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March 29, 2014

2014 GMC Sierra 1500 AWD Crewcab SLT

by Mark Savage

Luxurious GMC Sierra the Cadillac of pickups
sierra1GMC is the Cadillac of pickups, juicing up the chrome levels on the exterior and adding a bit more finery to the interior, compared to its kissin’ cousin, the Chevrolet Silverado.

Make no mistake, both trucks can be equipped and decked out much like any fine luxury sedan, but GMC’s Sierra has always held sway with more glitz and glamour, such as it is on pickups. So the new 2014 pickup touts a mighty chrome grille that challenges the likes of the Ram pickup in size and look-at-me swagger.

Likewise the Sierra is quiet and comfy inside and the tested Crew Cab SLT, just one level down from the line-topping Denali, ladles on plenty of luxury touches, starting with a comfy leather interior and then adding perks like a heated steering wheel ($400) that comes packaged with a power sliding rear window that opens in back by the pickup’s bed.

This is the long-bed model with a 6 ½-foot bed as opposed to the shorter 5 ¾-foot bed. There are footholds in the rear bumper too so you can step up to load the bed, if you’re using the pickup like the truck it is. Since this is the 4-wheel-drive model, the difference is about $400, the tested dark metallic gray truck starting at $43,610. Luxury doesn’t come cheap.sierra2

In fact this one adds heated and cooled front seats for $650, the leather seats for $325 and three other packages with such items as front and rear park assist, a lane departure warning system, forward collision alert and vibrating safety alert seat, plus an 8-inch color touch screen with navigation system. In total the options here add up to $5,440, but a value discount cuts $1,000 off the price.

Overall this 4-wheel-drive crew cab, which is built in Mexico, hits $49,045. Sadly, that’s not an unusually high price for a well-equipped pickup that seats 4 or 5 adults.

Luxury may come at a price, naturally, but performance is what most pickup owners are looking for. Most want to tow a boat or trailer of some sort. Hauling, both people and heavy-duty playthings is why you need a full-size pickup.

The Sierra doesn’t disappoint. GM uses its 5.3-liter Ecotec3 V8 here. That boasts 355 horsepower and a 383 torque rating. Power isn’t a problem. There’s plenty of grunt and the fact that the GMC will tow up to 11,100 lbs. is proof of that.

sierra3Like the Silverado I drove last year, the smooth 6-speed automatic GM transmission does a good job of using the truck’s power and also slipping through the gears with little effort. That adds to the luxury feel in the Sierra and the Silverado.
Both also have much better sound deadening that previous models, creating a much quieter occupant-friendly interior. Triple door seals help there as do better aerodynamics to cut wind noise. Yet tire noise is what I noticed is much reduced compared to earlier models.

Ride overall is good, but trucklike. You bounce over frost heaves, but the bumps and bouncing is well muted so there are no sharp jolts. Pickups with their light tail ends always feel a little jumpy over uneven pavement and our rough Midwest winter has done nothing to help lessen that this year.

Handling also is much improved in the GMC compared to past models. There is less of the vague feel of the past and the truck seems easier to keep in its lane, especially on highway drives. The Sierra has electric power steering that is well weighted for moderate driving effort.

GMC continues with its fine 4-wheel-drive system that is controlled via a dial on the dash’s left side. You can set it for 2- or 4-wheel drive, but the automatic setting allows the truck’s sensors to do their job determining what you need as pavement conditions change. I used it a lot during the week as side streets were slick and snowy, while main drags were damp or salt-covered. Traction was steady throughout.

GM is happy to tout this truck’s improved gas mileage from its predecessors. But with temps near zero much of the week, I didn’t experience that. The trip computer never got above 15 mpg and I averaged 13.9 mpg in about 60% city driving. The EPA rates the Sierra at 16 mpg city and 22 highway. Last year I got 17.9 mpg in a similar Chevy, but with the shorter bed.
Performance has been consistently good in GM pickups for years though, so it’s inside that you may notice the most difference from earlier models. It starts with the quiet operation I mentioned earlier, but materials and fit and finish have been ratcheted up a couple notches.sierra4

Doors close with a solid thud and with a big running board it’s easy to crawl inside.

The dash is well laid out and easy to see and use and I liked the test truck’s black leather dash and seats with gray stitching and a gray headliner to lighten the interior up a bit. There’s pewter look trim around the center stack’s controls and air vents along with chrome door release handles. GM also insists on some fake wood trim on the door arm rests and along the console’s sides. A more modern look would be gloss black trim.

Seats are mildly contoured on the bottom, but feature more contoured seat backs. These are quite comfortable with better memory foam that GM says will last longer and remain comfortable longer, good news if you’re going to keep your pickup for many years. And at this price I suspect most of us would. The test truck has two memory settings for the driver’s seat, plus power lumbar support.

The dash features bold macho styling and big buttons and controls. This interior isn't for sissies!

The dash features bold macho styling and big buttons and controls. This interior isn’t for sissies!

The heated steering wheel is activated by one of several buttons on the steering wheel hub and it gets hot quickly. Likewise the heated and cooled seats were quick to warm up, a benefit when we’re looking at sub-zero temps first thing in the morning.

I’m not as wild about all the parking assist features that beep loudly and constantly as you pull into a grocery lot’s parking spaces, but the forward collision alert could be helpful and I like the rearview camera. That’s especially nice with a long truck like this so you don’t ding someone parked behind you.

I like the dash layout too and the large navigation screen is easy to see and buttons on it and the dash are large so adjusting radio and climate controls is easy. Folks who use their trucks for work also will like the giant open storage bin and cup holders along with the big covered bin under the armrest. GMC says you can slide your laptop in there and that file folders will hang in the bin. Contractors and construction site supervisors will love that feature.

There’s OnStar overhead and sliding visors too. One big interior negative though is GM’s incredibly loud door chime. This goes off as soon as you start the vehicle if you haven’t buckled up yet. Many of us start a vehicle in the winter before buckling up and making other adjustments and this is deafening and extremely annoying. I actually covered my ears some mornings until it ceased. Turn down the decibels folks!

I don’t want to end on that sour note though, as overall the Sierra, like the less costly Silverado, is a fine driving and performing pickup with a well-appointed, comfortable and attractive interior. Prices range from $35,295 for the base 2-wheel drive short-bed Crew Cab to well beyond $50 grand for a Denali Crew Cab. Standard cab models also are available.

FAST Stats: 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 AWD Crew Cab SLT

Hits: Macho looking truck with good power, excellent tow capacity and good handling. Much quieter interior than previous model, comfy heated/cooled seats, running boards, well laid out dash with back-up camera, OnStar, big console storage bin.

Misses: Gas mileage still on the low end, plus the door chime is incredibly loud and annoying.
Made in: Silao, Mexico
Engine: 5.3-liter V8 Ecotec3, 355 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 5,197 lbs.
Wheelbase: 153 in.
Length: 239 in.
Max. Tow: 11,100 lbs.
MPG: 16/22
Base Price: $43,610
Dealer’s Price: $43,326
Major Options:
SLT preferred package (heated steering wheel, power sliding rear window), $400
Driver alert package (front & rear park assist, lane departure, forward collision alert, safety alert seat), $845
Value package (6-inch chrome assist steps, Bose audio system, 20-inch chrome aluminum wheels, 8-inch color touch screen w/nav,intellilink), $2,195
Heated/cooled front seats, $650
Leather front seats, $325
Trailer brake controller, $230
Value Package Discount: $1,000
Delivery: $995
Test vehicle: $49,045
Sources: GMC, http://www.kbb.com
Photos: Courtesy of GMC

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