2022 GMC Sierra 1500

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2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X First Drive Review: A Cultured Beast

When GMC launched its AT4 trim of the Sierra 1500, it was a welcome addition but didn't take things far enough for those wanting to enjoy the recreational off-road life. For business owners wanting to get around areas like ranches or beat-upon construction sites, it was damn near perfect. But it didn't quite offer enough for those wanting to get properly off-piste. Now, along with a sophisticated facelift and new interior design, GMC has introduced the AT4X. Features include Multimatic DSSV dampers that extend suspension travel, Terrain Mode with one-pedal crawling, and the addition of a front diff-locker to go with the one at the back. It's powered as standard by GM's ruthlessly reliable and powerful 6.2-liter V8, with its power delivered exclusively to a 4WD system by a 10-speed automatic transmission with a transfer case. Inside, GMC has elevated its idea of luxury again with its new Obsidian Rush interior, full-grain and technical grain leather, white piping and red stitching, genuine dark Vanta ash wood trim, and a wealth of technology that we'll cover later on.

In short, the AT4X promises rugged luxury with an upgrade in off-road performance.

Is the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 a good Truck?

  • Exterior Design 8 /10
  • Performance 9 /10
  • Fuel Economy 8 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 8 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 9 /10
  • Reliability 10 /10
  • Safety 8 /10
  • Value For Money 8 /10
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2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Models

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.7L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
2.7L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
2.7L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
5.3L V8 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
3.0L Turbo Inline-6 Diesel
10-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive

See all Trims and Specs

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 1 CarBuzz / Ian Wright

To give the Sierra 1500 AT4X a full workout, GMC invited us on a road trip out into the gorgeous countryside of San Diego County and into our regular off-road stomping ground of the Anza Borrego desert. That gave us a chance to put in decent freeway miles, then wind our way through the hills and valleys before hitting the mixture of packed dirt, soft sand, and rock-strewn terrain that can catch out the unwary in the Anza Borrego state park. We know it can happen as we've been part of the aforementioned unwary before. Packed dirt can quickly turn into soft sand and back again with minimal clues to the naked eye. Whether it looks like it or not, at least a rear-locking diff and healthy ground clearance are a must, along with aggressive all-terrain tires. Our ultimate destination was a a piece of terrain that would test the the grip the factory drivetrain, suspension, and tires have to offer.

Exterior: Sophisticated Facelift

Alongside the fresh grille designs on the off-road-based AT4X and the luxurious Denali models, GMC has kept things bold yet sophisticated without resorting to the aggressive cliche. The Sierra 1500's facelift is a subtle but effective one, particularly the revised dual-projector LED headlamps design with signature split-C daytime running lights. Also added are some slick lighting animations for when the owner approaches or leaves the truck. The AT4X model we're focusing on here keeps the same length and width as the standard 1500 models but features a bumper with tow hooks and gives the AT4X a 25.5-degree approach angle and a 23-degree departure angle, with the front being disappointing compared to the Chevrolet Silverado ZR2's 32.8 degrees. The AT4X has its own wheel and tire combination with 18-inch wheels and 32-inch all-terrain tires. The wheels are damped by Multimatic DSSV spool-valve dampers with springs that increase suspension travel by 50mm and 25mm front and rear, respectively, compared to the AT4's suspension setup.

Total ground clearance for the AT4X is 11.1 inches, and for when that might not be enough, the rocker guards you see in the photos are available as an option. Standard is the six-function MultiPro tailgate, and the CarbonPro carbon fiber composite bed is a worthwhile option if you know the bed will get beaten up.

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 2 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
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Engine/Performance/Towing: A Powerhouse

Powering the AT4X is GM's 6.2-liter V8 engine making 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. That's enough for any off-road situation a GMC customer is likely, or even unlikely, to find themselves in. It also contributes to a 1,420-pound payload and 8,900-pound towing capability. Unique to its class, the Sierra AT4X's drivetrain features front and rear e-locking differentials for when things get slippery under the tires. A 10-speed automatic transmission takes care of daily driving, while a two-speed transfer case with selectable modes is ready for challenging conditions and protected by a steel shield.

The engine's torque comes on tap nice and early, and the ten-speed transmission is smooth enough to hardly notice as it works away modulating the power on the road. Getting into the washes and crevasses of Anza Borrego and digging into the low and high gearing, the throttle becomes sensitive, and we never wanted or needed more power.

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 9 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 10 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
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2022 GMC Sierra 1500 12 CarBuzz / Ian Wright

On-Road Driving Impressions: Easy As Pie

The first section of our road trip took us onto the freeways before heading into the open roads through the countryside to the town of Julian. It should be California state law that if you pass through Julian, then you have to stop for pie at the Julian Pie Company. We ate ours while watching with sympathy as California Highway Patrol pulled over a heavily modified Nissan 370Z. While the cop examined the car before writing a ticket, we mused on how easy the Sierra 1500 is to drive. It does, of course, have typical body-on-frame vehicle traits like the need to continually adjust the wheel slightly to keep it in a straight line and a lot of weight to slow down and stop. Still, the drivetrain is smooth and quiet and the brakes are consistent to modulate. Even with the aggressive Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac Mud-Terrain tires, road noise is eliminated to the point you have to remember to listen for it. Through the twisty roads out of Julian before hitting the desert, the chassis stayed flatter than expected through corners and the steering is as direct and accurate as you can expect from a truck. The way the suspension handles bumps and lumps was a clue to what we were about to discover.

