GMC ’s vehicles have been around since the begging of pickups history and the newest model in the company’s lineup bears the name Sierra.
The old Sierras were capable workhorses, but were devoid of a proper cabin and the overall build quality was more on the poor side of things. The new generation however (launched in 2011) is a big improvement over the old ones as the vehicle managed to keep its work horse character and to also offer a high class cabin with a decent build quality and adequate comfort.
The 2011 GMC Sierra features the basic appearance of a heavy duty truck with a massive ground clearance and gargantuan dimensions.
However its design is less aggressive than the Ford Super Duty and looks like a tamed beast which is ready to follow your lead without too much opposition.
The year 2011 has brought a new set of exterior modifications, but don’t expect to any drastic improvements as GMC didn’t risk crossing the limits of its conventional (and safe) design language.
The most obvious upgrade was made up front were we find a new bumper, a larger air intake and a reshaped grille with a three bar design.
We’re not big fans of the unconventional wheel arches, but they look pretty imposing and enhance the rugged appearance of the vehicle.
In order to appeal to a wider range of customers, the Sierra is also offered with single, extended and double cab configurations.
Climbing inside would prove to be a bit difficult, as the Sierra sits very high from the ground. There are however, a few well placed handles and a useful foot step to help you all the way up. Though, the interior design won’t win you any beauty awards and the materials are part of the hard class. The build quality won’t impress you either, as there are big panel gaps all over the place. Though, we’ll have to admit that the overall cabin feel is slightly more upscale than the older Sierra and GMC have made a significant evolution in terms of build quality and materials.
Fortunately, we found the overall ergonomy pretty good and every control can be reached without too much drama.
Up front there is plenty of room for three passengers. The middle passenger sits on a 40/20/40 split bench which if fairly comfortable and practical.
The other two font seats are also comfortable and we especially like the driver’s seat which is slightly better than the one from the Ford F-450. At the back seats you’ll also find plenty of head-, leg- and shoulder-room for up to three passengers.
Needless to say that you are treated with a top notch road visibility and you can also rely with confidence of the plate sized door mirrors.
Storage is part of the high class as well, with many cubby holes, cup holders and other consoles to keep your stuff safely. Moreover, the rear view mirror is available with an embedded LCD which is connected to the rear view camera, thus enhancing the visibility.
The list of interesting features includes automatic dual zone climate control, power adjustable pedals, steering wheel controls and a USB port to plug in an iPod or phone. The vehicle is also equipped with the OnStar system which comes with a GPS receiver and cellular radio.
Engines and performance
The entry level engine is a 4,3 liter V6 which comes with 195 hp on tap. The engine is mated on a four speed automatic transmission but it offers mediocre performances and should be taken into consideration only by fleet owners.
There is also a 4.8 liter V8 unit which churns out 302 hp that is combined with the same four speed automatic transmission. The best unit you can opt for is the 315 hp, 5.3 liter V8 that’s worth every penny and delivers astonishing performances and also comes with a cylinder deactivation system that helps to improve the fuel economy.
The strongest engine in Sierra’s lineup is the thirsty 6.2 liter, flex fuel V8 that was borrowed from the Cadillac Escalade and develops a massive 403 hp.
Every cab configuration is available with 4WD and the maximum towing capacity is rated at 10.700 pounds. For the stronger V8 engines there is also offered a six speed automatic transmission which comes with a new grade braking feature to enhance stability when towing downhill.
If you are searching for a greener version you can opt for the Hybrid which is powered by a 6.0 liter V8 motor that develops a maximum output of 332 hp and 367 pound feet of torque. Despite its hybrid nature this version rewards you with a decent punch and it’s also fairly smooth and quiet. The GMC Sierra Hybrid can run on battery power alone up to about 25 mph.
Ride and handling
The GMC Sierra offers a fairly smooth ride with a well controlled body lean. Its suspension can absorb even the biggest bumps without too much fuss and the vehicle feels pretty easy to drive. For better stability Sierra’s sturdy, hydroformed, fully-boxed frame utilizes high-strength steel to increase its structural rigidity and resist bending, twisting and shaking.
It also handles pretty well and its civilized road manners will make you forget about its gargantuan heft and size.
The biggest advantage offered by the Sierra over its rivals it’s the capable steering which helps it to be more agile as turning lock to lock takes only 3.5 turns.
The GMC Sierra isn’t as refined as other trucks in the segment and its better suited for utilitarian purposes. Its big dimensions work in its disadvantage and it’s a bit too clumsy for daily use as a personal vehicle. On the other hand the cabin is pretty welcoming and rewards you with a decent comfort and acres of space. The engines lineup it’s also pretty wide and you can choose the perfect option for your needs.
It’s true that the GMC Sierra is starting to show its age compared with its more upscale rivals, but the vehicle still represents a strong full size truck which can deal effortless with a wide range of rugged missions.