2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD Pricing

Crew Cab SLT 4WD

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2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD
G.R. Whale

Introduction
The GMC Sierra HD line of heavy duty trucks has been reengineered from the ground up for 2011, with a new frame, new front and rear suspensions, bigger brakes, and a new, more powerful Duramax 6.6-liter turbo diesel.

At the same time, a luxurious new Denali model brings premium features and styling to the heavy-duty line. The Sierra Denali HD is a 2500HD Crew Cab with a choice of Vortec 6.0-liter V8 or the Duramax diesel with the latest Allison six-speed automatic.

GMC Sierra heavy-duty pickups are well-suited for real-world use and abuse. They can haul tons of brick and cement and tow the concrete pump, then turn around to be used for a night on the town or grocery shopping while the fifth-wheel's left in camp or the horses are in the corral. If your hauling happens once or twice a year or you tow a bass boat or ski boat, then the 1500-series may be better suited. If your load is heavy, however, or you do a lot of towing, then the Sierra HD is the ticket.

Denali pickups are more luxurious than their namesake environment, with more standard equipment than any Sierra HD, bespoke cabin trim and wheels, and options that include a moonroof, navigation, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, and on some versions, polished forged alloy 20-inch wheels. This is GMC's answer to Ford's Super Duty King Ranch, Ram's Lariat, and anyone who thinks a pickup should be as relaxing and comfortable as a good lounge. Towing capacity is slightly less than others because of luxury equipment.

The GMC Sierra HD is built on the same chassis as the Chevrolet Silverado HD and shares all the sheetmetal, including the hood, with it. Different hood trim, lights, grille, wheels and ruby red badges distinguish GMC from Chevrolet. GMC buyers are generally younger, more affluent, better educated and choose crew cabs and diesels more than Silverado buyers, which is why the Denali is a GMC.

As with all heavy-duty pickup lines, the Sierra HD offers plenty of configurations with three cab styles, two bed sizes, single or dual-rear wheels and 2WD or 4WD. A 6.0-liter gasoline V8 is standard, rated at 360 horsepower in 2500 models and 322 hp in everything else. It isn't quite as powerful as the competitions' gas engines. However, the 6.6-liter turbodiesel with 765 pound-feet of torque (more than twice the gas engine's) out-rates the 6.7-liter engines on the Ford Super Duty and Ram trucks. GM and Ford use only six-speed automatics in their trucks. Ram uses a five-speed automatic in gas engines and six-speed manual and automatics with their diesel.

Sierra HD offers two distinct interior concepts, one bred for work, function and simplicity the other emphasizes luxury and features over outright seating space. Almost anything you can get in a GMC sport-utility is available here, including OnStar, a subwoofer-equipped sound system, rear-seat entertainment, driver memory system, heated leather seats and a moonroof. For the entry price of around $28,000 you get a functional pickup with real load-carrying ability; for big towing in a properly equipped diesel expect to pay $40,000 or more.

The trick in buying the right GMC Sierra HD is to give fair consideration and choose wisely. Compute the permutations among three cabs, two weight classes, two beds, two engine/transmission combinations, two drive systems and four trim levels, and then sort out options that cover everything from a diesel radiator cover to rear park assist, and you can see why prices run from that base $28,000 to well past double it. Model Lineup
The 2011 GMC Sierra HD offers three cabs, two beds, five wheelbases and four trim levels. The Vortec 6.0-liter V8 and six-speed automatic comes standard, the Duramax diesel with a stronger Allison six-speed automatic is available ($8,395).

From the least expensive version, plan on adding $2,000-$3,000 to step up from regular cab to Extended cab, or from there to Crew Cab. Figure $200 more for a long bed version. Add about $3,000 for four-wheel drive.

