2015 GMC Sierra 1500 Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 26, 2015

The 2015 GMC Sierra is a great pickup that offers simple and powerful engines, easy-to-use infotainment, and inoffensive styling inside and out.

The recently overhauled 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 delivers some of the best hauling and towing numbers of any light-duty full-size truck while returning better fuel economy and performance. And it boasts enough ports and connections to turn almost any Sierra into a mobile workplace.

For 2014, both the Sierra and its sibling Chevy Silverado received new powertrains, nicer cabins, weightier styling, and a raft of new infotainment and safety features. As a result, they land much closer in our overall ratings to those current benchmarks from Ram and Ford.

The latest Sierra's look is muscular and refined, without straying too much from previous GMC truck design. The 1500 takes cues from the heavy-duty model, including a hood that sits just as high, and a blunt front end with plenty of chrome. The interior features a well laid-out upright dashboard, with easy-to-use controls that can be manipulated even by a gloved hand. Materials are as nice as any in the truck market, with soft-touch plastics used at almost all touchpoints. GMC's signature red lighting is used on the clear gauges as well as for ambient lighting on models so equipped. 

Review continues below

Power comes from GM's latest menu of improved truck engines. All employ cylinder deactivation, direct fuel injection, and continuously variable valve timing. The base 4.3-liter V-6 is worth a look for all but serious and frequent haulers. The step up is a 5.3-liter V-8 making 355 horsepower, which can handle almost any towing task up to 11,000 pounds. A 6.2-liter V-8 producing 420 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque is also available, sacrificing a little bit of fuel economy for all-out towing and hauling capability.

All three engines can be teamed with either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, and a six-speed automatic transmission (with a ‘cruise grade braking’ feature to reduce brake wear) is offered with the 4.3-liter V-6 and 5.3-liter V-8. New for 2015, GMC is adding an eight-speed automatic, paired exclusively with the 6.2-liter V-8. It improves fuel economy slightly while also making it easier to tow and haul large loads, making the powertrain more flexible.

All models get electric power steering, and four-wheel disc brakes with special long-life brake rotors are standard across the model line. The Sierra's ride quality is a bit better than before; it's the steering that gets our attention, though, with its quick reflexes and just-right weight.

Sierra Crew Cab models are offered with two different bed lengths—5’8” or 6’6”—while regular-cab models are offered in 6’6” or 8’ lengths and the Double Cab extended-cab versions all include the middle size. Crew Cab models get longer doors as well, with the B-pillars moved forward, resulting in easier entry and exit, and extended-cab versions get front-hinged rear doors—nearly rivaling the outgoing Crew Cab models in convenience. We prefer the Sierra's cloth seats to the leather ones with ventilated, for better comfort, but we know we're running against the luxury grain there. In the bed, the Sierra steps up with an integrated bumper step, LED bed lighting, and a damped tailgate that lowers as smoothly as the glovebox on a Lexus LS.

Safety features were also upgraded for 2014, with a suite of new optional active-safety aids. Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning—both camera-based—can help you stay aware of hazards, and the optional Driver Alert Seat can vibrate with pulses on either side to alert the driver quickly to issues. Trailer Sway Control and Hill Start Assist are included as part of the standard StabiliTrak stability control system.

All Sierras get air conditioning, keyless entry, and an AM/FM radio with a 4.2-inch color display. GMC’s IntelliLink connectivity system is optional on the Sierra; it combines full voice-command Bluetooth connectivity with Bluetooth audio streaming, a Pandora app, and available navigation, with an eight-inch reconfigurable touch screen. A 110-volt AC outlet is also on offer, and some models include up to four 12-volt outlets and five USB ports, as well as an SD card slot. Blu-Ray DVD players and different seating configurations are available.

The latest Sierra also offers some high-content top models for those looking for a truck packed with options and style. Sierra All-Terrain gets the optional Z71 off-road suspension, monotube Rancho shocks, recovery hooks, a transfer-case shield, hill descent control, an auto-locking rear differential, and special wheels and tires. The Sierra Denali adds its own styling details and plush features like Bose audio and ventilated front seats, plus a standard V-8 engine. It also gets Magnetic Ride Control suspension for this year.

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2015 GMC Sierra 1500

Styling

Refined inside but blocky outside, the GMC Sierra looks more assertive, in a HUMMER-like way.

The GMC Sierra 1500 received a ground-up restyle for 2014, which carries over to the 2015 model year.

