New & Used GMC Sierra 1500: In Depth
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The GMC Sierra 1500 is the full-size pickup truck in the brand’s lineup. Although the 1500 is closely related to the Chevrolet Silverado, the Sierra stands out with its unique features, design, and pricing. It shares it underpinnings with other GM truck-based SUVs, like the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Suburban, and the GMC Yukon.
See our 2014 GMC Sierra review for pricing with options, specifications, and gas mileage ratings.
The Sierra shares almost everything with the Silverado, save for its looks. They have common powertrains and body styles, but with the Sierra, GMC gets its own styling, new trim levels like Denali, and some unique technology, like an advanced all-wheel-drive system.
The Sierra/Silverado finds strong competition in the Ram 1500, the Ford F-150, the Toyota Tundra and the Nissan Titan.The Sierra nameplate first was used in 1999, when General Motors switched the old C/K pickup trucks to a new architecture and a new body style. With slightly rounded sheetmetal, the Sierra presented truck buyers with an alternative to the wildly successful Ford F-150, which had adopted aerodynamic styling in 1997. The Sierra's interior didn't change as much, though, and while it was spacious, it seemed lower-grade than the concurrent Ford interior. With extended-cab and crew-cab versions, short- and long-bed editions, and a choice of V-6 and V-8 powertrains that mated with manual and automatic transmissions, the rear- or four-wheel-drive Sierra offered something for nearly every truck shopper. The luxury Denali edition arrived in 2002, and four-wheel steering became a short-lived option; in 2003, the Sierra got a mild restyling; and in 2005 a mild hybrid edition arrived, with the ability to recapture some energy and charge batteries that powered drivetrain and onboard accessories.
For the 2007 model year, GM began the roll-out of its "GMT900" trucks and SUVs--fully redesigned models with new body styles, new powertrains and new technology. The Sierra 1500 emerged from this renovation with a conservative but tasteful exterior, and a very attractive, very high-quality interior to match its improved drivetrains. Engines ranged from a 4.3-liter V-6 with 195 hp to a 6.2-liter V-8 with 403 hp -- the latter, essentially derived from the Corvette's V-8. Four- and six-speed automatics helped fuel economy rise a bit on most versions, but the real boost came with the introduction of the 2009 Sierra Hybrid, which teamed a V-8 with batteries and motors and a unique two-mode transmission for fuel economy of 21/22 mpg. Safety ratings for the new truck rose dramatically, too, with all versions earning five-star ratings from the NHTSA.
Since 2010, the GMC Sierra has seen only minor changes--with new Powertrain Grade Braking for 2013 (in six-speed-automatic models) one of the most significant improvements--but it's still remained a competitive choice. Among the current crop of full-size trucks, the Ram 1500 (which has been significantly refreshed for 2013) remains our top pick for its refined ride and cabin, or the Ford F-150 for its EcoBoost turbo models and its infotainment systems. The 2013 GMC Sierra rides well and offers the impressive Hybrid edition, though, and shouldn't be dropped from any list.
The 2014 GMC Sierra is due mid-year and was previewed just before this year's Detroit Auto Show. These trucks aren't quite all-new, but they step up with a new generation of EcoTec3 V-6 and V-8 engines (with direct injection, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation), plus upgraded cabins, chunkier styling, and a host of new infotainment and active-safety features. With the Ram 1500 still boasting 25 mpg on the highway, we're still waiting to see how these latest trucks fit into the tight pricing, fuel-economy, and tow-ratings alignment for full-size trucks.