Both the 2020 GMC Sierra and the 2020 Ford F-150 have the kind of big-truck bona fides that matter—towing, hauling, mudding, and let’s be honest, posing. They share a fondness for the straight line, for low-end torque, for beds with more tricks up their tatted sleeves than Criss Angel, and lately, they show some love to technology, too.
There’s a gap between them, though, in how their similar specs roll out on the road. In this face-off between two square-jawed pickup perennials, one outpaces the other handily. Should you buy the 2020 F-150 or the 2020 Sierra?
Looks and hooks
Utility matters in trucks, and both the GMC Sierra and Ford F-150 carve out a lot from their allotted footprints. Roughly the same size in various body styles—you still can get a regular cab in both, though extended cabs and crew cabs are way more popular to non-fleet drivers—both the Sierra and F-150 reserve plenty of room for people and cargo. In the Sierra, GMC packages enough space in Crew Cabs to suit a family of five, plus one in a pinch. The same holds true for the F-150; the full four-door models are our pick for drivers set to replace their SUV or wagon with a vehicle with a bed.
Inside either truck, passengers will find all the modern-day comforts, provided they spec out the right truck. Both the F-150 and Sierra come in work-truck editions, with rubbery floors and wide, flat bench seats; they come into their own in mid-grade XLT or SLT trims, where five-seat interiors have all the leg and head room a strapping set of passengers will need. They’ll find all the luxury touches they need, too, everything from high-speed charging ports to touchscreen infotainment to storage cubbies and nacelles next to the seats, under the seats, between the seats...the pickup trucks of today could double as The Container Store.
Nowhere is that more true than out back, where the F-150’s sizable bed and its available fold-out step and rails, its bedliners and bed lights and more are bested by the Sierra’s wide, deep, and well-fitted pickup bed. Both come in three bed lengths, but it’s the GMC that sports movable tiedowns, a multifunction tailgate, even a carbon-fiber bed for extra strength, though it’s rare and expensive.
As for styling, both the F-150 and Sierra cut boxlike figures, but the F-150’s details are better balanced—and its interior comes more richly trimmed, even in lower-priced models. Both pale compared to the Ram 1500 for interior swank.
2020 GMC Sierra 2500HD AT4
2020 GMC Sierra 2500HD AT4
Power and ride
The GMC may walk off with the bed trophies, but Ford’s powertrain lineup and features sort out better for most buyers. Skip the base 3.3-liter V-6 and head directly to the 2.7-liter turbo-6 for the kind of workaday power Ford used to tap from a V-8. The new 10-speed automatic in the F-150 shifts smartly, too. We’d give real pause before ordering the efficient new turbodiesel or the 5.0-liter V-8 because their net effects don’t seem to pay off well, at the pump or at the valet car park—but we’d elbow anyone aside to drive an F-150 with Ford’s exhilarating 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6. Its pull is unparalleled, even if its EPA ratings get somewhat grim. No F-150 will win handling awards either, and in lesser models with small wheels, the truck’s bounding behavior over bumps could use stiffer bushings, more weight, both, or maybe a set of adaptive dampers like the ones available on the Sierra.
The Sierra’s powertrain lineup has more holes, but GMC’s sweet 5.3-liter V-8 is a stalwart truck engine and a longtime favorite, outgunned only by the 420-hp 6.2-liter V-8 it shares with the Cadillac Escalade. Fuel economy is also grim here, but GM’s tuning of the same 10-speed automatic it developed with Ford is a little less refined. The new turbo-4 and work-spec V-6 engines are last-resort affairs, and GMC’s new turbodiesel suffers the same fate as Ford’s: It’s expensive, won’t earn back its fuel-cost savings anytime soon, and adds weight to an already heavy vehicle. The Sierra’s ride quality is better than Ford’s—and some of us think it’s better than the Ram 1500 with its independent rear suspension, even.
Safety and features
Ford fares better in safety with the F-150 than GMC does with the Sierra. The F-150 has scored five stars from the NHTSA and save for “Poor” headlights, would be a Top Safety Pick. The Sierra merited only four stars from the NHTSA and earned a “Marginal” score for an IIHS frontal-impact test. Both Ford and GMC make automatic emergency braking available only on mid-grade and more expensive versions, too.
With wide and deep lineups for both trucks, ordering a new 2020 GMC Sierra or 2020 Ford F-150 can be a bewildering task. Prices start from about $30,000, but can easily exceed $70,000 in Denali or Platinum trim. It’s not easy to pick one Sierra or F-150 to suit all tastes since Ford’s order guide alone tops 41 pages. An F-150 XLT Crew Cab with the 2.7-liter turbo-6 ticks an awful lot of boxes, as does a Sierra SLT Crew Cab with the 5.3-liter V-8.
In the end, the 2020 F-150 earns a TCC Rating of 6.2 out of 10, while the 2020 Sierra merits a 5.6, mostly because of its poor safety showing. Loyalists will stick with their brands, but there’s a reason the Ford F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in America for more than three decades. It does a little of everything well, and our TCC Rating is just one reflection of that versatility.