Sierra WT models are work trucks with gray vinyl upholstery, rubberized floor covering, black door handles and mirrors, steel wheels and floor-shift for 4WD. They come with air conditioning, AM/FM stereo, driver information center, 40/20/40 manual-recline front seats, rear bench seat, tilt wheel, chrome grille and bumpers, tow hooks, intermittent wipers, and dual dash power outlets. The WT Crew Cab has a 60/40-split rear bench seat. Options on WT include cruise control ($250), stereo upgrades, OnStar 9.0 ($295), 18-inch wheels, camper mirrors, locking differential ($325), trailering equipment, power windows, mirrors and locks, integrated trailer brake controller ($200), deep-tint glass and bucket seats.

Sierra SLE versions improve with cloth upholstery, carpeting (though the WT floor is available), 40/20/40 front seat with locking console storage, split-fold rear seat, AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 RDS stereo, OnStar with six months' service, cruise control, aluminum wheels, power heated mirrors/windows/door locks, visor vanity mirror/lights, side moldings and electric-shift for 4WD. SLE options include dual-zone climate control, navigation and backup camera, backup camera in mirror ($450), power passenger seat for the 3500 Crew Cab, steering wheel controls, power sliding rear window ($250), power heated camper mirrors ($243), 20-inch wheels for the 2500, locking differential, Z71 off-road package with shocks, bump stops, 36-mm front antiroll bar, and skid plates.

Sierra SLT upgrades with leather, 10-way power heated front seats and two-person driver memory, dual-zone climate control, Bose DVD audio system, Bluetooth, console, auto-dimming mirrors (3), steering wheel controls, fog lamps, paint-matched trim, power folding mirrors w/signals, 18-inch polished forged aluminum wheels, locking differential, trailer equipment and integrated trailer brake controller. SLT-level upgrades include navigation and rearview camera, rear-seat entertainment, moonroof ($995), power sliding rear window, power heated camper mirrors, and 20-inch wheels on 2500.

Denali models come in 2500 or 3500, single or dual rear-wheel configurations, 2WD or 4WD, short bed or long bed. Denali is Crew Cab only. Denali gets a unique four-bar grille, body-color bumpers, chrome door handles, chrome accents, polished forged aluminum wheels, and EZ-Lift locking tailgate. Inside, Denali adds unique brushed aluminum trim, power-adjustable pedals, a Bose premium surround audio system with 6CD/USB, Bluetooth, and 12-way power seats. Options include a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, moonroof, and rear-seat entertainment. Denali comes only in black, gray, or white.

Optional on most trim levels are roof marker lamps ($55), skid plates ($150), snow-plow prep for 4WD, fast-idle switch ($200), camper/fifth-wheel wiring ($35), myriad dealer options and for diesels, dual 125-amp alternators ($270) and radiator covers ($55) for cold states.

Safety equipment includes frontal airbags, front seat belt pretensioners, and StabiliTrak on single-rear wheel models. Optional equipment includes front-side airbags and front side-curtain airbags (2500), OnStar, backup cameras and integrated trailer brake controller. Walkaround
The Sierra HD shares its mechanical bits with the Chevrolet Silverado HD, but they are not visually identical. Different grilles, lights, trim, wheels and badges distinguish the two. Denali models use unique elements of those distinctive parts to further separate themselves from lesser Sierra HDs.

The wallpaper sized, ruby red GMC logo makes its origin plainly obvious and the bumper that blends into the fenders lacks the big bumper-to-grille opening characteristic of vehicles with separate bodies and frames. The increased frame stiffness allows smaller gaps between panels, one reason the Sierra HD is quieter than Super Duty cabs.

Extended cab models have rear doors that open to the rear after the front doors have been opened, with windows that roll down to minimize rear seat claustrophobia. Ford's Super Cab uses the same system, while Ram HD's mid-size cab has four conventionally opening doors.

The box sides are deep. The tailgate has an optional lock and assist for closing it with less effort. The cargo management option fits rails to three sides of the bed, which can be used for tie-down points and to carry a variety of tool or utility boxes. The dual-element mirrors, some of which are heated and power-fold for drive-through lanes, aid rearward vision when towing.

