2010 GMC Sierra 1500 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

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.

Review continues below

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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2010 GMC Sierra 1500

Styling

The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 / Sierra Hybrid are appealing in a low-key way, and give buyers a choice of rugged or luxury interiors.

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. Car and Driver compliments the Sierra on its "excellent combination of good looks." According to Kelley Blue Book, it shares "the 'strong, silent-type' handsomeness of the Silverado." Automobile notes "the distinction is all in exterior design. Each of these twins has its own front fenders, hood, grille, and front fascia." The Sierra can seem a little plain, though-more assertive than the Chevy truck, 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. Cars.com admires the Sierra's "chiseled front end mainly because it looks manlier-always a good thing where trucks are concerned-and more assertive." The boxy flares around its fenders are subtle reminders that this is the same brand that sells the extreme-looking 2010 Terrain crossover. Autoblog mentions that the Sierra Hybrid sports "the requisite chin spoiler and tonneau cover to help reduce aerodynamic drag" as one of the few distinctions for the gas-electric versions.

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. Edmunds says the Sierra has "an attractive dash design," but Cars.com derides "the vast planks of plastic 'wood' that attempt to warm up the interior" and adds they're "undermined by the occasional unsightly wavy spots that give away their clear fakeness." 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. Cars.com reviewers point out that "the Sierra Hybrid adopts the boxier of the Sierra's two available interiors, with a flat cowl that spans the gauges and center controls." ConsumerGuide, meanwhile, joins a chorus of other reviewers in mentioning that "the gauges are easy to see and read." The 2010 model year brings only minor changes to the Sierra, including revised interior door panels.

Review continues below
8

2010 GMC Sierra 1500

Performance

The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 has smooth power and handling-even in its most complex Hybrid edition.

With such a broad range of refined and responsive powertrains, there's an engine choice for any buyer in the 2010 Sierra lineup.

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. Edmunds contends "acceleration is certainly acceptable with either the 4.8- or 5.3-liter V8," while the "optional 6.0-liter V-8 can get the truck to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds." 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. Cars.com reports "the 5.3-liter V-8 is also a gutsy performer that doesn't feel taxed in the least moving the 5,326-pound Sierra crew cab...[and] also emits a pleasing V-8 rumble."

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. Cars.com says the transmission "will kick down quickly if you need to pass." ConsumerGuide confirms the "smooth-shifting transmission kicks down quickly for more passing power." The Sierra gets up to 15/22 mpg in the XFE edition, falling to only 12/19 mpg in loaded versions. Edmunds says that while these figures are "hardly impressive," the 5.3-liter engine is "the most efficient V-8 available in a mainstream full-size truck."

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. The latter Autotrac system "features an automatic setting that shifts into 4WD when wheel slippage is detected," according to Edmunds.

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. Edmunds provides the overall assessment that the Sierra is "a very comfortable and easy truck to drive," though it can be "hampered by a slightly larger turning circle than most other trucks." Kelley Blue Book finds it "surprisingly nimble and easy to maneuver." ConsumerGuide observes "noticeable body lean in fast turns and quick changes of direction" but acknowledges "steering is nicely weighted, if a bit numb." Cars.com says, "with an unladen cargo bed, the Sierra's ride quality is fairly stiff, but the suspension does a good job soaking up large imperfections in the road."
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.

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. Automobile reports "this truck accelerates to sixty mph in 9.7 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 17.3 seconds at 85 mph." ConsumerGuide remarks that the GMC Sierra Hybrid "accelerates from a stop and passes much like a conventional model," while only "a faint surge is felt and heard when it shifts between full electric and gasoline operation."

Handling's a bit digital, but reasonable. Car and Driver reports that "the steering is now electrically boosted and the brakes are of the regenerative type, a setup that offers less pedal travel and a mushy, spongy feel. These traits are definitely noticeable, but were you to buy one of these trucks, we think you'd get used to them rather quickly." According to MotherProof, the 2010 GMC Sierra Hybrid also features "regenerative braking to capture energy from braking and coasting and store it in the battery for future use." 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 handles well (ConsumerGuide praises the "comfortable, compliant ride" and notes "there's less reverberation over bumps than in most pickups") and 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). Cars.com calculates that "two-wheel-drive models have a cruising range of more than 500 miles between fill-ups."

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7

2010 GMC Sierra 1500

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 / Sierra Hybrid could benefit from more supportive seats and some more interior storage options.

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. "You sink into the cushy seats," according to Cars.com, and while Edmunds reports that the "seats are comfortable for long drives," other reviewers find the wide, flat seats to be unsupportive. ConsumerGuide reports "ample room for adults" up front, although "both the bucket and bench seats lack side support in fast turns but are firm and comfortable" otherwise.

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. Despite its size, the Sierra's backseat suffers. Cars.com "was expecting it to be a little more spacious and comfortable," and observes the reviewer's legs "were touching the back of the front seat." Worse, "the rather upright backrest isn't very comfortable." ConsumerGuide also notes "legroom is ample in the crew cab" up front, but it's in "short supply" in the back.

There's some extra space inside the Sierra, depending on the model. 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. ConsumerGuide reports that, "in front, the bucket seats come with a roomy console bin, while the bench seat is available with a flip-down center armrest that doubles as a large storage bin." MotherProof also notes that "cupholders are everywhere, and the center console is large enough to house a good-sized purse [or] CDs." Hybrid Sierras come only in the Crew Cab body style, though, and the space under the rear seat is occupied by the battery pack. Unfortunately, there "are few other interior storage cubbies"; Edmunds complains about "mediocre interior storage and cup holders."

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. Automobile mentions the standard six-foot bed "has an actual floor length of 69.3 inches."

Materials are better than the truck norm, and fit and finish are above average in the Sierra. ConsumerGuide attests that "gauges are easy to see and read," and "interior materials are better than expected of a work-oriented truck." The Car and Driver reviewer comments that it "surprises us just how pleasant the interiors of GM's full-size pickups have become." MotherProof is "surprised by the level of comfort in the interior," which contrasts sharply with the "no-frills finishes" of the pickups of the 1980s and '90s. Edmunds praises the interior's "tight build quality," and ConsumerGuide reports that "road noise in Sierra is lower than in most pickups...wind noise intrudes only above 60 mph." Automobile says that the GMC Sierra Hybrid's powertrain is "notably quieter overall than any conventional powertrain," while ConsumerGuide observes that "wind noise intrudes only above 60 mph."

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8

2010 GMC Sierra 1500

Safety

The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 performs well in crash tests and offers more safety equipment this year.

The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 and Sierra Hybrid score well in crash tests and in TheCarConnection.com's safety ratings.

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.

Car and Driver confirms "four-wheel antilock brakes and an electronic stability system" as standard offerings. ConsumerGuide adds a "tire-pressure monitor" and "daytime running lights" to the list. Other standard equipment includes traction control and OnStar.

A rearview camera is available, as are power-adjustable pedals, on Sierras and Hybrids. ConsumerGuide reports "visibility is generally good, though the extended cab's thick rear pillars hinder view to back corners." TheCarConnection.com still recommends buyers purchase the rearview camera, since the Sierra's bed sits so high above the ground.

Review continues below
8

2010 GMC Sierra 1500

Features

The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 stays true to its roots in the blue-collar world, but moves right up the features ladder in Denali and Hybrid versions.

The 2010 GMC Sierra lineup offers a dizzying array of bed styles, cabs, powertrains, trims, and features.

ConsumerGuide ranks the 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 and Hybrid "among the best large pickup trucks for refinement and available features." Cars.com notes there are "many choices" when it comes to the 2010 GMC Sierra 1500; available trims are Work, SL, SLE1, SLE2, SLT, and Denali. According to Kelley Blue Book, the "multiplicity of trim levels...allow you to fine-tune your Sierra."

For starters, 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.

From there, 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 even an All-Terrain off-road package, 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 when the upscale version is selected. Cars.com reports "standard amenities include automatic climate control, steering wheel audio controls and Bluetooth connectivity." It also can be outfitted with DVD navigation and a high-end audio system with XM NavTraffic. Automobile reports the "premium trim package adds leather trim, power front bucket seat adjusters, a center console, a Bose sound system with navigation, a hard bed cover, and several minor convenience items."

USB connectivity has been added to most Sierra audio systems for 2010.

Review continues below
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