just took off, accelerating and handling beautifully for its size. As I blasted Wolfmother and zigzagged past the slow movers, I felt a bit like I was piloting a 308-horsepower rocket ship.
1. The bed in back is surprisingly handy.
For urban folks using a city-sized car or a rental, transporting a bunch of snow gear is often a laughably clunky experience. You’re trying to procure and attach a ski rack at the last minute or praying there’s a fold-down seat you can stick some skis through and then jamming the rest of the stuff wherever it fits and generally creating a winter-ready clown car. But with the Denali’s ample bed space, these fails are a thing of the past. I was driving up with three buddies (all skiers) and even in the short-box version of the truck, we managed to easily fit and secure all our normal luggage plus a snowboard, three pairs of skis and two pairs of cross-country skis in the back. Yes, we were a little paranoid when we left truck unattended to grab some dinner, but thankfully no one messed with our stuff. I like to think they were intimidated by the Denali’s badass grill—or they realized they couldn’t possibly stash all the stuff we had packed.
2. The interior is as comfortable and spacious as they come.
The last truck I drove before this one was kinda your classic version with the big bench seat in front and a nice little sting for your spine every time you hit a bump. This Denali is pretty much the polar opposite, with a luxurious interior that makes you forget you are even in a truck. After the gang dutifully donned their trucker hats, my two taller buddies, both around 6 feet, had no trouble getting comfortable in the second row of seats. There are some pretty nice amenities too, including four USB ports and a wireless charging pad. Oh and one thing’s for sure: This is the only truck I’ve ever driven with a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel.
3. This baby can move.
So it took a little while before we saw what the Denali can do on the highway because, thanks to classic Friday night NYC traffic, it took us over an hour just to get out of the city. Just when we were about to lose our minds with frustration, we reached the light at the end of the (Lincoln) tunnel and I hit the gas. Whoosh! The beast just took off, accelerating and handling beautifully for its size. As I blasted Wolfmother and zigzagged past the slow movers, I felt a bit like I was piloting a 308-horsepower rocket ship. Granted, it requires a bit of rocket fuel (22 mpg city/30 highway), but when you can fly down the open road like a bat out of Chelsea, you’re not that concerned about fuel efficiency.
4. Adverse conditions are no match.
Thankfully the roads to Lake Placid were pretty clear, but there had been a storm a few days earlier, so once we actually rolled into town, things got a little dicey. The house where we were staying sat at the end of a long, narrow, snow-and-ice-covered driveway. But once I switched to four-wheel-drive mode, I was able to cruise down it quite comfortably. Even more impressive was our experience leaving for Whiteface Mountain each morning. In addition to the joy of simply throwing our skis and snowboard in the back, reversing up out of the driveway (not exactly my forte) was greatly aided by the agile 4WD and the rear-vision camera. Features like these enable novices like me to drive like a bona fide ice road trucker. Or at least feel like one.
5. Freakin’ wifi.
Let’s all take a moment and gather some perspective, folks. Twenty years ago you needed a disc from AOL to access the internet, via dial-up. Now you can get on wifi in the middle of nowhere from the cab of a goddamn truck. Maybe this seems somehow natural to you. But we really shouldn’t take it for granted. About halfway through the trip, my buddy Andi was trying to call his wife, who was in Thailand at the time, and couldn’t get a signal at this rustic restaurant we had found. So he went out to the truck and using the built-in wifi was able to able to like Skype with her or something. I’m still not totally sure how it worked, but it did. And that’s the moment I realized that you don’t really need a mesh trucker hat to appreciate the GMC Canyon Denali. It’s simply a fitting ride for the modern era, no matter where you happen to be headed.