No matter the TV truck commercials, be they for Chevy, or its cousin GMC, if you have a bear chasing you you’ll pick ANY big ol’ pickup you can haul your tushie into and away from the beast.
Ah, but there’s the joke, any quarter-ton pickup you buy will be strong and powerful. However, will it be as luxurious and roomy as a fine luxury sedan? That’s what a lot of truck buyers want these days as trucks have become the family wagon. That’s why the top-end of the truck market continues to expand. Take the tested GMC Sierra Crew Cab SLT.
It’s loaded with chrome outside and leather inside, and boy is this baby quiet. It’s like riding in a Cadillac or Lexus, but there’s a 5 ¾-foot bed in back for haulin’ your stuff. Real men and women know you need a 6 ½-foot bed for hauling plywood and building materials, but if you want to look tough and outdoorsy, well, the short bed will do.
And I’ll let you in on a secret, the short-bed truck rides a lot nicer.
The pretty metallic crimson red test truck ladled on (and this is an abbreviated list) a fancy Bose sound system, sunroof, front and rear park assist, forward collision alert, wireless charging, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats and leather seats, naturally.
Total price was $55,050, up about $6 grand from a similar Sierra SLT I drove two years ago. Both had 4-wheel-drive, leather interior and all. Sadly this one’s gas mileage is rated lower than the Sierra I drove last year, by 1 mpg both city and highway. I managed just 15.9 miles per gallon in about 60% city driving and Sierra is rated 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. Better hope for a tail wind.
GM may poke fun of Ford’s new aluminum-bodied F-150, but lighter weight equals better gas mileage. I got 18.4 mpg in my test of the aluminum-bodied Ford.
Naturally the Sierra will pull and haul well, if you really buy it for that. Payload capability is 2,130 lbs. That’s a lot of dog food, sand, bricks or whatever. Plus it will tow 10,800 lbs., so trailers with boats or snowmobiles are no problem.
Why does it haul so well? Easy answer, Sierra has a V8. This one is the 5.3-liter Ecotec3 with 355 horsepower and 383 ft.-lbs. of torque. Linked to GM’s smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic, the Sierra feels powerful and moves easily to highway speeds, despite its 5,400+ lbs. of girth.
Unlike the Sierra with a longer bed, this one rode nicely too. There’s a little truck bounce, but it was well controlled and behaved well on choppy Wisconsin roads and railroad tracks. Even the steering is firmer than earlier models, which makes Sierra easier to control on the highway, not as much lane wander. It’ll help when you have a trailer in back too.
The AWD is automatic here, with a dial on the dash that allows you to pick one of four settings in case you get into axle-deep mud, or other muck. Hey, this IS a pickup.
You’ll notice that fact right away if you look out the power sliding rear window. There’s a short cargo bed and the test truck added a spray-in bedliner for $475. The bed looks good and will weather better than an exposed metal bed. The EZ tailgate also drops without a thump as it lowers with a controlled glide. The bed also has a cargo light to help you see what you’re loading or unloading at night, and a built-in step in each corner of the rear bumper.
It’s practical too if you need to haul five adults for a trip. There’s plenty of head and legroom and seats are a moderately soft leather that feels and looks great. Seats are mildly contoured which makes them comfortable for longer rides.
The driver’s seat is powered with power lumbar support and two memory settings. The $400 package that includes the power rear window also provides a heated steering wheel, while heated and cooled front seats are $650 extra. Power pedals also help us shorter drivers get more comfortable.
GMC’s dash is stellar too. All the buttons and knobs are big and macho enough to use even when you’re wearing gloves. I say macho because it’s a truck, but let’s face it, we’d all like buttons and knobs that were easy to see and use, so drivers of either sex can appreciate Sierra’s layout. The large nav/radio screen is easy to use and see too.
Gauges are clear and simple to read and the trip computer and other digitals are easy to figure out and use, even while driving. Other truck makers could learn something from this design.
The park assist was less twitchy and didn’t sound alarms as quickly as in my previous test drive, so it seems some sensor tweaking has occurred. Naturally there is a rearview camera, especially helpful in a long truck. This had lane keep assist, part of a $945 package. It was less annoying than most and was easily toggled off.
The test unit also added a chrome running board to help folks climb aboard, and was much appreciated. That’s part of a $2,095 package including a fancy Bose sound system and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels.
I liked the sunroof, which brightened the interior during gloomy March weather. That costs $995. The truck’s big visors slide too and HomeLink is part of the deal here!
Naturally the A-pillars are huge, but GMC designs in a little room around them and the side mirrors to help the driver see a bit better to the sides.
Other pluses include a lot, and I mean a LOT of electrical hookups, big center storage box and space in the console’s front edge, plus dual glove boxes. OnStar is standard as is a tilt/telescope steering wheel.
Base price for the SLT, one level down from the top-model Denali, is $46,970 with 4WD and the short bed. A long-bed is $48,465, including the monster $1,195 delivery fee. Lucky this truck had a tire and premium package discount to cut costs by $1,025, but still it eclipsed $55 grand.
Certainly you can go with other configurations as the truck world has about 20 to 30 for each model. For a lower cost Crew Cab you start at $36,985 for a base 2-wheel-drive short-bed with a 4.3-liter V6 that delivers 285 horsepower. Moving up the longer bed is $38,380 and going with 4WD lifts the price to $40,135.
Remember when cars cost more than trucks? Well, the average transaction price for a truck is now more than $41,000, while cars are around $34,000. I think I know which is more economical now. But Sierra is comfy and well mannered.
FAST STATS: 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab SLT 4WD
Hits: Strong, powerful truck that tows well and features good ride, comfortable interior, and sprayed in bedliner. Quiet and luxurious feel to interior, heated wheel and leather heated/cooled front seats, power pedals and excellent gauges and dash controls that are easy to see and use.
Misses: Short bed and cost beyond $50 grand. Big A-pillars and poor fuel economy.
Made in: Silao, Mexico
Engine: 5.3-liter, Ecotec3 V8, 355 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 5,444 lbs.
Length: 229.3 in.
Wheelbase: 143.5 in.
Payload: 2,130 lbs.
Tow: 10,800 lbs.
MPG: 15/21 (EPA)
MPG: 15.9 (tested)
Base Price: $46,970
Invoice: $44,877 (includes delivery)
SLT preferred package (heated steering wheel, power sliding rear window), $400
SLT premium package (chrome assist steps, Bose audio system, 20-inch polished aluminum wheels), $2,095
Enhanced driver alert package (front/rear park assist, lane keep assist, Intellibeam headlights, forward collision alert, safety alert seats), $945
Heated/ventilated front seats, $650
Leather appointed buckets, center console w/USB ports, wireless charging, $510
High-performance LED headlights, $500
Crimson red paint, $495
GMC Intellilink audio w/8-inch touchscreen, nav., Apple Carplay, $495
Spray-on bedliner, $475
Trailer brake control, $275
Discounts: Prem. Package, $750
Tire credit, $275
Test vehicle: $55,050
Sources: GMC, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage