- Quiet, refined feel all around
- Solid V-6 and V-8 engines
- Innovative cargo bed
- Good looks
- Maneuverability (long-bed Crew Cab models)
- Silverado is a few bucks cheaper
- Crew Cab rear-seat comfort
Ruggedly handsome, the 2017 GMC Sierra gains some nice safety tech for 2017 and remains one of the most desirable big pickups.
With its chunky good looks, the 2017 GMC Sierra is like a fashionable three day beard that seems to do just about everything right. It offers some of the best hauling and towing scores among half-ton pickup trucks but it also delivers excellent real-world usability.
We rate the Sierra a 7.0 out of 10 based on its excellent all-around nature, which it does without an aluminum body or turbocharged engines. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
But don't think of the Sierra, which is offered in a dizzying array of base, SLE, SLT, and Denali trims with a choice of drive-wheels and body styles as anything resembling a throwback truck. It's thoroughly modern inside and out, and it gets even more up-to-date for 2017 with the addition of automatic emergency braking in low-speed situations, a rare feature for a full-size truck.
At its core, the Sierra is the same thing as the strong-selling Chevrolet Silverado, but the two are more differentiated now than ever before. Both trucks were thoroughly redesigned for 2014 but then updated again for 2016.
GMC Sierra styling and performance
Even though the Chevy's the better seller, the Sierra has a styling advantage, we think, and the last redesign, combined with last year's tweaks, make these strengths even more pronounced. Last year, the truck gained a bolder grille and all models received some form of LED lighting—running lamps on base, SLE, and SLT, and full LED lights on the range-topping Denali. Like its rivals, there's a Sierra for just about every desire, and the range-topping models here are the city-oriented Ultimate and the off-road-ready All Terrain X.
Inside, all trims utilize a dash that is businesslike and upright in layout, though finished in soft materials, with knobs and buttons that can be operated with gloves. Cabins are lit in GMC's signature red hue, rather than Chevy's blue, and materials are as nice as any on the truck market—even at the low end.
Rather than going with more complex turbocharging and engine downsizing, GM kept larger displacement engines with the last redesign. That strategy works just fine for these trucks, but the engines do employ cylinder deactivation, direct fuel injection, and continuously variable valve timing, which helps them gain output while aiding efficiency in mostly undetectable ways. We've found the base 4.3-liter V-6 to be entirely up to the task for all but heavy-duty towing or high altitude use. Above that, there's a 5.3-liter V-8, making 355 horsepower that can handle almost any towing task up to 11,100 pounds. Only those with towing needs, day in and day out (or an expense account for fuel) should bother considering the 6.2-liter V-8, which makes 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque and can tow 12,500 pounds, a 500 pound rating increase over last year if you're counting.
In all of these instances, you can order your Sierra with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. A 6-speed automatic transmission (with a "cruise grade braking" feature to reduce brake wear) is standard with the V-6 and lower-line versions of the 5.3. An 8-speed automatic is standard with the 6.2 and with the 5.3 in SLT and Denali models, but the 8-speed is actually rated for lower fuel economy thanks in part to its numerically final drive gear ratio.
GMC Sierra comfort, safety, and features
A wide range of trim levels mean it's hard to broadly say that the Sierra is a swanky truck—but it generally is. At the top of the range, the Denali and Denali Ultimate are legitimate luxury trucks with interiors to match. There's plenty of stretch-out space for four or even five adults in the popular crew cab configuration, although GM continues to make the trucks' second row benches feel more upright than we prefer.
Sierra Crew Cab models are offered with two different bed lengths—5-foot-8 or 6-foot-6—while regular-cab models are offered in 6-foot-6 or 8-foot lengths and the Double Cab extended-cab versions all include the middle size. The Crew Cab models are considerably more passenger-friendly, as they get longer doors, with B-pillars moved forward, resulting in easier entry and exit. Extended-cab versions get front-hinged rear doors. We actually prefer the Sierra's cloth seats to the leather ventilated ones ones, but this may be a matter of taste. Also, different seating configurations are available.
Specialized models tend to maximize the Sierra's potential for various purposes. For instance, the Sierra Denali and new Denali Ultimate are the luxury trucks, while the 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 and Denali Ultimate add their own styling details and plush features like Bose audio and ventilated front seats, plus a standard V-8 engine and the excellent, road-rumble-quelling Magnetic Ride Control suspension.