Most heavy duty pickups have external dimensions close to each other and the Sierra is similar; more than six-and-a-half feet wide outside and room for a 4x8-foot sheet of building material to ride flat in the long bed. 4WD Sierra models are slightly lower than competing pickups, and that inch or two could make the difference in commercial garages or with critical fifth-wheel trailer/bed side clearances. Interior
The high-line Sierra SLT cabin feels just like the interior of a large luxury car, with a low-profile dash sporting lots of woodgrain trim, a compact instrument cluster with good gauges, three months of XM radio to get you hooked, and a center stack that rolls off the dash and right into a full-length center console.

The Sierra HD SLT and Denali cabins are more car-like than truck-like: sleek, distinctly split between driver and passenger environments, and good fit and finish. Other Sierra models use a more conventional pure pickup layout, with a higher dash section that goes across the middle and leaves the center open for middle riders, manual-shift transfer case, or communications and safety equipment.

Though not as stylish, the standard pure pickup dash is the more functional of the two and equally well assembled and equally up to date. It offers more options in small storage, a second glove box (with an awkward latch), locking storage area with power point beneath the center seat section, more places to add accessory switches, radio and ventilation controls are up higher near line of sight, and the materials produce less glare in low-lying sun and night construction areas. Adjustable pedals and a tilt wheel are available, though the wheel does not telescope.

The Regular Cab Sierra has room for an XL-sized gent and space behind his seat for coat and boots. Extended Cabs have a seat cushion that folds up for more storage and LATCH anchors for infant seats. Crew Cabs are the obvious choice for anyone hauling more than youngsters on a regular basis, just be sure the middle rider knows there is no headrest.

Operating controls are clearly labeled and logically placed, and the shifter offers the typical D and 1 positions, with an M position and thumb tab for individually selecting any intermediate gear.

If there's a drawback to the Sierra cabin it is the quantity of similarly shaped and labeled small buttons that butterfingers may have some issues with. Door switches won't let your dog power the window up, but he may still lock you out; fortunately, OnStar (and the turn-by-turn navigation it offers) is standard and includes a few months free service. As with a Mercedes, turning on the navigation system also switches on the radio, and you'll have to turn it all the way down if you don't want to hear it.

The fact that the Sierra interior, especially on SLT models, is the most like a car will certainly find favor with those who need a pickup rather than just want one. Denali models may steal a few King Ranch sales from Ford, although given pickup brand loyalty any such buyer is likely new to pickups. Driving Impressions
For 2011 GMC Sierra set the bar higher and raised cargo and tow ratings to levels well beyond any previous GM pickup, and slightly eclipsing the maximum ratings for the 2011 Ford Super Duty F-350 (the F-450 pickup maintains top towing/GCWR rank). Heavy-duty pickups are a battleground of numbers with rankings reshuffled on a regular basis, but a properly specified Sierra HD diesel will pull all but the largest fifth-wheel trailers, and potentially require you to have a special driver's license or endorsement to do so legally.

Truck people talk frames and parts because they're the foundation. On the Sierra HD the foundation includes things like forged steel upper and cast iron lower front suspension arms like pieces used on older Land Rovers and the Mercedes Gelaendewagens rather than the aluminum and stamped steel of lightweight pickups. Everything was upgraded for 2011, right down to the bolts that hold the wheels on.

Adding bigger parts is easy. What makes the GMC HD noteworthy is that the increase in capability comes with no significant sacrifice in ride quality, cab comfort, handling or control. GMC claims diesel highway fuel economy is up 11 percent, quoting range on the 36-gallon fuel tank that suggests about 18.5 mpg; but honestly the only time you should be highway cruising in an empty HD is after you've delivered the cargo or trailer somewhere. No mention of city mileage, probably because the truck is 300-400 pounds heavier than its predecessor. We observed 10 mpg in the largest HD diesel pulling a four-ton trailer.

That gasoline engine is the purchase-cost choice and best used when routine heavy towing or high mileage aren't on the agenda. Opting for the $100 higher-numerical 4.10:1 axle ratio is worth every penny and raises the tow rating considerably. We saw a bit more than 12 mpg on a highway leg in an unloaded 2500-series gas engine.

All other buyers should strongly consider the diesel with twice the torque output and notably better mileage and work ratings. It is quieter but the last GM HD was already relatively quiet, and like Ford but unlike Ram, it uses DEF for the emissions system. This is filled underhood and may need to be done only at service intervals but is available at fuel depots and parts stores if you drive hard. Running out will not stop the truck, but if you ignore warning messages it eventually will not restart.

Pickups of yore tended to buck like broncos on uneven surfaces like turnpike expansion joints, with the bed trying to bounce one direction and the cab the other. Often a function of wheelbase, this can't be completely eliminated in a long vehicle like a Sierra HD, but it does an admirable job of mitigating the motion. Longer cabs get special body mounts to aid in that regard, though we found the regular cab gave a good accounting of itself; with the diesel's 700-mile-empty claimed range, it's entirely possible a base manual seat would wear you out before any ride issues did.

There's heft to the feel of a Sierra, from the way it takes big bumps to the steering and throttle inputs but this should not be construed as effort on the driver's part. Its handling characteristics are benign and amount to basic plowing if you push too hard. All-terrain tires give better grip on dirt roads, at the expense of steering precision and noise on tarmac. Optional 20-inch wheels look good but we'll stick to standard 17s and 18s for numerous reasons, including ride and replacement cost.

Like all big 2WD pickups the Sierra uses all-vented disc brakes with ABS, and independent front suspension. Of the full-size pickups, only the GM heavy-duty pickups use the same design on 4WD models as on 2WD versions. This means the 4WD HD models from GM have a lower nose and more responsive steering than their Ram and Super Duty counterparts. Again, like any big pickup, the tail is prone to kick over impacts with an empty bed; the Sierra is similar to others although it may feel it has more kick because the front is softer. Apart from turning circle and size, it takes no more effort to drive this than to drive any other GMC.

The optional integrated trailer brake controller will apply your trailer brakes smoother than any aftermarket controller and works in concert with the Sierra's braking system.

The diesel engine has an exhaust brake function in the turbocharger, and the Allison transmission uses grade control logic to help maintain chosen speeds, even using cruise control on up- and down-grades.

The 2.5-inch receiver hitch allows conventional trailer ratings up to 17,000 pounds, and the maximum for fifth-wheels is almost 22,000 pounds, both segment leading. The strongest Sierra HD will haul more than 29,000 pounds gross combined: the truck, fuel, passengers, cargo, and loaded trailer. That means, and this applies to all domestic pickups, that a Sierra rated for a trailer of 21,000 pounds and a load of 5,800 pounds can't do both simultaneously. Summary
If you want the capability of a big pickup with the least sensation of driving a big pickup, the Sierra HD deserves consideration. In a world run amuck for ever-larger trailers and powerplants, it's a sensible alternative for anyone who needs to haul heavy material but doesn't want a Class IV or V truck to do it.

G.R. Whale filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Flintstone, Maryland.

Model as tested
GMC Sierra 2500 HD Crew Cab Denali 4WD ($45,865)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Fort Wayne, Indiana; Flint, Michigan
Destination charge
995
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
27965
Price as tested
51855
Options as tested
navigation ($2,250); rearview camera ($450); heated/cooled front seats ($650); power slide rear window ($250); heated steering wheel ($150); 20-inch forged polished aluminum wheels ($850); head curtain/front side airbags ($395)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
GMC Sierra HD Regular Cab 2500 2WD WT ($27,965), Extended Cab 2500 2WD SLE long bed ($33,870), Crew Cab 3500 4WD DRW WT ($36,920), Extended Cab 3500 2WD SLT ($36,625), Crew Cab 3500 4WD SLT ($45,455), 2500 Denali 4WD ($45,865)
Safety equipment (standard)
frontal airbags, front seat belt pretensioners, and electronic stability control and tire-pressure monitors on single-rear wheel models
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
6.0-liter ohv 16v V8
Transmissions
6-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, OnStar, Bluetooth, EZ-lift locking tailgate, electric-shift 4WD, power-folding heated mirrors, power windows, power locks, overhead console, cruise control, power heated front seats, driver memory, tilt leather wheel with audio controls, driver info center, Bose 6CD/AM/FM/XM with MP3 and USB, fog lamps, 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, locking differential

Engine & Transmission
Engine
6.0-liter ohv 16v V8
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
360 @ 5400
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/vented disc
Suspension, front
independent, torsion bars, antiroll bar
Tires
LT265/60R20E
Suspension, rear
solid axle and leaf springs

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
41.2/60.3/41.3
Head/hip/leg room, rear
40.5/65.4/39.0

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
Wheelbase
153.7
Length/width/height
240.1/80.0/78.3
Turning circle
50.5
Payload
2959
Towing capacity
9300
Track, front/rear
68.8/67.30
Ground clearance
8.2
Curb weight
6562

2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD
New Car Test Drive

Introduction
The GMC Sierra delivers serious towing and hauling capability. The Sierra is built on the same platform and shares mechanicals with the Chevrolet Silverado but exterior styling is quite different.

Sierra offers a choice of 4.8-liter, 5.3-liter, and 6.2-liter V8 engines, plus a hybrid gas-electric. It comes in Regular, Extended, and Crew Cab versions with long and short beds, long and short wheelbases, two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.

All the V8 engines benefit from variable valve timing and Flex Fuel capability (meaning they will run on E85 ethanol). Active Fuel Management is standard with the 5.3-liter V8. The 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8s come with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The 6.2-liter V8 is available for Sierra Extended Cab and Crew Cab models, and is useful for towing heavier loads. A 3.08:1 axle ratio is standard with both transmissions and offers better fuel economy, but it's not recommended for towing.

The Sierra Hybrid uses GM's Two-Mode Hybrid system. It's available only as a Crew Cab model with a specially tuned 332-horsepower 6.0-liter V8 working in conjunction with a battery pack and a 4-speed automatic transmission that houses two electric motors. The Hybrid is EPA-rated at 20 mpg City/23 mpg Highway, while compromising payload and towing capacity (maximum around 6000 pounds).

A choice of interior styles is available. The traditional layout, called pure pickup, has a driver-oriented dash layout with large switchgear and door handles designed for work gloves. The pure pickup interior includes a 40/20/40 split front bench seat with the center section folding down to provide a large storage compartment and wide armrest.

The luxurious Sierra SLT has a cabin similar to that of a luxury SUV, with two front bucket seats separated by a fixed center console. This design places audio and ventilation system controls more easily within reach of the front-seat passenger, who may or may not be a spouse, and it offers space for a navigation system and storage compartments.

The Sierra Denali makes for a comfortable, luxurious pickup with the emphasis on performance rather than payload and towing capacity. The Sierra Denali offers the same sort of high-line content as the upscale GMC Yukon Denali sport utility, and it's available with all-wheel drive. Denali comes with a 6.2-liter V8.

Side-curtain airbags and seat-mounted side airbags are standard on all Sierras, while StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover mitigation is standard on 1500 models. A rearview camera is available and we recommend it. Changes for 2011 are minor and include subtle refinements to reduce wind noise. All 2011 Sierra models except the basic Work Truck come with OnStar 9.0. Model Lineup
The 2011 GMC Sierra offers four engine choices: 4.3-liter V6, 4.8-liter V8, 5.3-liter V8, 6.2-liter V8. All the V8s will run on gasoline or E85, a mixture of gasoline and 85-percent ethanol. All come with automatics transmissions; manual transmissions are not available.

The Regular Cab is designed for fleet buyers and others who want a basic truck for work, budget play, or a clean slate for customization. It can be equipped with a standard bed (6-foot, 6-inch) or a long bed (8-foot), two bucket seats or a three-person bench seat, V6 or V8 engines.

The Extended Cab has two rows of seats with rear-hinged rear access doors that open 170 degrees and have roll-down windows. The Extended Cab can also be equipped with a standard or long cargo bed, and with seating for five or six people.