The Sierra's styling will be familiar to prior GMC buyers, but now carries a modern flair as well as a muscular look, thanks to its blunt front-end treatment and squared-off, chunky fenders. In most trim levels, we prefer the Sierra's updated styling to the Chevy Silverado's, but that is of course a personal preference, and the decision between the two likely comes down more to content packaging than looks. The Sierra uses LED lighting and projector headlamps to differentiate itself from its Chevrolet sibling on the outside. Either way, it's good if you like your trucks big, because both the GMC and Chevy look like their 2500 and 3500 counterparts, thanks to stylized hoods that sit as high as those on the heavy-duty models.

Inside, the dash is very upright, with a simple but bold design, and the bottom edges of the windows are several inches lower than the dash top. Controls are arranged in several key areas, just to the left of the steering wheel or in a large center-stack area (with a wide center console just aft), and all the controls and displays are large and straightforward, with cool blue primary lighting, red arms on the dials, and red backlighting. GMC's IntelliLink infotainment system makes a colorful splash on the big LCD screen found on most models, and the rich-hued trims in the cabin are soft-touch in many places, unlike the Chevy.

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2015 GMC Sierra 1500

Performance

Responsive steering and great powertrains make up for the Sierra's slightly rougher ride.

Most GMC Sierra shoppers likely will gravitate toward one of the two V-8s for stronger performance and better towing, but the completely reworked V-6 deserves more attention than ever. It's no longer a penalty piece for utility trucks and fleets: The V-6 is an honest alternative to a V-8 for drivers that are honest about how often they tow and haul.

Today's full-size trucks deliver the kinds of payload, acceleration, and towing that heavy-duty trucks did just a couple of decades ago. Recalibrating the powertrain needs of truck drivers was inevitable, and that was part of the 2014 Sierra refresh. The latest powertrain lineup has dropped some of the former stragglers, leaving behind a trio of engines that cover everyone's needs.

Powertrains

The Sierra's base engine is a 4.3-liter V-6, but it shouldn't be confused with previous GM truck engines of the same displacement. This one is a credible option for a light-duty truck that will only occasionally tow more than a few thousand pounds. It's quiet, responsive, and relatively smooth for a V-6—it even sounds pretty good, although it doesn't quite match the burble of a V-8. The latest 4.3-liter produces 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque, which which should make it good for a 0–60-mph time of 8.0 to 8.5 seconds. It's efficient--direct fuel injection and cylinder deactivation are included--returning up to 24 mpg on the highway. The V-6 Sierra is rated to tow up to 7,600 pounds.

If you really do tow 5,000 pounds or more on a regular basis, and don't mind slightly lower fuel economy and a minimal $895 option price, GM's 5.3-liter V-8 is the next step on the Sierra ladder. It's a muscular powerplant, good for 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. In the optimum configuration, this engine can tow up to 11,000 pounds, and best-case scenario, that rippling exhaust note is backed by a 23-mpg EPA highway rating, thanks again to cylinder deactivation, direct injection, and continuously variable valve timing.

Both the V-6 and 5.3-liter V-8 are paired with a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. GM has a history of producing solid truck transmissions, and this one is no different; gear changes are often imperceptible, and there's no loss in refinement when towing or hauling a large load.

For those looking for maximum performance, a 6.2-liter V-8 is available on the SLT and Denali models. The biggest engine produces 420 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. The increased output allows it to tow an extra 500 pounds compared to the 5.3, for a class-leading 12,000-pound tow capacity, according to GMC.

For 2015, GMC is pairing a new eight-speed automatic with the engine, which should improve powertrain flexibility while also increasing fuel economy. EPA mileage estimates are not yet available for this engine-transmission combination. We expect similar performance and refinement from the new eight-speed.

All three engines have a choice of rear-wheel drive or shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive. All transmissions have a tow/haul mode and tap-shift controls on the shift lever for direct control, helpful when pulling a trailer and modulating power more directly to merge into traffic or to steam up grades.

Ride and handling

All Sierras carry over a reworked version of the previous truck's strut front and leaf-spring rear suspension. The 2014 truck brought a new steering rack with electric assist, and specially designed brakes with long-life rotors were new for last year as well.

The suspension and steering improve responsiveness compared to the last-generation truck while also netting minor improvements in ride quality. The Sierra is not quite as smooth and composed as a Ram equipped with air suspension, but its more progressive springs front and back have become a little more absorbent, over what already was a fairly good ride. For 2015, GM's Magnetic Ride Control becomes available on the Denali edition.

It's the steering that makes the biggest difference: it's quick and pretty crisp, as true to scale as the Ram's, not as overtly hefty and numb as the F-150's. Electric steering enables more features that give the Sierra a stable, planted feel even with a few thousand extra pounds depending on it.