On the safety front, the Sierra has performed well in crash testing. This year, federal testers gave the Sierra a five-star overall score, and the IIHS rates the truck with mostly "Good" scores, except for a "Marginal" result in the small-overlap crash test. New for 2017 is an automatic emergency braking option bundled with a few other safety goodies, a move we applaud.
Trailer Sway Control and Hill Start Assist are included as part of the standard StabiliTrak stability control system. Forward collision alert, lane keep assist, and lane departure can help you stay aware of hazards, while an optional Driver Alert Seat can vibrate with pulses on either side to alert the driver quickly to issues detected by those systems.
2017 GMC Sierra 1500
The Sierra's broad-shouldered good looks stand out among this competitive crowd.
Finally, the GMC Sierra and its Chevrolet Silverado sibling have enough styling cues that they're not obviously identical at first glance.
We like the Sierra's clean, conservative, and rugged good looks inside and out enough to give it an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Only two years after a ground-up redesign, the GMC Sierra was updated again last year with a fresher, bolder look accented by standard LED accent lighting on even the fleet-oriented base model. It's a nice touch that helps establish the Sierra as a more upmarket sibling to the Silverado—even though the two are essentially packaged the same at the lower levels.
The basic design cues should be familiar to those trading in an older Sierra, but there's a more modern flair with its blunt front-end treatment and chunky, squared-off fenders. At the rear, neat integrated steps in the bumper corners designed to improve access to the bed are more function than form—but they work a lot better than cumbersome deploying steps offered by some rivals.
There's no shortage of trim packages for the Sierra that beef up its looks. Volume models are simple SLE and SLTs, but even then GMC offers myriad wheel and tire packages and a lot of exterior color choices. For those who want a little more, the Denali trim level delivers its own grille treatment with either 20- or 22-inch wheels, the latter included with the megabuck Denali Ultimate upgrade package.
Inside, the Sierra's dashboard 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 infotainment system makes a colorful splash on the big LCD screen found on SLE and above Sierras, and the rich-hued trims in the cabin are soft-touch in many places on higher-spec models, unlike in the Chevy.
2017 GMC Sierra 1500
With its composed ride and terrific transmission, the Sierra is a refined truck—even if it doesn't quite offer the grunt of the Ford turbo V-6.
If you're fixated on new tech, the GMC Sierra may not look impressive at first. But there's a lot more than meets the eye here in this highly-capable pickup, which offers a trio of engines designed to cover every reasonable need over the long haul.
We like this truck's ride and handling and the good-natured feel of its engines, which may not offer turbos but are basically devoid of serious demerits, so we give it a solid 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
At the bottom end is a 4.3-liter V-6, but it's not exactly a base motor in the traditional sense of the phrase. With 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque, it's hardly lacking and easily moves this truck to 60 mph in the eight second range. It's also efficient thanks to direct fuel injection and cylinder deactivation, yet it is rated at a decent 7,600 pounds towing capacity.
For the way so many actually use their trucks, the V-6 will be just fine. But we know that most Sierra shoppers will gravitate toward one of the optional V-8s for stronger performance and towing.
If you really do tow 5,000 pounds or more on a regular basis, and don't mind a fuel economy hit and an uncharge on lower-rung trim levels, GM's 5.3-liter V-8 is the next step on the Sierra ladder. It's a muscular V-8, good for 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. In the optimum configuration, this engine can tow up to 11,100 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 base versions of the 5.3-liter V-8 are paired with a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission as standard. GM has a history of producing solid truck transmissions, and this one is no different; gear changes are largely imperceptible, and there's no loss in refinement when towing or hauling a large load.
SLT and Denali models offer a 6.2-liter V-8 that's now rated at a 12,500 pound towing capacity thanks to its 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. That's 500 pounds more than last year.
Higher-line versions of the 5.3 and all 6.2s are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Curiously, the 5.3 sees a fuel economy hit on the highway with the eight-speed because of the way its final drive is geared, but this well-sorted transmission does a fantastic job of tapping into the power of both engines.
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.
All Sierra trim levels are offered with rear-wheel or four-wheel drive, the latter available with an automatic mode useful on a rainy day or in very light snow.
Ride and handling
All Sierras utilize a conventional front strut and rear leaf-spring suspension, but electric power steering and special brakes that make use of long-life rotors are notable features.
The suspension smooths over most bumps but the ride can sometimes become jiggly, especially with an unladen bed. The Sierra is not quite as smooth and composed as a Ram equipped with the optional air suspension, but Denali Ultimates include GM's Magnetic Ride Control that helps calm up-and-down motions.
The GMC's steering and brakes are quite good, with crisp response from the wheel that's not as hefty and numb as you'll find in the F-150.
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.
Our towing experience with the Sierra line has been positive, although those who need even more can stay at the GMC dealer and opt up for the beefier 2500 and 3500 models.
Select California dealers offer a mild hybrid version of the GMC Sierra called eAssist. Starting with the 8-speed automatic and the 5.3-liter V-8, the eAssist package adds a small electric motor and a 0.45 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
That electric motor adds a small boost of up to 13 hp and 44 lb-ft of power, but the truck is intended to be a more fuel efficient model. As such, it's only available with rear-wheel drive, where it boosts figures 2 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway.
While it's fairly refined, it's a questionable value given the extra complexity and the minimal improvement.
2017 GMC Sierra 1500
Comfort & Quality
A nice interior and comfortable seats make the crew cab Sierra a pleasant place to spend time.
The most difficult part about buying a 2017 GMC Sierra 1500 might be picking just what you need—and what you don't. In addition to its powertrain choices, its body is offered in a wide range of cab, bed, and interior choices that should satisfy just about anyone's demands.
We find its interior to be one of the best in the segment, dinging it only for a less-than-ideal back seat in Crew Cab models and awarding it 8 out of 10 points overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
In terms of access, the longer doors on the Crew Cab make it easy to clamber into the back seats. But since the Double Cab also has front-hinged rear doors, it's almost as capable and accessible.
Seats and storage
Inside, the Sierra has been differentiated from the Silverado by some additional soft-touch materials and aluminum trim, as well as additional gauges in the instrument cluster.
Start with the base Sierra and things are, predictably, fairly Spartan. But there's a choice of vinyl or cloth upholstery, and work users can have an easy-wash vinyl floor. From there, things get fancier the more options that are piled on, to the point where Denalis are swathed in nice leather with French stitching and copious amounts of reasonably convincing wood trim. That said, we've found the ventilated leather seats on high-end SLTs and Denalis to be a little less comfortable than their merely heated (or unheated) cloth and leather counterparts since the ventilation components flatten out the cushions and make them less supportive.
Finding a comfortable driving position is easy thanks to a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and available power-adjustable pedals. Crew Cab models have stellar rear-seat leg and head room, just as in front. The Double 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 against the back of the cab, which reduces comfort. The bottom cushion flips up to make way for larger items, like a flat screen TV box.
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.
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 (yes, 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.
The Sierra's visible quality is backed up by measures to limit noise, vibration, and harshness. 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.
It isn't just the Sierra's cabin that is well-equipped, however. A corner step integrated into the rear bumper and a quartet of cargo tie downs capable of holding 500 pounds down pat are standard on all. And then there's LED lighting tucked under the bed rails on some models, a boon especially with a bed cover installed.
Inside the bed, the Sierra offers 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, and a factory-installed, spray-in bedliner is available at a reasonable price. More than anything, we like the damped tailgate that requires only a light touch rather than the usual slam.
2017 GMC Sierra 1500
Newly-available automatic emergency braking is a good step toward making the Sierra even safer.
Though its crash results are somewhat mixed, we are glad GMC has decided to extend an important safety feature to the Sierra lineup for 2017.
Thanks to the newly optional automatic emergency braking, the Sierra comes in at a 6 out of 10 overall in our scoring system. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Not all crash test results are in for every GMC Sierra body style, but the NHTSA has rated the Crew Cab at five stars overall, with the expected four-star rollover resistance rating that's common with larger body-on-frame vehicles.
The IIHS is more critical. The agency gives the Sierra its top "Good" marks for all but the challenging small overlap front test, where the truck earned an unimpressive "Marginal" score.
A big upgrade for the 2017 GMC Sierra is the new availability of automatic emergency braking, which is bundled with the Enhanced Driver Alert package that 's optional on SLEs and SLTs and comes standard on Denali and Denali Ultimate. The package also includes lane keep assist, automatic high beam headlamps, front and rear park assist, and a safety alert seat.
2017 GMC Sierra 1500
From basic to decadent, the GMC Sierra can be configured in just about any fashion.
Numerous option packages and lots of trim levels will help buyers make the most of the GMC Sierra. Although today's pickups don't quite have the extensive a la carte menus of options we saw decades ago, there's still a huge degree of customization potential with the Sierra.
We rate it a 7 out of 10, dinging it only because certain options require adding on lots of other items you might not want—and they inflate an already expensive truck's price tag. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
At its core, the Sierra is offered in base, SLE, SLT, and Denali trim levels, with lots of packages available on each.
The build walk
Base prices start at around $28,000 for the Sierra Regular Cab with rear-wheel drive, rise to almost $36,000 for the Double cab, and approach $38,000 for the Crew cab.
All Sierras come with air conditioning, keyless entry, a locking tailgate, an AM/FM radio with a 4.2-inch color display (except the base regular cab), a rear bumper with integrated steps, and a choice of vinyl or cloth upholstery.
Most Sierras will be sold at the SLE trim level or above, which means power windows, locks, and mirrors are included along with a CD player. For utility, the Sierra includes a 110-volt outlet in the cabin, alongside as many as four 12-volt outlets, five USB ports (we don't even own five USB-powered devices), and an SD card slot.
The SLT comes standard with the 5.3-liter V-8 and heated leather seats, and it also includes GMC's 8-speed automatic transmission.
SLEs and SLTs are available with the off-road-oriented All Terrain package, which includes a host of cosmetic and convenience items as well as functional goodies like all-terrain tires, skid plates, and tow hooks. The All Terrain X packages adds to that a special exhaust system and maximum traction tires that look great and will grip in the mud but add a lot of road noise.
The luxury-oriented Sierra Denali boasts GM's Magnetic Ride Control suspension but is mostly about show: 20-inch alloy wheels, aluminum interior trim, and lots of chrome on the outside.
The Denali Ultimate adds power-deploying side steps, 22-inch wheels, chrome tow hooks, a moonroof, and a trailer brake controller.
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 an 8.0-inch touchscreen. 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. It gained a faster processor last year, and it operates a lot quicker. Last year, GM added 4G LTE connectivity, which provides communication with OnStar's database and wi-fi 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 moonroof and a Blu-ray rear-seat DVD entertainment system are stand-alone options on almost all versions.
All told, it's easy for a Sierra's sticker price to climb north of $60,000, so watch the features closely if you're working with a more stringent budget.
2017 GMC Sierra 1500
The Sierra is about average among big pickups, but its available 8-speed automatic is actually less efficient than its standard 6-speed.
There's a lengthy story to tell with the 2017 GMC Sierra's fuel economy story, with each body style and powertrain contributing different fuel economy figures.
For the most part, the Sierra is essentially par for its class, aside from the slight improvement offered by the California-only eAssist, and we rate it a 5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Sierra lacks the turbodiesel powertrain that delivers nearly 30 mpg in the Ram 1500, but all three GMC engines feature fuel-saving cylinder deactivation that can shut down four cylinders on V-8s and two on V-6s under limited load conditions.
The V-6 comes in as the most efficient at 18 mpg city, 24 highway, 20 combined with rear-wheel drive, which falls to 17/22/19 mpg with four-wheel drive.
The mainstream 5.3-liter V-8 is paired with a 6-speed automatic in base and SLEs or an 8-speed with the SLT and Denali. Oddly, EPA figures are better with the 6-speed due to the final drive gearing intended more for towing with the 8-speed.
With rear-drive and the 6-speed, the 5.3 is rated at 16/23/19 mpg. Get the 8-speed and those numbers are16/22/18. With four-wheel drive, the V-8 and 6-speed combo nets fuel economy of 16/22/18 mpg, while the V-8 and 8-speed earn 15/20/17 mpg.
The 6.2 also comes with the 8-speed. This drivetrain nets 15/21/17 mpg with rear- and 15/20/17 mpg with four-wheel drive.