The Crew Cab has two rows of seats and four front-hinged doors. It can be equipped with seating for five or six and comes with a short (5-foot, 8-inch) bed.

Standard equipment on the basic Work Truck ($20,850) includes vinyl seating surfaces, air conditioning, AM/FM radio, daytime running lights, tire pressure monitoring system, Smooth Ride suspension, 17-inch wheels, and chrome bumpers. The 4.6-liter V6 engine is standard.

Sierra SL is available in Extended Cab and Crew Cab models, and adds a CD player with MP3 capability, XM Satellite Radio, deep tinted glass, OnStar, carpeting, chrome grille surround, body-side moldings, styled steel wheels, cruise control, remote keyless entry, cloth upholstery, and power mirrors, windows and door locks. The 4.8-liter V8 is standard. Extended Cabs get a handling/trailering suspension.

Sierra SLE adds premium cloth upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, handling/trailering suspension (for all cabs), and illuminated visor vanity mirrors. Crew Cab XFE (Extra Fuel Economy) models get alloy wheels. Options include dual-zone air conditioning, a floor console, power driver and front passenger seats, leather seat trim, audio controls on the steering wheel, and machined aluminum wheels.

Sierra SLT adds leather seat trim, a unique instrument panel, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and outside temperatures, upgraded audio system with Bose premium speakers, Bluetooth, front bucket seats with 10-way power adjustment and heat, fog lamps, dual-zone climate control, rear window defogger, remote start, 18-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels, and the 5.3-liter V8 engine. Crew Cab models also get a rear-seat audio system.

Sierra Denali includes a top-flight interior with leather, unique woodgrain console, park assist and the standard luxury and convenience features from the preceding trim levels. The options include a heated steering wheel, heated/cooled front seats, sunroof, and rear-seat entertainment. The Denali comes only as a Crew Cab with the 6.2-liter V8 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission and rear or all-wheel drive.

Sierra Hybrid, available as a Crew Cab only, uses a 332-horsepower 6.0-liter V8 in conjunction with a battery pack and four-speed automatic transmission that houses two electric motor units. With an EPA rating of 20 mpg, its urban economy is the best of the Sierras, the compromises being price, payload (maximum in the mid-1500-pound range) and maximum towing capacity around 6000 pounds. A towing package is standard, however. Options include a locking rear differential and a power sunroof.

Safety features include dual front airbags, head-curtain airbags that automatically inflate when sensors sense a severe impact to provide extra protection in the event of a rollover or secondary collision, driver and front-seat passenger side-impact air bags, anti-lock brakes, StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover mitigation technology, and tire-pressure monitoring. The optional Autotrac active transfer case, ultrasonic rear park assist, and OnStar emergency notification can further enhance safety, as can the all-wheel-drive system on the Denali. Walkaround
The front of the GMC Sierra emphasizes the truck's wide stance. The GMC emblem is set amid dark horizontal bars in the middle of an upright and chrome-surrounded grille. The headlamps are a pair of stacked, jeweled lenses. The front bumper features round fog lamps and a wide air intake and wraps around the sides of the truck to the front lower edge of the front wheel wells.

Top trim levels get some distinguishing features. The Denali gets its own chromed grilles, both the upper section and the air vent below the front bumper, and the bumpers are painted to match. Hybrid models are festooned with odd-looking H badges.

The Sierra hood has a pair of long, narrow V-shaped power bulges and leads back to a steeply raked windshield. The windshield is tilted back for improved aerodynamics and enhanced highway fuel economy.

The side view features slightly bulging and elongated fender flares that sweep down behind the headlamps. The sides of the cargo bed are higher than on previous models, and the exterior of the tailgate is sculpted, enhancing the rear view of the truck. Stacked tail lamps are on either side of the tailgate.

A cargo management system is available for the bed with side rails and various cargo-carrying and cargo-controlling boxes and dividers and tie-downs.

The GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado are built on the GMT900 platform that debuted in 2007 and shares many underpinnings with the Yukon, Suburban, and Tahoe SUVs. The pickups get a unique rear suspension and stiffer rear frame section. The Sierra and Silverado share mechanical components, with the exception of the unique features found on the Sierra Denali.

Compared with the previous-generation models, the current frame is much stiffer in all directions. This stiffness contributes to a smoother ride and better handling. It also allowed the engineers to reduce the gap between the truck bed and passenger compartment as well as the gaps between fenders and bumpers, all of which enhances aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.

The front suspension uses a coil-over-shock setup and the rack-and-pinion steering gear is mounted to the engine cross-member frame. The truck also has a rear axle design with shock absorbers mounted outboard and more upright for better dynamic control.

Fuel economy ratings, except for Hybrids, run 12-15 mpg City, 18-21 mpg Highway. When using E85 those numbers drop dramatically. The XFE (Xtra Fuel Economy) models with a 5.3-liter V8, 6-speed automatic and axle ratio of 3.08:1 increase EPA ratings from 15/21 to 15/22 mpg City/Highway. Proprietary XFE pieces include aerodynamic upgrades in the form of a soft bed cover and extended front air dam, plus aluminum wheels (including the spare) and lower front suspension arms, locking rear differential, and low rolling resistance tires. A trailering package is standard so XFE models can tow up to 7000 pounds. Interior
Two types of interiors are available. The GMC Sierra SLT boasts interior features popularized by the Yukon sport utility, providing a much more upscale environment for the driver and passengers. GMC hasn't forgotten about owners who use their trucks for work, however. So the other Sierra models use a pure pickup interior with more function, like dual glove boxes, and less luxury.

The pure pickup, as it's called, has a unique dashboard that is more driver-oriented and has large switchgear and door handles that are designed to be easily manipulated by those wearing work gloves. The pure pickup interior includes a 40/20/40 split front bench seat with the center section folding down to provide a large storage compartment and wide armrest.

The SLT's SUV-style luxury-oriented interior puts audio and ventilation system controls more easily within reach of the front-seat passenger and has two front bucket seats with a fixed center console with assorted storage compartments.

Either dashboard sports full analog instrumentation, and may have more information available through digital display. Operating controls are GM simple, especially on the pure pickup, while on the top-line models the central dash has many small white-on-black buttons that may require a short learning curve. Some drivers report peculiar ergonomic details as the steering wheel is slightly offset from the seat centerline (which is not uncommon).

Rear seating is provided for three people in the Extended and Crew Cab versions. With 34.3 inches of rear legroom in the Extended Cab, space is comparable to the competitions'; but the Sierra Crew Cab, with only 39.0 inches of rear legroom, comes up 1.4 to 5.5 inches short of the largest cabs offered by the Ford F-150, Nissan Titan, Dodge Ram and Toyota Tundra. The Sierra Crew Cab's rear seat is split 60/40 and can folded up individually for a flat load floor; this arrangement is also standard on some extended cabs and optional on others, depending on trim level.

Access to the rear seating area of the Extended Cab is eased by rear-hinged doors that open to nearly flush with the bed sides. Sitting in the back seat of the Extended Cab is made more pleasant thanks to the fact that the windows in the rear access doors power fully down. Driving Impressions
We've driven multiple versions of the GMC Sierra and found all of them to be comfortable.

The 5.3-liter V8 provided plenty of power for the extended cab SLE models we drove. All engines need to be revved up (by truck standards) for best performance. Generally, the Sierra models match competitors for smoothness.

Of the suspensions, the Z83 is claimed the smoothest ride. The Z85 is slightly stiffer and for those who often tow moderate trailers, a good choice for towing. The Z71 is set up to enhance off-pavement driving yet works very well on the road. In fact, we think the Z71 is the best suspension setup for comfort on the widest range of surfaces. The Z60 configuration is for street performance and includes big 20-inch wheels; we like performance but think trucks should be trucks, so the Z60 is not our first choice. The NHT Max Trailering Package is designed for Sierra owners who need to tow and carry the heaviest loads.

