As far as the full-size half-ton pickup market goes these days, GMC’s Sierra 1500 and its Chevy twin — the Silverado — are amongst the segment’s elder statesmen.
For 2013 little is new for the GMC Sierra, save for two new exterior colors (Sonoma Red Metallic and Heritage Blue Metallic) plus a powertrain braking feature that applies engine torque on downhill sections to reduce wear on the brakes when the transmission is placed in normal mode.
Sierras are offered in base Work Truck (W/T) as well as XFE, SL, SLE, SLT and luxury Denali trim levels, with a choice of regular, extended and crew cab configurations, plus three different box lengths (5 feet 8-inches, 6-feet, 6-inches and 8-feet (the last offered on regular and extended cab rigs only). Four different engines are available, 4.3-liter V6, as well as 4.8, 5.3 and 6.2-liter V8s. The base motor and the 4.8L are teamed with a four-speed slushbox, while the others come standard with GM’s 6L80E six-speed auto-box.
In the last decade, GM has tried to more distinctively differentiate the Sierra from its Chevy counterpart and this has so far been most evident in the current truck, which sports different headlights, marker lights and fenders as well as a new bumper, grille and hood. In our eyes it’s arguably more handsome than the Silverado, though compared to the likes of the big, bold Ram and even the F-150 and Toyota Tundra, it doesn’t necessarily deliver that mean, in-your-face attitude we’ve come to expect of full-size pickups.
SLT and Denali trucks come with a luxury-inspired interior, like that found in the Yukon and Yukon XL sport utilities. You get leather, wood trim and niceties such as built-in satellite navigation, MP3 compatible music player and USB connectivity.
Out of all the full-size trucks we’ve tested, the GM machines still sport one of the most comfortable driving positions, with nicely laid out controls and an excellent steering wheel to seat relationship. The chairs themselves are flat and wide, yet provide a good amount of support that even after hours of driving doesn’t result in you wanting to stretch your back.
Standard in crew cab models is stadium rear seating, giving rear riders a higher seating position than the front chairs. The back 60/40 bench is also easily stowable, simply pull or push the bottom pad and up or down it goes, no fumbling for levers.
The optional console area is big and nicely laid out, with logically placed cup holders and a storage bin large enough to swallow most items required, whether for work or recreation, including file folders and even small drinks coolers.
From the captain’s seat, outward visibility is good, with big wide mirrors, a fairly low cowl height and ample glass. In terms of powertrains, the hoary old, 195 horsepower 4.3-liter V6 isn’t really worth bothering with these days and even if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, the 302 hp, 4.8L V8, which delivers more torque (305 versus 260-lb-ft) is a far better engine. It’s smoother, sounds better and delivers comparable fuel economy (14/19 mpg city/highway, versus 15/20 for the V6).
The garden variety 5.3-liter V8, as fitted to our test example, is actually offered in two guises, one with a cast-iron block, the other with an aluminum unit. Both motors are rated at 315 horsepower and 335 lb-ft of torque as well as being E85-capable.
The great thing about the Sierra is there’s a trim level and configuration to suit just about every taste and budget.
Although we still don’t know what the next generation version (due in 2014) will be like, one thing’s for certain — this truck is going to be a fairly tough act to follow.