What you don’t know can hurt you — especially if you’re into full-size, big-engined sport trucks.Sure, everyone knows about the rompin’, stompin’ V-10 Dodge Ram SRT-10 and the (recently discontinued) supercharged Ford SVT Lightning. They’re fierce trucks, quicker and faster than almost anything on the road, and with the hulking presence of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as they barrel up in the rearview.
But there’s a third big gun with a bed out there, too — the GMC Sierra 1500 Performance Edition.
Unfortunately, many enthusiast buyers who might really like this sport-themed muscle truck don’t know it exists. That’s because unlike the Ram SRT-10 and Lightning, it’s not a full-fledged model in its own right. You have to scroll down the options list of what appears at first glance to be your basic ’05 Sierra 1500 extended-cab pickup “contractor special.”
There you’ll find the key to glory, GMC-style — the $3925 Sierra Performance Edition Package, code B4V.
Getting it good
What you get for the extra cash (on top of the price of a nicely loaded rear-drive, short-bed SLE or SLT Sierra 1500 pickup) is a Vortec 6.0-liter V-8 under the hood. Yep, that’s the engine based on the current Chevy Corvette’s 400-hp LS2 engine. This mill is rated at 345 horsepower (up 20 from last year’s 6.0-liter engine) and it’s tied to a heavy-duty four-speed automatic with a transmission cooler and 3.73 gears with a locking differential. The package is rounded out with a lowered and more aggressively tuned Z60 sport suspension riding on 20x8.5-inch chrome rims wrapped in extra-beefy P275/55R20 blackwall tires.
Though not brutally quick in the way the Lightining and Ram SRT-10 are, the Performance Edition Sierra can definitely lay a hearty patch if that’s what you want. It also snaps your neck back nicely when you drop the hammer. Numbers-wise, it runs 0-60 in about 7.5 seconds and tackles the quarter-mile in the mid-high 15s. That’s about the same straight-line performance as a mid-’90s Mustang GT — only in a vehicle big enough to carry a Mustang GT in its bed. Well, almost.
2005 GMC Sierra 1500
And unlike the regular cab-only, two-seater (maybe three if you squeezed in tight) SVT Lightning, the Sierra Performance Edition is an extended cab truck with room for four or five adults. It’s also decked out with more in the way of luxury/comfort features unavailable on the Ford, such as climate control, XM radio, electric sunroof, power/heated and folding outside rearview mirrors, etc.
True, the Ram SRT-10 offers the option of an extended-cab body style, not to mention an 8.3-liter V-10 with overkill power. At $50,710 it also carries an $11,000 price premium compared to the GMC as well as the insurance premiums you’ll get to pay to drive the thing. It’s really a single-mission machine, too.
In between daze
So the Sierra Performance Edition is a nice in-between choice, far more functional as a truck than the SVT Lightning (which Ford killed for precisely this reason) yet not as over-the-top or expensive as the snorting berserker that is the SRT-10.
And with the wealth of aftermarket performance parts available for the Corvette-based LS1-LS2 small-block V-8s, wicking things up a bit is both easy and relatively inexpensive. Just adding a set of high-flow headers, Flowmaster mufflers, and some mandrel-bent three-inch pipes to this puppy would probably be good for another 10-15 horsepower. And the sound would be wicked.
There are also reprogramming kits available for the Sierra’s Turbo Hydramatic four-speed overdrive automatic (what we old school dudes used to call a “shift kit”) that you can get installed for a couple hundred bucks or less that will give you tire-barking gear changes and higher-revs upshifts. Add some 4.10 rear gears for even more fun — and even smokier burnouts.
And bolting on a Paxton or Vortec supercharger would turn the Sierra Performance Edition into a Lightning killer, snuffing the poor Ford out like a GFCI circuit tester. Remember, the GMC starts out with a larger engine (6.0 liters vs. 5.4 liters in the Ford) that even without the blower is already flexing nearly 350 horsepower. The Ford, with the supercharger, is barely ahead at 385. Adding a supercharger to the Sierra would push the output of the 6.0-liter V-8 into the 425-450 horsepower range.
If that’s still not enough for you, then get an SRT-10. But if you like the idea of a full-size truck that’s quicker than most sporty cars but is a bit less gruff than the known players in this segment, the Sierra Performance Edition might be just what you need.
You just have to you know where to look.
2005 GMC Sierra Performance Edition
Base price: $34,715; price as tested: $37,570
Engine: 6.0-liter V-8, 345 hp/380 lb-ft
Transmission: Four-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 230.2 x 78.5 x 75 in
Wheelbase: 143.5 in
Curb weight: 5463 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 14/16 mpg
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes
Major standard features: Climate control, seven-speaker high output audio system with six disc CD-changer
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles