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2019 GMC Sierra 1500 First Look Review: Luxury Workhorse

First Look / Comments

GMC has fitted its new Sierra 1500 with a trick rear tailgate and carbon-fiber reinforced bed.

General Motors is what you might call a "fast follower." As Ford and Ram have rolled out innovations on their light duty, full-size pickups in the past, GM has been content with hanging back, refining those innovations, and fitting them to its next-generation pickups. At least, that's what it has done until now. With the new 2019 GMC Sierra 1500, GM looks to take the lead with a new MultiPro tailgate that offers six different positions and a CarbonPro bed, the first time such a bed has been fitted to a pickup.

For 2019, the Sierra 1500 joins its 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 sibling in getting a ground-up redesign. However, while the Silverado continues with a tried and true formula, the Sierra is given every trinket and toy General Motors had in its arsenal. The GMC also gets refined, evolutionary sheet metal, which isn't a bad choice considering the current Sierra is the best-looking truck on the market in this author's eyes. Under the Sierra's new, strongly sculpted hood sits your choice of three engines: the same 5.3- and 6.2-liter V-8 engines continue, now with start/stop and Dynamic Fuel Management, while a brand-new 3.0-liter inline-6 turbodiesel joins the lineup to give Sierra some efficient-minded torque.

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(Up to now, a gasoline-powered six-cylinder engine has not been confirmed by General Motors for either the Sierra or Silverado.) Dynamic Fuel Management is Sierra's big gasoline-engine breakthrough for 2019. In the past, V-8 engines in the Sierra have been able to shut off cylinders to run in a four-cylinder mode. The new system allows the engine to effectively run on just one cylinder, further boosting fuel economy in the process. Meanwhile, the diesel will likely be the efficiency king of all the engines available, though GM has not yet provided fuel economy estimates or output numbers for any of the new and refined engines.

Both the larger 6.2-liter V-8 and 3.0-liter inline-6 turbodiesel are mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission developed in conjunction with Ford. It's the exact same automatic that does duty in the Ford F-150 and Mustang, Chevy Camaro, and Cadillac Escalade. To date, GMC has only given details on Sierra's SLT and Denali trim lines, including a new AT4 off-road package that can be fitted to those trims. Both the SLT and Denali come standard with GMC's new MultiPro tailgate. It can be used as a normal tailgate, but also as tall desk for a laptop while out in the field, a step, a load-stop in two heights for longer cargo, and a notch-out gate so you can get closer to cargo deeper in the bed.

The bed itself is made of traditional stamped steel unless you opt for the Sierra Denali. With Sierra's top-level trim, the traditional box can be swapped out for GMC's new CarbonPro bed. Don't let the name fool you, however, as this is mainly a composite (read: plastic) bed with carbon fiber in unweaved form used as a reinforcing material. It's not one large piece, but rather four composite pieces-bottom, sides, and back-stuck together with a structural adhesive. Still, it lightens the bed while introducing strength and durability to the Sierra's back half. It also means you won't need to buy a drop-in or spray-in bedliner for the Sierra Denali if you opt for CarbonPro, though it's likely to be a pricey option. (GMC has not yet revealed pricing details for CarbonPro.)

Another feature only found on Sierra Denali is GM's Adaptive Ride Control suspension system, which adjusts damping rates to better smooth out less than stellar pavement-a feature it needs as there's very little sidewall offered by the tires wrapped around its optional 22-inch wheels. GMC's new AT4 subbrand brings some off-road kit to the party, available on SLT and Denali grades. AT4 begins with a 2-inch factory suspension lift to give Sierra more ground clearance and wheel articulation, thanks to Rancho off-road shocks. 4WD with a two-speed transfer case, locking rear differential, skid plates, and Goodyear Wrangler A/T tires round out the off-road-ready hard parts.

AT4 also gets a distinct look versus standard SLT and Denali grades, starting with exclusive 18-inch wheels with a machined face and dark-tinted appearance, black chrome up front to replace the traditional chrome of SLT and Denali models, and red vertical recovery hooks within the front bumper. Beyond looks and hard parts, AT4 also includes GMC's Traction Select System and Hill Descent Control to keep everything on path and out of the trees. Regardless of trim, Sierra (and Silverado) employ a significant amount of aluminum to drop its curb weight, but unlike the F-150, GMC only uses the metal for the Sierra's doors, hood, and tailgate. Everything else is made of steel.

Other features of note, such as the ProGrade Trailering System, a multi-color 3x7 head-up display, rear camera mirror, and surround vision are either available or standard equipment on SLT and Denali grade Sierras. The 2019 Sierra 1500 is expected to arrive in base, SLE, SLT, and Denali grades along with the newly available AT4 package this fall. Features for base and SLE grades, fuel economy figures, and pricing for all models have not yet been announced.