In reviewing the newest cars on the road, we are occasionally graced with the opportunity to drive some truly exciting automobiles. Getting behind the wheel of a brand new Porsche 911 or Audi RS5 will certainly garner a few stares and waves, but it has not compared to the attention received at the helm of the 2014 GMC Sierra 1500.
For landscapers, plumbers, electricians, and contractors of all kinds, the light duty pickup is equal parts work vehicle, daily driver, family hauler, and road trip rig. Truck owners are perhaps more in tune with their machines than even the most dedicated weekend racers are with their Mazda Miatas or BMW M3s.
If you are one of those folks who needs to know every bit of information on a new truck, there is a lot to learn about the 2014 GMC Sierra.
First, consider the trend regarding trucks getting bigger and bigger? Yeah, that’s not stopping any time soon. Bent on outdoing the next guy, light duty trucks are larger than ever, trying to visually prove who’s the biggest and baddest on the block. But pickups are made with durability, capability, and usability in mind. None of those requires winning a fashion show.
The Sierra and its sibling Chevrolet Silverado need to meet those requirements while addressing ever-tightening fuel economy regulation. The new 1500 features an all-new, fully boxed steel frame and roll-formed body panels, reducing weight and increasing rigidity. The hood, control arms, and engine block are all made of lighter aluminum.
If you think the bold exterior design is progress for the Sierra, just wait until you get behind the wheel. In response to consumer demand, GMC has brought the interior into the 21st century. Bluetooth streaming audio, touch screen navigation system with real time traffic updates, and a wealth of other features are part of the range-topping SLT trim. It also offers heated and cooled leather seating, Pandora streaming radio, and five USB power ports spread around the cabin. The $50K-plus price tag may sound astonishing for the SLT trim, but it’s still possible to get the base work truck for less than $25,000.
The new barrage of comfort features underscores the ways light duty trucks are used. But at the end of the day, a truck is nothing without its inherent capability, and that is where the Sierra delivers. Our truck was fitted with GM’s trusty, small block, 5.3-liter V8. Horsepower is rated at 355, and peak torque is 383 pound feet. Power is sent to the wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission and a four-wheel-drive system with Auto, 4HI, and 4LO settings. It will carry a payload of 1,975 pounds, and with the 3.73 rear axle setting, it will tow 11,200 pounds—more than twice its own weight.
A 6.2-liter V8 is on its way, but the only other engine currently available is a 285 horsepower, 4.3-liter V6. This base engine achieves fuel economy of 17 city, 22 highway, 19 combined, but don’t assume the V8 falls off in any big way. The 5.3-liter unit features cylinder deactivation, which allows it to operate as a V4 when cruising or when peak power is not required. You can even monitor this through the digital multifunction display in the dash. It allows the V8 Sierra to return 16 mpg city, 22 highway (matching the V6), and 18 combined.
Our SLT model may be fit for family duties, but there are features here that will warm to those who see their truck as a tool—like their favorite angle grinder. The wall-style, 110-volt power outlet means you can plug in any electric power tool, while those USB power ports are great for recharging an iPhone so you can listen to music on the afternoon shift of mowing lawns or hardscaping.
Great effort has been taken by GMC to make its new pickup more helpful than ever on the job site. Most guys can get into the pickup bed by stepping on top of the rear wheel and throwing a leg over, but if you are at a muddy site, that’s a great way to slip right off into the mud. The Sierra has a step built into each side of the rear bumper for such a task.
When you see a truck on the road with its tailgate missing, that’s usually the result of repeatedly letting the gate fall when opening. GMC engineers used a super-cooled steel torsion bar as the hinge, which allows it to drop slowly, even if opened with little care.
Finally, there’s the available factory-installed, spray-on bed liner. This is perhaps the hottest accessory for pickups in the last 10 years. Bolt-on bed liners allow millimeters of space between the liners and the truck bed. This lets water seep in, which can rust the bed.
The spray-on liner eliminates that factor and keeps your bed from getting scarred by after heavy use. GMC’s bed liner also features a near-adhesive texture, which keeps equipment from sliding around in the bed.
People who use trucks every day will appreciate these thoughtful updates. Driving through rural areas northwest of Boston, the Sierra received more thumbs-up from passing drivers than one could ever get for a new sportscar. That’s because pickup owners know that new trucks tend to address buyers’ needs, not wants. The lighter construction, more fuel-efficient V8 and jobsite-friendly features make the 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 just such a truck, fit for all theaters of work or play.
2014 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD Crew Cab SLT
Price: $43,125. As tested: $50,185. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 16/22 (18 combined). Fuel economy, Globe observed: 17.8 mpg. Powertrain: 5.3L V8, 6AT, four-wheel drive. Body: Full-sized, four-door, light-duty truck.
Horsepower: 355. Overall length: 205.5–239 in. Wheelbase 119–153 in. Height: 73.7–74.2 in. Width: 80 in. Curb weight: 4,700–5,700 lbs.
Work/play needs have been considered at every angle; more fuel-efficient.
Parking in city may need to be followed by stiff drink or sedative.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Trucks have come a long way. The best Sierra yet.
Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford F-150, RAM 1500.