We spent an afternoon learning some finer points of trailering with the 2014 Sierra, experimenting with Tow/Haul and tap-shifts, and engaging trailer-sway mode. We also fine-tuned the trailer-brake controller fitted on our test vehicle to accommodate a 4,500-pound Airstream and took to a short slalom and cornering course before hitting California's Highway 101. The Sierra took it all in stride, composed from highway entry to exit. The biggest issue we faced, other than narrowed lanes in construction zones, was a state trailer speed limit of 55 mph--it felt stable at least 10 mph beyond that.

Those looking for more off-road capability can choose the Sierra All-Terrain, which includes the Z71 off-road suspension with monotube Rancho shocks, tow hooks, a transfer-case skid plate, hill-descent control, an auto-locking rear differential, and special wheels and tires. The package is also offered on Denali models, perhaps for the tuxedo-wearing cowboy.

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2015 GMC Sierra 1500

Comfort & Quality

The Sierra's gotten better in almost every dimension, from its bed to its cab, though the rear seats still sit bolt upright.

The 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 offers a host of cab, bed, and interior options that should satisfy just about any individual's light-duty truck needs. Choosing what's right for you is the hard part.

Regular Cab trucks offer two front-hinged doors and beds either 6'6" or 8' long. Double Cabs all get the 6'6" bed, and in this generation feature front-hinged doors—they no longer require the adjacent front door to be opened in order to gain access to the space behind the front seats. Crew Cabs come with four full-size, front-hinged doors and a choice of either the 5’8” or 6’6” beds. (Previous generations confined Crew Cabs to the shorter, 5'8" bed.)

In terms of access, the longer doors on the Crew Cab make it easy to clamber into the back seats, especially since the Sierra's B-pillars have been moved forward. But since the Double Cab gets front-hinged rear doors, it's almost as capable and accessible.

Bed time

Outside of the cabin, the Sierra adopts some extra features to make hauling and carrying more convenient. There's a new "CornerStep" built into the rear bumper of all trucks, and four cargo tiedowns that can fasten up to 500 pounds between them are included with each Sierra. There's an LED light mounted on the cab that points down into the bed, which itself has LED lighting tucked under its rim for better visibility.

Inside the bed, the Sierra has at least four feet of space between the wheel wells, and five feet between the bed walls. Notches are stamped into the bed for stacking the bed or otherwise fully loading it. A factory-installed, spray-in bedliner is available. Of all the new touches, our favorite is the damped tailgate: open or raise it, and the light touch is a welcome respite from the usual slam that greets truck owners.

Seats and storage

We've spent time in both five- and six-passenger Sierras, with bench and bucket seats, cloth and leather, and come away impressed with the much-elevated sense of quality. Soft-touch materials look more expensive and lay next to each other neatly--the aluminum trim on some Sierras is very well executed--and the added gauges in the Sierra give it a more technical flourish than the more basic Silverado's dash.

Finding a comfortable driving position is easy. A tilt-and-telescope steering column is available as a replacement for the tilt-only unit, with each adjustment operated by a separate lever. Power-adjustable pedals are available as well. The Sierra's smaller side-view mirrors can be replaced with the available towing mirrors, but otherwise, outward visibility is good. The gauges and displays are clear, and controls and knobs are large and easy to grab for quick adjustments to fan speed and audio volume; adjustments don't require the concentration or distraction that some competitors' more finicky controls do.

The Sierra's base cloth seats offer better support and comfort, we think, than the optional leather ones. The cloth is stain-resistant and woven for long life, and looks fine. It can even be equipped with optional seat heating. In our experience, the cloth seatbacks have better support across the seatback and a more comfortable bottom cushion, and it's possible ventilated seats are the reason. The leather seats come standard with heating, and ventilation is an option--as we've found on many other vehicles, the packaging for vents flattens out the cushions, making them less supportive. On the Sierra, you'll tilt the seats forward to strike a balance between proper support and contact with the headrests.

In-cabin storage is excellent. On Sierras with bench seats, there's some storage embedded in the middle seat section, along with a trio of cupholders. Five-seat Sierras have a wide center console with cupholders, a deep rectangular storage bin, a pair of smartphone ridges, and, depending on trim level, up to five USB ports and both 12- and 110-volt power points so you can recharge or power almost anything--GoPros, camera batteries, even laptops. There's a dual glovebox, and enough molded-in bottle holders to stash enough water for a desert crossing.

