GMC Sierra Limited AT4
If you believe – and how could you not? – our country is divided between red and blue, the urban and rural and the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, you should consider today’s pickup segment. In the ‘red’ column we have Ford’s Raptor, while in the ‘blue’ that same Dearborn-based company builds the Maverick hybrid. At what we used to call Chrysler – now Stellantis – the divisions aren’t as clearly divisible, but Ram is still building the Hemi, while also offering light duty diesel, mild hybrids and – in their corporate cousin Jeep – plug-in hybrid powertrains. General Motors won’t be left out, with a host of EVs waiting in the wings, but for now the bone they throw at those with a titch of eco sensitivity is the GMC Sierra Limited with a 3.0 liter Duramax turbocharged diesel. Numerically, it gives you a 21 Combined EPA estimate. And for its intended on-road/off-road usage, it’s a gem.
With most of the industry buzz provided, of late, by Ford’s Lightning, GM’s Hummer EV and the all-new EV pickup by Rivian, the GMC Sierra is easy to overlook, despite its ubiquitous presence (GM is selling ‘em by the truckload…) on America’s highways and byways. The ostensibly white-collar sibling of Chevy’s Silverado, a GMC can still be equipped for the blue-collar crowd, or – if money is no object – the Blue Bloods. Our test truck, a Sierra Limited AT4, strikes what I’ll guess is a middle ground, with a base window sticker of $56K and an as-equipped Monroney of $65,000.
In the walk-up you’ll enjoy some 5500 pounds of expressive sheetmetal, with a little more going on visually than either the Ford or Ram. But the Sierra’s curves don’t distract from its innate attractiveness; nor do they distract from the job at hand. Given its off-road mission, this isn’t a fancy/schmancy truck, which your GMC dealer would be happy to sell you. This, instead, is a big-*ss tool, ready and willing to take you from the construction site on Friday to the campsite or trailhead on the weekend.
Although the Sierra and Silverado have taken their share of knocks for their interior designs, I had few problems with the AT4’s layout, materials or functionality. This isn’t, to be sure, ‘designed’ as Rams have been and Fords – belatedly – are now. But the perforated leather is comfortable, and the HVAC and audio controls don’t require three steps to adjust. The dash itself is a bit of a mash-up, and the handholds affixed to the A-Pillars (for both driver and front seat passenger) look to have been designed by Hasbro and constructed by Fisher-Price. They’re perfect for your 5-year old, if – of course – the 5-year old was sitting up front.
In back we’re given a split bench, which easily flips up if you have stuff to carry, rather than people. For me it was a great perch for my road bike, precluding the need to secure it in the bed. That bed, a short box, keeps the Sierra’s overall length somewhat manageable, while giving the owners enough length to carry most things, especially with GMC’s Multipro tailgate (you know, the one with its own ad campaign!) lowered.
The heart of the matter, though, is what’s under the hood. (You, Dear Reader, know this…but some marketing execs at GMC may have forgotten.) The DuraMax 3.0 liter turbo diesel utilizes a cast aluminum alloy block for lightness, along with iron cylinder liners for the durability appropriate to a truck. The inline configuration is simpler to manufacture than a V6 of comparable displacement, and is – by design – inherently smoother. The numbers: 277 horsepower at 3,750 rpm, along with 460 lb-ft of torque at just 1,500 rpm. Beyond those numbers is a capability you can feel in the seat of your pants, from a stoplight start to doing 80 on Interstate 80. (That, admittedly, was outside the scope of this test, but we could imagine doing it, unfettered by anything other than our insurability.)
In a week’s worth of driving, the Sierra 1500 Limited AT4 seemed to bridge the gap between what you want to take off road, and what you’re prepared to live with during the week. Its elevated height makes getting in and out more problematic, but this isn’t a Monster Truck. And with its almost 9,000 pounds of towing capacity, it’d pull your monster trailer.