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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — It’s a beautiful day for California Dreamin’. Out my driver’s-side window sunlight dances on the Pacific Ocean and to the east are the undulating foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Pressing a button on the steering wheel of my pickup truck, I scan through a mix of my six favorite CDs and sit back to relax as pleasant sounds coming from six speakers fill the air of my well-appointed cabin.
Suddenly, it begins to rain and around a bend, there is a detour. Smooth pavement turns to rugged-surfaced dirt as a result of road repair. I smile in confidence, however, knowing that I don’t need to lift a finger because I have an all-wheel-drive system that is electronically navigating the road beneath me. Finding my way back to the main road, I notice that the driver information center on the front console is telling me that I need to get gas within the next 50 miles. Not to worry: I press another button on the dashboard and ask a friendly operator where I might find the closest service station, and a good Italian restaurant.
Space-age off-roading? Pickup trucks of the future? Not quite: this is the new standard for full-size personal trucks, according to GMC, and its new-generation 2001 Sierra C-series, due out late fall, is packed with an arsenal of standard features that prove the pickup has finally caught up with the Information Age. What’s best is that, amid all this finery, there is still a rugged pickup with enhanced on-road performance and control, plenty of power and towing capabilities, all packaged in a basic extended-cab, half-ton size.
GMC boasts its new series has “Performance Biased Driveline,” an integrated powertrain and chassis component system that is designed to enhance vehicle performance and control. A Vortec 6000 engine, familiar to drivers of the GMC Yukon SUV series, is standard fare, providing 325 horsepower and 370 lb-ft of torque within a 1600- to 5200-rpm range. A 4L60-E electronically-controlled four speed automatic transmission delivers crisp launches and smooth acceleration on the highway, and an increased-capacity suspension system controls roll damping while cornering with a heavy load.