The GMC Sierra 1500 had a full refresh last year but for 2020, it is available with an all-new Duramax turbo-diesel engine.
Engine – It’s rare to see a diesel engine in a light-duty pickup truck but Ford, Ram, and now GM have begun stuffing them inside their 1500 series trucks. The Duramax turbo-diesel in this 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 is a 3.0L inline 6-cylinder that produces 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. Being an inline-6, the engine itself is smoother than its V6 or V8 counterparts. Peak torque is reached at a very low 1,500 rpm and as a result, the Sierra 1500 feels pretty brisk off the line. Furthermore, overtaking another vehicle on a highway at speed hardly requires any effort due to the bottom-end torque; at least when the truck is unloaded.
Being a diesel engine, fuel economy is better than its gasoline counterparts. It is rated for 10.5 L/100km in a city and 9.1 L/100km on a highway. In the real world, I can say that it is easy to reach those ratings. During my time with the truck I averaged a combined rating of 9.6 L/100km with a mix of city & highway driving.
Transmission – All Duramax 3.0L engines are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. This is the same 10-speed automatic that GM co-developed with Ford. But while they both developed the hardware, the software is GM’s own and that makes a big difference. In normal driving situations, it’s extremely hard to perceive shifts as they are very smooth and quick. Realistically you can only tell that the transmission changed gears by hearing the rpms drop. If you put the Sierra in Tow/Haul mode, the CPU holds each gear for a longer period of time and engages the exhaust brake when slowing down.
Braking – Although the brakes may look small behind the optional 20” wheels, they in fact provide a lot of stopping force. The new generation 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 comes standard with 4-piston fixed calipers (like you would get on a sports car) and they provide a firm & strong brake pedal feel. When unloaded, it doesn’t take much brake pedal force to bring the Sierra 1500 to a stop from a substantial speed. Unfortunately emergency automatic braking is not standard and is only available on the higher SLT trim with the Driver Alert Package 2.
Handling – The new generation Sierra is about 160 kg (360 lbs) lighter than the older model thanks to a redesigned frame, which is also stronger, and use of aluminum in the doors and bed. Paired with the new 10-speed automatic, the Sierra 1500 feels more agile than its predecessor. By no means is this a “sports truck” but it is more responsive when taking off from a stop or going around a corner.
If you find yourself off the beaten path, the Sierra can tackle some light off-roading. It comes equipped with street tires rather than off-road tires and this particular truck did not have the X31 off-road package with a 2-speed transfer case. But even so, a few small dunes and sand did not stop the Sierra. For more serious off-roading, consider the AT4 trim as it comes equipped with more off-road ready equipment.
Capability – As this particular truck is equipped, it can tow 9,000 lbs and has a max payload of just over 1,600 lbs. There is a sticker on the driver’s side door jamb that tells the driver exactly what tow, payload, GVWR, etc, ratings are for each specific truck. Of course those numbers will vary depending on cab & bed sizes, 2WD or 4WD, equipment and so on. So having that sticker and knowing exactly what your specific truck is capable of is a huge benefit when trailering or loading up the bed.
As for the bed itself, it is deeper and wider than the previous generation Sierra 1500. It has 12 fixed tie down points (3 in each corner) and each corner can handle up to 500 lbs of weight tied to it. LED bed lighting is provided next to the tailgate and an optional 120-Volt power outlet is available.
Ride Comfort – For the most part the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Elevation is a comfortable truck… for being a truck. Pickup truck suspension is generally set up to handle payload and towing weights which can make the ride feel stiff when it’s unloaded. But while this particular Sierra doesn’t have air suspension like the Ram 1500 or adaptive suspension like it’s Denali 1500 brother, it still manages to provide a relatively smooth and comfortable ride. It’s only when you encounter a very rough road that the ride becomes choppy and bouncy at times.
Interior Space – This crew cab GMC Sierra is larger than before with most of the extra space going to the rear occupants. 3-inches of extra legroom was added to the rear seats which makes for a lot of space in the rear seats, even for someone as tall as myself at 6’4”. Those rear seats can also fold up to allow for tall item storage and there are little “hidden” cubbies in the outboard seat backs. Front occupants also have a lot of space with plenty of adjustability in the seats and steering wheel. There are also plenty of places in the cabin for you to lose items… I mean store items. There are 2 glove boxes, the center console is massive, there are deep door pockets, and a large tray-like spot just in front of the center console.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 manages to keep the cabin fairly quiet until you mash on the throttle pedal. Under normal driving situations, the cabin is well insulated thanks to a lot of engine bay sound insulation as well as insulation in the wheel wells. But once you do depress the throttle pedal a bit more, for example when accelerating from a stop, the traditional diesel rumble can be very prominently heard in the cab. Wind and road noise on highways is well muted.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – Trucks have become more and more feature rich as more customers ask for convenience features that are found in more traditional cars and SUVs. As a result, pickup trucks have become more customizable than 6 or 7 figure supercars. This particular truck is a mid-level trim. It has heated seats and steering wheel, blind spot sensors, spray-on bedliner, automatic locking rear differential, LED headlights, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto connectivity, 4G LTE w/ WiFi (works great by the way), automatic climate control, and parking sensors. But of course it can be loaded up with many more features and it’ll eventually reach the Denali trim at over $80,000 CAD ($67,000 USD). This particular truck comes in at around $65,000 CAD ($56,000 USD) which is still a lot of money but trucks have slowly been getting more and more expensive over the decades. However, if you choose your timing carefully, you can get $10,000+ in discounts as the big 3 American companies always offer deals on their vehicles throughout the year.
Interior Design – Since the new generation GMC Sierra was revealed, many have criticized it for having a bland interior; especially when compared to the Ram 1500 with its tablet style touchscreen. I personally agree with most critics on the styling of the Sierra’s interior but I do understand why the engineers made it like this. Because of the buttons and knobs, it is very easy to change a setting without having to dig through a touchscreen menu. But I still believe the actual design looks dated even though it’s brand new.
Exterior Design – The exterior looks more fresh than the interior. LED headlights are standard across the Sierra lineup along with LED daytime running lights. This Elevation trims adds a black grille instead of chrome along with body coloured front & rear bumpers. The rear bumper retains the corner steps which are now bigger to accommodate large steel toe boots. Overall exterior dimensions have increased in width, height, and length and somewhat makes the new Sierra 1500 look more like a 2500 or 3500 truck.
At $65,000 CAD ($56,000 USD), it is a lot of money but like I said earlier, time your purchase or lease correctly and you could save thousands. This new 3.0L Duramax engine is a great alternative to the traditional V8 because it offers V8-like power but with V6-like fuel economy. I would definitely recommend the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 with the turbo-diesel engine for those than plan on using the truck for what it was intended to do; carry and haul stuff. But if you’re the type that only uses the “truck function” of it once in a blue moon and just uses it as an SUV the rest of the time, then the Ram 1500 is a better bet with its nicer interior and air suspension for daily commuting.
Thank you to GMC Canada for providing the vehicle. www.GMCCanada.ca