The 2013 GMC Sierra still compares well to most other full-size pickups, especially in terms of handling, although its base V-6 isn't quite up to snuff.
With four different gasoline engines as well as a gasoline-electric Hybrid model on offer, the Sierra allows plenty of room for the widely varied needs of truck shopper--some looking for low-cost fleet truck, others seeking a personal-luxury vehicle capable of towing a large boat, for instance. The base 4.3-liter V-6 makes just 195 horsepower, and it's not all that refined; it's really only aimed at those fleet buyers, and contractors. While the price is good, fuel economy isn't so impressive with the four-speed automatic--the sole transmission offered--and it strains to extract power from the six. The next step up is a a flex-fuel 4.8-liter V-8 with 302 horsepower, but this engine too is aimed at fleet use and has the four-speed automatic.
For most buyers, the flex-fuel-capable 5.3-liter V-8, making 315 hp and with cylinder deactivation, is the best pick, with strong acceleration and reasonable gas mileage. Standard in the fuel-saving Xtra Fuel Economy (XFE) models and optional on other Sierras, this engine delivers a ripe exhaust note, smart acceleration and the best non-hybrid fuel economy of the lineup. It pairs with a six-speed automatic that shifts pretty smoothly, and helps it get that improved fuel economy while cutting down on noise.
A 6.2-liter, 403-hp V-8 is at the top of the range. It can run on E85 and is identical to the V-8 found in the Cadillac Escalade. Acceleration is downright blistering when there's no cargo, and gas mileage is predictably very low. But it remains the best choice for those who tow heavy loads regularly.
Across the entire lineup, the Sierra can be had with either rear- or four-wheel drive; a single-range transfer case is standard on base versions, while dual-range 4WD is an option. An "Autotrac" electronically controlled four-wheel-drive system is featured on Denali models. Towing ratings range up to 10,700 pounds.
The 2013 GMC Sierra Hybrid comes with a vastly more complex drivetrain, pairing a 6.0-liter V-8 with cylinder deactivation to an electrically variable transmission (EVT) with two electric motor/generators, four fixed-ratio gears, and a 300-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. Altogether, it makes the equivalent of 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque, giving the Hybrid acceleration pretty close to that of models outfitted with the 5.3-liter V-8 engine. There's an eerie smoothness to the way in which the Hybrid's powertrain goes about its business, and it can go about 25 mph for short distances with electric power alone. About the only thing we don't like as much about the Hybrid is that its electric power steering is more vague in feel.Across the rest of the Sierra 1500 lineup, you get quick, almost carlike steering and well-sorted handling. It's one of the easiest full-size pickups to drive quickly, thanks to communicative steering that's better than that in most other full-size pickups, though the Ford F-150's new electronic power steering sets a new high-water mark among trucks. Body lean is a given in any truck, but the Sierra manages it well, while providing a ride that's not jouncy or brittle, except possibly in the most extreme off-road versions.