Crew Cab models have great rear-seat leg and head room, just as in front. The Crew Cab is a similar story, but with rear legroom reduced by a few inches. In both two-row cabins, the rear backrest stands nearly vertical up against the back of the cab, which is a hit to rear passenger comfort, especially on longer drives. The bottom cushion does flip up to make way for larger items to be stored and transported in the vehicle.

The Sierra's visible quality is backed up by audible improvements. The 6.2-liter V-8 is bundled with active noise cancellation to calm four-cylinder noises when half of the engine is shutdown for improved fuel economy, and all Sierras have doors that are sealed three times over to prevent too much wind noise from intruding into the cabin.

8

2015 GMC Sierra 1500

Safety

The Sierra's earned excellent crash-test scores from the NHTSA.

It's been seven years since the last major update to GM's full-size trucks, and in its new iteration, the GMC Sierra taps a wealth of safety technology to boost its crash test scores.

Although now in its second year, not all test results are yet available for the latest GMC Sierra. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given Sierra Crew Cabs five stars overall, with five-star ratings for frontal and side impacts and a four-star rollover resistance rating. So far the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has only put the Sierra through its moderate overlap frontal test--to a 'good' result.

Once the balance of the tests are run, GMC expects better outcomes than the last-generation trucks fared. Improvements to the truck's structure include a stiffer frame, a revised cab design with pillars moved further forward, and optimized seat placement. We'll update this section as crash-test scores are published.

All Sierras come with the mandatory airbags and stability control. The StabiliTrak setup incorporates trailer-sway control to mitigate the wagging motion that can be induced when towing, especially in high winds. Hill-start assist is standard, and maintains position for a couple of seconds when the Sierra launches on a grade.

For those who tow, larger mirrors can be fitted to help guide trailers into their spots; they're recommended, since the Sierra's standard mirrors are smaller and more aerodynamic. GMC also offers a trailer brake controller, so drivers can fine-tune the amount of braking applied to a trailer's electric brakes. The controls are mounted high on the dash, to the left of the steering wheel, where they're visible and easily used.

Available as an option or standard on most models, a rearview camera points out of the Sierra's tailgate handle, with output displayed on the color LCD screen. Front and rear parking sensors are available. There's also a safety package with lane-departure warning and forward-collision alert systems, and a safety-alert seat that vibrates the driver's seat cushion for haptic alerts.

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2015 GMC Sierra 1500

Features

The GMC Sierra wins us over with features like a simple infotainment system, multiple charging ports, and nifty bed touches.

With the arrival of the newest Sierra in 2014, GMC trimmed off the former Work Truck (WT) model and added more standard features. The new lineup now includes the base Sierra, SLE, SLT, All-Terrain, and Denali trim levels.

Base prices start at around $25,000 for the Sierra Regular Cab with rear-wheel drive, rise to just north of $29,000 for the Double cab, and reach beyond $33,000 for the Crew cab.

All Sierras now come with air conditioning, keyless entry, a locking tailgate, an AM/FM radio with a 4.2-inch color display, a rear bumper with integrated steps, cloth seats, and the six-cylinder/six-speed automatic drivetrain, unless otherwise upgraded to a V-8. The 5.3-liter V-8 is an $895 option where the V-6 is standard, and GMC expects 75 percent of buyers will pay the upcharge for two extra cylinders.

Most Sierras will be sold at the SLE trim level or above, which means power windows, locks, and mirrors will be included along with a CD player. For utility, the Sierra will offer a 110-volt outlet in the cabin, alongside as many as four 12-volt outlets, five USB ports (swoon), and an SD card slot.

GMC’s IntelliLink infotainment and connectivity suite is available on the Sierra. It combines Bluetooth connectivity, audio streaming, and voice commands with mobile app connectivity (Pandora, for example) and available navigation, all delivered through a larger, eight-inch reconfigurable touch screen. The system is essentially a version of Cadillac's CUE interface, without the haptic feedback and excess customization to get in the way. We think its graphic layer is cleaner and brighter than Ford's MyFord Touch system, and the configurability gives it some distinction over Ram's UConnect, but in our Sierra test drive we encountered a few instances where the navigation system couldn't refer to its own contact database. For 2015, GM's 4G LTE connectivity will be available on the Sierra, which provides quicker communication with OnStar's database and WiFi hotspot functionality for up to seven devices.

Leather seating is an option, with heating and ventilation for different seating positions, depending on the model. A sunroof and a Blu-Ray rear-seat DVD entertainment system will be stand-alone options on almost all versions. There's also a safety package with lane-departure warning and forward-collision alert systems, and a safety-alert seat that vibrates the cushions for haptic alerts.