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 13 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 14 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 15 CarBuzz / Ian Wright

Off-Road Driving Impressions: Challenge Accepted

The spot we were headed for is known as Diablo's Drop Off. To get there is an easy-to-moderate trek across a long dirt track and a sandy wash before navigating through some canyons. Engaging the rear diff-lock made short work of the sandy wash before entering the sandstone canyon. Across the dirt track was where we had a revelation about the suspension. It made short work of rough ground, but when a deep channel across the track presented itself, we braced ourselves for a bump that never came. Our conclusion: The AT4X's suspension is beautifully tuned. Instead of a clunk and bounce, the suspension just smoothly took the bump in its stride.

Before long, we reached the sandstone canyon leading to Diablo's Drop Off. Like Chevrolet with the Silverado ZR2, there's no added length to the wheelbase or width to the fenders on the Sierra AT4X, but it's still a big pickup. A few of the trucks took dings from turning through particularly tight and rocky spots, but judicial use of the camera in the front grille got us through safely. The reasonably light steering helped snake through the canyons, and grip was never an issue.

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 16 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
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Finally, it was a stretch of axle-twisting trail before reaching the final obstacle.

After around an hour of enjoying the comfort of the AT4X and the fascinating geology we were traversing, we reached Diablo's Drop Off. The drop is not crazy steep, but it's an axle twister, and the recent rain and people having fun with the obstacle meant the rock sliders we had installed were necessary. It was an excellent spot for GMC to show off the extra suspension travel and how well composed the AT4X is.

We picked our way down with the diffs appropriately locked and felt the suspension twisting but with no jarring bumps. Turning around and forcing our way back up, we still didn't use the full might of the V8's torque despite the truck's weight and the steep incline. The one-pedal setup in Terrain Mode does what it's supposed to but would come into its own on longer and more slippery obstacles where balancing throttle and braking is key. We left Diablo's Drop Off impressed with the suspension setup and the use of a front diff locker. We also left feeling like the AT4X would be an absolute beast over soft, wet ground.

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 21 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 22 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
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Interior: Old School Meets New

While the Denali trim pushes confidently into the luxury market, the AT4X's interior sits on the border of premium and luxury. The full-grain leather seating with technical grain leather accents is reassuringly firm yet comfortable and good looking, and the genuine Vanta ash wood adds to the old-school charm. However, the AT4X's crew cab interior is far from being all old school. It features heated and ventilated 16-way power front seats with an extensive massage function that we particularly enjoyed on our all-day road and dirt track trip. Another part of the Sierra 1500's all-day comfort level is the sheer amount of room around the already generously proportioned seats. In the back of the cab, another three can be seated, and there's long-wheelbase luxury SUV amounts of leg- (43.4 inches), head-, and elbow room to be taken advantage of. Add to that the wealth of storage space, including the deep and wide center storage bin, and the interior is perfect for loading up with people and equipment.

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 26 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 27 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
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Infotainment And Technology: A Lot Of Screen Space

Every SLE and above trim 2022 Sierra 1500 comes with a customizable 13.4-inch-diagonal horizontal touchscreen and a 12.3-inch-diagonal digital, configurable instrument cluster. The screens are sharp and responsive, and the software includes Google built-in compatibility (standard on all trims except Pro), with the AT4, and Denali trims coming with three years of service included. That means Google Maps and Google Play are all at your fingertips, but it also includes Google Assistant to help keep your fingers around the steering wheel. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, while Amazon Alexa is available. Also available is a multicolor 15-inch-diagonal Head-Up Display. For sound, a 12-speaker Bose Premium Series with Centerpoint surround sound is standard on the AT4X.

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 30 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
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Verdict: Serious About A Premium Off-Road Experience

We came away impressed by the Sierra 1500 AT4X's balance between being a serious utility truck, a luxury cruiser, and a robust off-roader. In the GM pickup truck big picture, it slots in neatly above the more hardcore Silverado as the premium choice that will get you where you want to go in supreme comfort. The drivetrain and suspension are top-notch, but where it's clearly weaker than the Silverado ZR2 is in its approach and departure angles. Where it's stronger and where a large chunk of your money is going to is into the ride and cabin quality, which GMC is close to executing flawlessly for its demographic; that demographic, of course, being people that can happily drop $75,700 plus a $1,695 delivery charge on a new pickup and want extra style and luxury to go with their off-road truck needs.

If that's you and the ZR2 level of approach angle isn't a dealbreaker, then we see no reason not to recommend the Sierra AT4X. There's not much that's going to stop it from getting where it needs to go, and it's supremely comfortable. Not just comfortable for an off-roader, it's comfortable compared to any truck on the market.

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 34 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
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2022 GMC Sierra 1500 39 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 40 CarBuzz / Ian Wright
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