Today's full-size truck market offers an abundance of feature-laden models, so making a decision isn't an easy one for buyers. And the truck wars among the Detroit automakers are only heating up. General Motors has upped the ante with the GMC Sierra 1500 (and its cousin Chevrolet Silverado), the last of the three domestic trucks to get an overhaul.
Appearance: The boxy styling of the previous generation of GMC pickups was getting stale. Our top-of-the-line tester's configuration, a Crew Cab with a short bed, featured a redesigned front end with bolder headlights and LED accent lighting. The dominant grille is chrome-trimmed, with a heavy chrome bumper. The fender flares are boxier, which better fits the overall look of the truck. Trim cladding on the wheel wells is a nice touch, as is the chrome trim on the body. There isn't much change to the rear, except for a clever bumper with a built-in step to hoist yourself up onto the truck bed. Sometimes, it's practical touches like this that sway prospective buyers. Halogen fog lamps and 20-inch chrome wheels stood out nicely against the Fire Red paint of our tester.
Performance: The new Sierra comes with either a 4.3-liter EcoTec3 V-6 (285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque) or a 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V-8. (A 6.2-liter V-8 will be available this fall). Ours was the 5.3-liter, which puts out a stout 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. It's a strong workhorse that gets 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway — not bad for a V-8 — and no doubt helped by the Sierra's Active Fuel Management, which deactivates cylinders at cruising speeds to save fuel. The truck has a smooth, carlike ride. Minor quibble: Peter thought there was a slight delay in throttle response when stepping on the gas. A 6-speed automatic is the only transmission available, which shifts smoothly even in tow/haul mode, and has an electronic transfer case to easily activate all four wheels. The truck can tow up to 11,500 pounds when equipped with the Max Tow package.
Interior: It's really quiet, which surprised us. GMC is taking the decibel levels of its cabins seriously, with triple-door seals, shear body mounts that tune out vibrations and a valved exhaust system to reduce intrusive engine sounds. The comfortable and roomy cabin has excellent fit and finish. There's plenty of leg room, even for rear passengers. The center armrest bin is big enough to store hanging folders, a laptop or a small bag. There's also a big bin at the base of the console for "stuff," such as your cellphone. We liked the intuitive audio and climate controls (knobs and easy-to-use big buttons). GMC IntelliLink infotainment system is one of the truck's strong points. The Sierra also has lots of safety tech, such as forward collision alert and lane-departure alert, which are linked to the Driver Alert Seat that buzzes your rear end as a warning. (Lyra jumped the first time it went off.) Thankfully, you can turn that feature off and rely solely on audio alerts.
Our 3 favorites
Plug-ins: Three USB ports, two 12-volt and one 110-volt outlets.
Bumper steps: They came in handy (as did the optional spray-in bed liner) when Peter hauled some things to a recycling site.
Fold: The rear seats go up easily for more interior storage space.
Driver-alert "off" button: I wasn't feeling the vibe of the in-seat warning.
Quiet cabin: The sound insulation is excellent.
Bumper steps: I agree, Peter, these are a clever idea.
The bottom line: Curious as to the full-size pickup's current state of the art? The Sierra 1500 should answer all your questions and deserves serious consideration alongside the Ram and Ford competition.