The Sierra Denali continues as the most optioned-up and luxury-oriented model, boasting its own 20-inch chrome wheels and a chrome grill; body-color bumpers; aluminum trim on the dash; and LED daytime running lights. Among the functional upgrades are an eight-inch LCD display in the gauges that can be customized to show audio, phone, navigation, or other settings. Color Touch navigation and IntelliLink smartphone connectivity are standard, as are five USB ports, Bose audio, ventilated front seats, front and rear parking sensors, and a heated steering wheel. The Denali has a starting price north of $49,000 for a crew cab short bed with rear-wheel drive.

For more capability, GMC offers a Z71 off-road package. It comes with hill-descent control, skid plates for the transfer case, and Rancho monotube shocks. A trailering package includes connectors for lighting and an automatic locking rear differential. It also adds heavier-duty cooling, a beefier rear axle with a 3.73 ratio, stronger rear leaf springs, and a trailer-brake controller.

The Sierra All-Terrain package comes only in the four-door body styles, on either the SLE or SLT trim. It gets a painted grille and the Z71 off-road suspension, as well as an automatic locking rear differential for quicker reaction times. On the SLE it gets an ebony interior and front bucket seats; the SLT version has seats with carbon fiber-look trim.

5

2015 GMC Sierra 1500

Fuel Economy

The V-6 is quite good--it's a real alternative to the V-8, which gets even better gas mileage now.

The GMC Sierra's powertrains are shared with the 2015 Chevy Silverado, and the two post identical fuel-economy numbers.

All three engines run on regular unleaded gasoline. No plans for diesel engines have been announced, and the former Chevy Silverado mild hybrid won't be making a comeback.

EPA fuel-economy figures for the 6.2-liter V-8 equipped with the new eight-speed automatic don't come in much higher than last year's figures. The drivetrain with rear-wheel drive nets 15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway, and 17 mpg combined, for no gain, and 15/21/17 mpg with four-wheel drive, a 1-mpg gain.

Cylinder deactivation is applied to the V-6, even, transforming it into an effective V-4 when engine load is low. Those V-6 powertrains are rated at 18/24 mpg or 20 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive, or 17/22 mpg or 19 mpg combined with four-wheel drive. Those numbers are close to the ones posted by the V-6 Ram 1500, even without the Ram's eight-speed automatic.

For the mainstream V-8, EPA figures settle in at 16 miles per gallon city, 23 miles per gallon highway, or 19 mpg combined, for trucks with the 5.3-liter V-8 and rear-wheel drive. With four-wheel drive, the V-8 and six-speed combination nets fuel economy of 16/22 mpg, or 18 mpg combined.

Those numbers represent a significant gain over the previous GM V-8 lineup, even though the 5.3 still uses a six-speed auto instead of the eight-speeds now found on the Ram 1500. GMC says it's due to more efficient body construction (the trucks weigh about as much as an Audi A8) and the use of cylinder deactivation on both the V-8 and V-6 engines. When driving loads are lighter, the truck shuts off four cylinders on the V-8, running it on the remaining cylinders until driving demands increase. The increases in vibration and noise are offset by more sealing and, on the V-6, with a balance shaft. There's also a tunable exhaust system that can compensate for the different backpressure needs of the cylinder-deactivated engine and also smooth out the noisy pulses that can create.

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January 16, 2016
2015 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD Double Cab 143.5"

One sharp sweet truck with head turning looks and performance.

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October 17, 2015
2015 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD Double Cab 143.5" SLE

best one yet

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smoother ride quieter easy handling and better gas mileage lots of passing power ....
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July 16, 2015
2015 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD Regular Cab 133.0" SLE

Best yet , solid truck

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Went from a 2013 Silverado to a 2015 Sierra SLT. I love the look and feel . The interior has plenty of well thought out space and a solid feel. Would like to see mileage improve on trucks in general. Offering... + More »
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April 22, 2015
2015 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD Double Cab 143.5"

like the standard updates

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Enjoy ride and handling. Always been a Chevy man, like looks and equipment availability on the GMC. Big improvements over 2007 to 2013 models. I did test drive a ford and ram . when I test drove the 2015 GMC ... + More »
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March 8, 2015
For 2015 GMC Sierra 1500

excessive weather

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Had embarrassing experiences twice this winter with less than six inches of snow on the road. Slid into snow banks and had to be pulled out by another truck! The tires suck! Traded after only 10 months! Will... + More »
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