2010 GMC Sierra 1500 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
December 13, 2009

The 2010 GMC Sierra covers all the bases, even the green ones.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven both the GMC Sierra 1500 and the Sierra Hybrid, and have written this road test summary from firsthand driving impressions. Editors have compared the Sierra with other full-size trucks, and have compiled a companion full review from other Web reviews and opinions, to give you a comprehensive look at the latest GMC full-size pickup.

The GMC Sierra 1500 was completely redesigned in 2007, alongside the nearly identical Chevrolet Silverado, and because of its conservative but tasteful style, it still looks fresh today. It's a little plain, though-more assertive than the Chevy truck but not as arrogantly square as the Ford F-150, nor as butch and bold as the Dodge Ram. The Sierra's wide, tall grille is its hallmark, with big GMC lettering inside; the boxy flares around its fenders are subtle reminders that this is the same brand that sells the extreme-looking 2010 Terrain crossover. Inside the Sierra's cabin, some models have a simple, upright design with larger controls and door handles-better suited for work duty-while pricey versions have an interior that would fit in a luxury sedan. The upgraded instrument panel has a smoother, lower design, as well as surfaces and materials that come together nicely. The 2010 GMC Sierra Hybrid is more of the same; unless it's fitted with the optional hybrid decal package and the hybrid LCD readouts, observers will likely not notice it as different from a standard Sierra pickup. The 2010 model year brings only minor changes to the Sierra, including revised interior door panels.

With such a broad range of refined and responsive powertrains, there's an engine choice for any buyer. The lineup starts with the base 195-horsepower, 4.3-liter V-6 installed in workhorse models. A flexible-fuel, 302-hp 4.8-liter V-8 is the first optional engine. There's also a flex-fuel 5.3-liter V-8 with 315 hp and cylinder deactivation for improved fuel economy, which is standard in XFE models and available in other versions. The most expensive Sierra pickups get a 6.2-liter, 403-hp, flex-fuel V-8 that also shows up in the swank Cadillac Escalade. The 5.3-liter is TheCarConnection.com editors' pick, as it has plenty of power for most needs without much lower fuel economy than the base V-6. The base V-6 and base V-8 are teamed with a four-speed automatic; all other versions have a six-speed automatic that shifts very smoothly, helps achieve better fuel economy, and cuts down on noise. The Sierra gets up to 15/22 mpg in the XFE edition, falling to only 12/19 mpg in loaded versions.

The Sierra's powertrains perform well, but the truck shines in combining competitive towing and hauling numbers with uncharacteristically sharp steering and handling. The Sierra is one of the easiest full-size pickups to drive, with more communicative steering than other full-size pickups. The lineup also is offered with either rear- or four-wheel drive-a single-range transfer case is standard this year, while dual-range 4WD is an option-or with electronically controlled four-wheel drive on the most expensive versions. While it handles crisply, the Sierra also can tow 10,700 pounds when equipped with an optional package. That's only 600 pounds short of the class leader, the rugged Ford F-150.

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All the performance characteristics change in the GMC Sierra Hybrid except handling. The Hybrid's powertrain combines an aluminum 6.0-liter V-8 with variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation, to which GM adds an electrically variable transmission (EVT) with two electric motor/generators, four fixed-ratio gears, and a 300-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. The complex package creates 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque, which ends up feeling a lot like the Sierra's stock 5.3-liter V-8 engine, except for an eerily smooth and quiet acceleration on battery power alone, up to about 25 mph. The Sierra Hybrid's powerful brakes also recharge its batteries, and though it's a few hundred pounds heavier than the V-8 truck, the Sierra Hybrid can tow up to 6,100 pounds in rear-drive form-and can go lean on fuel for an EPA-rated 21/22 mpg (20/20 mpg with 4WD).

Gas-only and Hybrid Sierra trucks share some common ground in room and cargo space. In either, there's plenty of space and wide, flat seats across the front. Sierras come as five-seaters or as six-seaters, depending on cab configuration and whether a front bench seat is specified. The bench's dash is a workmanlike piece that sits high, leaving a middle passenger some decent legroom. With the bucket seats comes a center console with an agreeably styled dash, big gauges, and big controls that still can be operated when wearing gloves. Buyers can choose a regular cab with almost no room behind the front seats; an Extended Cab with space for tools and gear; or a Crew Cab for three-across adult seating. The stadium-style rear seat on Crew Cabs has a 60/40-split design and can be folded up for more cargo space, but it sits more vertically than in other full-size trucks. For extra versatility, either section of the split seat can be stowed independently, allowing room for both cargo and a rear-seat passenger, and the rear access doors on extended-cab models open 170 degrees. Hybrid Sierras come only in the Crew Cab body style, and the space under the rear seat is occupied by the battery pack. The Sierra 1500 / Hybrid range has three bed lengths, depending on the model. Crew Cabs and Hybrids have a 5'8" bed; all versions except the Hybrid can have a 6'6" bed; and all versions except the Hybrid can be fitted with a long 8' bed.

The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 and Sierra Hybrid score well in crash tests. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) awards it five stars for front-impact protection, but it has not performed side-impact crash tests. The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) puts front-impact performance at "good" and side-impact protection at "acceptable," an improvement over 2009, thanks to newly standard side and curtain airbags. Other standard equipment includes anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, OnStar, and tire pressure monitors. A rearview camera is available, as are power-adjustable pedals.

The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 comes in a plain work edition that carries a base price of $21,000, along with an AM/FM radio (and a radio-delete option); vinyl seats; roll-up windows; and manual door locks. Luxury-truck fans can turn the Sierra into a $50,000 temple of torque with the big V-8 engine and features like Bluetooth; XM real-time traffic; DVD navigation; leather seating; power glass overhead and behind the head (the rear pickup window); and bling like big 22-inch wheels, special grilles, body-color trim, and bedliners. There's an All-Terrain off-road package as well, with all sorts of tow hooks, skid plates, other protection, and rescue fittings. The Sierra Hybrid is pricey at $39,000 base-it would be refreshing to see a Hybrid work truck below $30,000, but don't count on it-and can pass $50,000 as well when the upscale version is selected. It comes with Bluetooth, DVD navigation, and a high-end audio system with XM NavTraffic. USB connectivity has been added to most Sierra audio systems for 2010.

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