With NHT, the SLT Crew Cab 4x2 is equipped with the 6.2-liter V8 engine. The SLT with NHT suspension is designed for maximum capacity trailer towing, with a special steering gear, shock absorbers, rear axle and tires. We found the NHT suspension compliant relative to its carrying capacity. Isolation and control are both very good. By virtue of its fairly stiff spring and shock rates, the NHT suspension can be driven aggressively on winding roads with tire squeal the primary indication you're approaching the cornering limits. Steering is direct by truck standards and nicely weighted, providing good feedback about how hard everything is working, though the assist can fall behind during repeated full-lock maneuvering as when backing a trailer. However, if you mostly use the truck with it empty and don't often tow, we don't recommend the NHT package, due to its harsher ride. If you do tow, however, this is the hot setup among light-duty pickups.

The integrated brake controller should find favor with drivers who tow RV or box trailers. However, be sure your trailer brakes are compatible with it before choosing the option, as some electro-hydraulic disc conversions do not work with the integrated controller. If it is compatible, it's a great feature, eliminating the mess of installing an aftermarket unit and offering more precise braking. We've found it's much easier to modulate the brakes with the integrated brake controllers than with aftermarket units. With aftermarket units, we find we stop a few feet sooner than intended when braking from a high speed with a trailer attached. With the aftermarket unit, we could stop more precisely and more smoothly.

The highest tow rating for a Sierra is 10,700 pounds on Extended Cab (not long bed) models; top Crew Cab rating is 10,600 and for Regular Cabs it's 10,000 pounds. Note these figures typically apply to a truck with just a driver on board, and vary substantially based on a variety of equipment and options. Summary
The GMC Sierra is an excellent choice among full-size pickups. Those who plan to use their trucks for commuting to work, carrying lots of family members and towing boats, may prefer the SUV-style interior, while those who use their trucks primarily as working tools likely will opt for the more utilitarian-oriented pure pickup design. We like the Sierra SLT Crew Cab for towing car trailers.

G.R. Whale reported from Los Angeles after his test drive of several Sierra models; with Larry Edsall reporting from Phoenix.

Model as tested
GMC Sierra SLT Crew Cab 2WD ($39,125)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Pontiac, Michigan; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Flint, Michigan; Silao, Mexico
Destination charge
995
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
20850
Price as tested
41490
Options as tested
NHT Max Trailering Package ($1,370) includes 6.2-liter V8 engine, 9.5-inch 3.73:1 axle, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, locking rear differential, Z85 suspension, six-lug alloy wheels

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
GMC Sierra Regular Cab Work Truck 2WD standard bed ($20,850), Extended Cab SLE 4WD long bed ($33,795); Crew Cab SLT 2WD ($39,125); Denali AWD ($46,645)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual front airbags, daytime running lights, tire pressure monitoring system, StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover mitigation technology (includes the functions of anti-lock brakes and traction control), side-curtain airbags, driver and front-seat passenger side airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
6.2-liter V8
Transmissions
6-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
leather seat trim, front bucket seats with 10-way power adjustment, dual zone air condoning, Bose sound system, heated windshield washers, polished 18-inch aluminum wheels, OnStar (with six months of Directions and Connections service), cruise control, rear-window defogger, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and outside temperature reading, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, fog lamps, carpeting, power door locks/windows/mirrors, floor console

Engine & Transmission
Engine
6.2-liter V8
Drivetrain type
rear-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
403 @ 5700
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
13/19
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/vented disc, ABS
Suspension, front
independent, coil springs
Tires
265/65R18
Suspension, rear
solid axle, leaf springs

Accomodations
Seating capacity
6
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
41.2/64.3/41.3
Head/hip/leg room, rear
40.5/65.4/39.0

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
Wheelbase
143.5
Length/width/height
230.0/79.9/73.8
Turning circle
47.2
Payload
1980
Towing capacity
10,600
Track, front/rear
68.1/67.0
Ground clearance
9.0
Curb weight
5120


Vehicle History Report


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