We?ve never been fans of big pickup trucks; mainly because we don?t pull a trailer or haul lots of stuff?we are more into sedans, hatchbacks and an occasional crossover. However for people who have the need for a truck, today?s market offers a wonderland of choices. Shopping for a new full size truck is like an electronics junkie going to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Full size pickups are so popular that in 2013, three of the top five selling vehicles in the U.S. market were trucks.
To compete successfully in the category, auto makers have to offer the latest technologies, luxury, design and power and performance. This is usually done in a leapfrog-like steps with the most recent offering from a big three manufacturer winning the awards and helping sales.
For 2014, General Motors has the newest of the new with completely redesigned and re-engineered models. At the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Chevrolet Silverado was awarded North American Truck of the Year. With the GMC Sierra as a near twin, that means the Sierra is a winner too, by proxy.
Full size trucks are always a challenge for us. We like to keep our test vehicles in our large three car garage and at 20 feet in length, this one barely fit. One nice feature on our test truck was optional front and rear park assist which was part of the SLT Preferred package ($795), that also includes a power sliding rear window and heated steering wheel. The Park Assist directed us right up to the front wall without having to play tag or jump out and check to see if the door would close.
Bigger and bolder seems to be the mantra for these full-size trucks, and GMC has a grill that rivals the big Peterbilts and Freightliners for dramatic effect. The sides get a masculine treatment with fender flares and squared off wheel openings. There is also an abundance of chrome on the front end, 20-inch wheels, running boards and on other surfaces around the truck.
It?s hard to believe the SLT trimmed truck we had was not the fanciest of the GMC lineup – that distinction goes to the ultra-luxury Denali. With its posh seating for five, wood accents, and stitched interior trim, the Sierra SLT rivals some of the near-luxury and luxury model sedans. Then there?s a truck load of tech equipment like navigation, an eight-inch touch screen and several kinds of audio (SiriusXM, HD, FM, AM, CD and a Bluetooth connection for smart phones that added features like Pandora ). The user-friendly touch screen also has a connection for GM?s helpful OnStar connection.
The 2014 GMC Sierra controls are well positioned and even include a manual shifting mechanism on the shifter that toggles between gears making it easy to shift up or down to use for engine braking. There?s also a special switch on the end of the shifter to activate the transmission?s tow/haul mode for better control with a large load. The instrumentation includes a full complement of analog gauges, a large tachometer and speedometer and a 4.2-inch color center-mounted Driver Information Screen.
Sierra interiors are filled with soft touch surfaces and quality trim materials. There?s also abundant storage space with two glove boxes, plenty of drink holders, a large center console and even optional under seat storage compartments.
Buying a GMC Sierra can be a complex process choosing between three cabs (regular, double and crew), two- and four-wheel drive and three trim levels (Sierra, SLE, SLT and Denali). Then there are the wheel choices 17-, 18-, 20- and 22-inch (and there are seven variations on the 22 inch). There are eight packages, three engines and dozens and dozens of variations, options and accessories.
The powerplant variations are surprisingly simple but more powerful and economical than previous generations. All three EcoTec3 engines are direct injection, with continuously variable valve timing and Active Fuel Management (AFM). The AFM seamlessly switches the engine to run on four-cylinders during light load conditions like highway cruising or coasting down a hill. Each of the engines has a lightweight aluminum block and heads and is attached to a six-speed automatic transmission.
The base engine is a 285-hp, 4.3-liter V-6 EcoTec3. The V-6 will pull up to 7,600 pounds and has an EPA fuel economy rating of 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway (4×4 models are slightly less.) Our test vehicle was powered by the 355-hp, 5.3-liter V-8 engine. It?s rated at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway (for the 4×4), which GM says is the best of any V-8 pickup and better than the Ford EcoBoost V-6. Zero to 60 mph acceleration is quick taking only 6.7 seconds. We actually averaged 16.9 mpg driving in mixed conditions with our 4×4 test vehicle.
The 2014 GMC Sierra is designed to make the big truck easily accessible and user friendly with extra steps, hand holds and other conveniences. It also has an abundance of plugs for charging or hooking up electronic devices (5 USB ports, four 12-volt outlets and SD card slot) and even an available 110-volt outlet.
The 2014 GMC Sierra pricing starts at $28,165, including the destination charge for the V-6 engine, two-wheel drive, regular cab with standard box. The top model, the Sierra Crew Cab with V-8 and 4WD starts at $44,905. With a few options our vehicle Monroney was $48,895. The Denali version runs from $49,310 to more than $62,000 with all the options.
Driving the GMC Sierra was a bit intimidating at first because we had not been in a truck for six months ? but we only ran over one curb. Parking was always a challenge, especially when we usually fit into compact space. The Sierra seemed to call out for a double parking space when we could find one.
Where the Sierra stands out is on the open road. It?s quiet, comfortable and roomy. The ride is not truck like ? more like a sport sedan. Still it feels big and imposing.