by: Mike Ginsca
Despite recent fuel prices, pickup trucks continue to be popular choices for transportation. They are highly customizable from the factory, they provide a commanding view of the road, they can carry just about anything, and they’re more luxurious than ever before. The GMC Sierra 1500 and its twin (Chevrolet Silverado 1500) received a fresh update back in 2015 that General Motors hopes will sway customers away from the popular Ford F-150.
Performance – Part of that refresh is what’s under the hood of every GMC Sierra 1500. There are 3 engines for customers to choose from; a 4.3L V6, a 5.3L V8 and a 6.2L V8. The truck being tested here is equipped with the 5.3L V8 that will occupy the engine bays of majority of Sierras sold. It produces 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. With an empty bed, the engine feels like it barely needs to exert any effort to move the 2,600kg truck. There’s plenty of grunt down low in the rev range with peak power coming just before the redline. However the engine doesn’t have a sense of urgency due to a very slow throttle response. Under light throttle applications, there’s a noticeable delay between the time the throttle is depressed and the engine reacting to the input. Not helping is the automatic transmission. There’s a choice of either a 6-speed (as tested) or an 8-speed, neither of which are very quick when it comes to doing their jobs of shifting gears. Under full throttle applications, the engine and transmission are a bit more immediate in their response but majority of people don’t continuously drive as though they’re on a race track.
The engine may feel “lazy” but the rest of the truck is actually pretty good to drive. The body doesn’t roll excessively around corners and, for a pickup truck, the steering is nicely weighted and has a decent amount of feedback. However it is still a very large truck that tips the scales at 2.6 tonnes so it’s best to think ahead of each corner to determine how fast the truck can go around it and how much braking is required to slow it down. Not helping with on-road handling are the 18” Goodyear Duratrac tires which are meant for more off-road capabilities rather than on-road. But when you do find yourself off the beaten path, the GMC Sierra is a very capable performer.
The 4×4 system can automatically send power to the front wheels when the back wheels begin to slip and to further prevent slippage, an electronic limited slip differential locks the rear wheels. Beefed up suspension and stabilizer bar allow the Sierra to take more punishment through rough terrain and skid plates underneath the chassis keeps the vital components safe from damage. I did not get a chance to drive this truck off-road but through snow and ice, it is controllable and not once did the truck get stuck.
Comfort – Trucks have come a long way since their early days of strictly being work trucks. These days you can find features in a pickup truck that are also found in a sedan or SUV. Customers demand more luxury and gadgets to play around with and manufacturers are only so happy to provide… for a price of course. The 2017 GMC Sierra can be fitted with just about everything that can be found in a premium SUV such as leather seating, navigation, heated and ventilated seats, wireless phone charging, and so on. But it’s not all just excess, the cabin of the Sierra is a genuinely nice place to be in. The interior design still looks fresh with an 8” touchscreen being the prominent feature of the dashboard. The rest of the dashboard is outfitted with soft touch materials but a let down is the center console that is comprised primarily of cheap feeling plastics. Another small let down is the fact that a physical key is still required to start the truck. The Chevrolet Tahoe, which is almost identical in design, is available with passive entry and push button start and yet even an $80,000 Denali trimmed GMC Sierra is not available with the feature.
On the move the Sierra shows composure over larger bumps but small, fast road imperfections can cause for a bit of a jarring ride. There’s also the chunky off-road Goodyear Duratrac tires that can cause excess noises to intrude into the cabin at highway speeds. But for the most part this All-Terrain X edition is a very livable, day to day truck and if you opt for a Sierra without this package, the ride quality is better.
Odds and Ends – Apart from supercars, pickup trucks are next most customizable type of vehicle that one can purchase from a manufacturer. Long bed, short bed, crew cab, double cab, multiple choices for wheels, multiple engine and transmission choices, different interior trims, different electronic features… the list of options that are available on the GMC Sierra 1500 is almost endless. Of course prices also tend to fluctuate depending on what you want. A bone stock GMC Sierra 1500 starts at $30,000 CAD which is a very reasonable price for a full-size pickup truck but start ticking off the options boxes and the price quickly grows. This All-Terrain X edition is priced at just over $60,000 CAD and the top trim Denali edition can cost up to $82,000 CAD.
Thank you to Eagle Ridge GM for providing the vehicle. www.EagleRidgeGM.com
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.