GMC wants to lure shoppers away from Ford and Ram.
It doesn't matter what badge is on the nose - the reveal of an updated full-size pickup in America is always going to be big news. While the GMC Sierra 1500 has always had to play second (or third, or fourth) fiddle to rivals from Ford, Ram, and Chevrolet, the upgraded Sierra 1500 has doubled down on luxury and technology to change this perception. The highly specced Sierra Denali Ultimate has been described by GMC as the most advanced, luxurious pickup in the segment. But the new Sierra will have to excel in areas like practicality, capability, and style as well to have a chance of stealing a place on the podium in this segment. Let's find out if it ticks the right boxes.
Like the latest Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC seems to have started the redesign process with an enormous grille and gradually worked from there. It's undoubtedly aggressive, though, and the snazzy daytime running lights flanking the grille are neatly integrated.
As is often the case, entry-level models look quite different from pricier ones. The new Sierra Denali Ultimate trim stands out with its 22-inch wheels, Vader chrome GMC logo, and standard power-assist steps. Overall, we'd say GMC has done a great job of giving the Sierra the presence it needs to compete with the class leaders.
The previous Sierra 1500 had simply fallen behind with its dreary, cheaply finished cabin. The new model couldn't be further removed. GMC has designed a new cockpit-oriented instrument panel and a more user-friendly center console. SLE trims and above get a new 13.4-inch color touchscreen and a 12.3-inch configurable instrument cluster. With these and the available 15-inch color head-up display fitted, there are over 40 diagonal inches of display real estate.
Models with front bucket seats get a new Electronic Precision Shift controller, and there is a newly available Elevation Premium package with Jet Black leather. The luxurious Denali Ultimate comes with a leather-trimmed instrument panel, a premium microsuede headliner, a 12-speaker Bose sound system, and a power sunroof.
On the tech front, the available trailering-capable Super Cruise system makes towing a lot easier. Super Cruise is standard on the Denali Ultimate and the hands-free system can be used on over 200,000 miles of compatible roads in the US and Canada.
GMC has introduced a new 2.7-liter high-output turbocharged engine to the Sierra 1500 lineup. It produces 310 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque; that torque figure represents an increase of over 20 percent compared with the current engine. With rear-wheel drive, this powerplant can tow up to 9,600 pounds.
The 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel produces 277 hp and 460 lb-ft. Its maximum tow rating is now an impressive 13,200 lbs. The engine lineup is completed by two V8s. The smaller 5.3-liter makes 355 hp and 383 lb-ft, while the 6.2-liter manages 420 hp and 460 lb-ft. Although the Sierra 1500 has good towing numbers, the Ford F-150 remains better with the ability to tow up to 14,000 lbs.
For off-roading, shoppers will want to look at the new Sierra 1500 AT4X. This model comes standard with the 6.2-liter V8 and a 10-speed automatic transmission. It boasts a two-speed transfer case, an off-road-tuned chassis, Multimatic DSSV spool-valve dampers, and Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac mud-terrain tires. It also has the highest ground clearance in the range of 10.9 inches, along with maximum approach/departure angles of 25.5/23 degrees.
The Sierra Pro kicks things off at $32,495 including the destination charge. The price jumps to $43,895 for the SLE, $45,495 for the Elevation, and $50,895 for the SLT. After that, there's quite a big leap to the AT4 which starts at $60,995. The Denali costs $61,295, the new ATX4 is $74,995, and the Denali Ultimate will require you to part with $80,395.
The Denali Ultimate is very expensive considering that the Ford F-150 Limited SuperCrew begins at around $73,000, but GMC clearly thinks there is a market for a luxury pickup like this. You could also get behind the wheel of the maniacal Ram 1500 TRX for less. Despite the addition of a new engine, GMC lacks a hybrid to compete with the F-150 Hybrid. Then again, the difference between the GMC and its Ford/Ram/Chevy rivals comes down to a little more power here, and a bit more towing capacity there.
With a bold new look, a dramatically improved cabin, and some excellent driver-assist tech, the latest Sierra 1500 deserves a place on everyone's shortlist.