2011 Sierra 1500 New Car Test Drive
The GMC Sierra delivers serious towing and hauling capability. The Sierra is built on the same platform and shares mechanicals with the Chevrolet Silverado but exterior styling is quite different.
Sierra offers a choice of 4.8-liter, 5.3-liter, and 6.2-liter V8 engines, plus a hybrid gas-electric. It comes in Regular, Extended, and Crew Cab versions with long and short beds, long and short wheelbases, two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.
All the V8 engines benefit from variable valve timing and Flex Fuel capability (meaning they will run on E85 ethanol). Active Fuel Management is standard with the 5.3-liter V8. The 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8s come with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The 6.2-liter V8 is available for Sierra Extended Cab and Crew Cab models, and is useful for towing heavier loads. A 3.08:1 axle ratio is standard with both transmissions and offers better fuel economy, but it's not recommended for towing.
The Sierra Hybrid uses GM's Two-Mode Hybrid system. It's available only as a Crew Cab model with a specially tuned 332-horsepower 6.0-liter V8 working in conjunction with a battery pack and a 4-speed automatic transmission that houses two electric motors. The Hybrid is EPA-rated at 20 mpg City/23 mpg Highway, while compromising payload and towing capacity (maximum around 6000 pounds).
A choice of interior styles is available. The traditional layout, called pure pickup, has a driver-oriented dash layout with large switchgear and door handles designed for work gloves. The pure pickup interior includes a 40/20/40 split front bench seat with the center section folding down to provide a large storage compartment and wide armrest.
The luxurious Sierra SLT has a cabin similar to that of a luxury SUV, with two front bucket seats separated by a fixed center console. This design places audio and ventilation system controls more easily within reach of the front-seat passenger, who may or may not be a spouse, and it offers space for a navigation system and storage compartments.
The Sierra Denali makes for a comfortable, luxurious pickup with the emphasis on performance rather than payload and towing capacity. The Sierra Denali offers the same sort of high-line content as the upscale GMC Yukon Denali sport utility, and it's available with all-wheel drive. Denali comes with a 6.2-liter V8.
Side-curtain airbags and seat-mounted side airbags are standard on all Sierras, while StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover mitigation is standard on 1500 models. A rearview camera is available and we recommend it. Changes for 2011 are minor and include subtle refinements to reduce wind noise. All 2011 Sierra models except the basic Work Truck come with OnStar 9.0.
The 2011 GMC Sierra offers four engine choices: 4.3-liter V6, 4.8-liter V8, 5.3-liter V8, 6.2-liter V8. All the V8s will run on gasoline or E85, a mixture of gasoline and 85-percent ethanol. All come with automatics transmissions; manual transmissions are not available.
The Regular Cab is designed for fleet buyers and others who want a basic truck for work, budget play, or a clean slate for customization. It can be equipped with a standard bed (6-foot, 6-inch) or a long bed (8-foot), two bucket seats or a three-person bench seat, V6 or V8 engines.
The Extended Cab has two rows of seats with rear-hinged rear access doors that open 170 degrees and have roll-down windows. The Extended Cab can also be equipped with a standard or long cargo bed, and with seating for five or six people.
The Crew Cab has two rows of seats and four front-hinged doors. It can be equipped with seating for five or six and comes with a short (5-foot, 8-inch) bed.
Standard equipment on the basic Work Truck ($20,850) includes vinyl seating surfaces, air conditioning, AM/FM radio, daytime running lights, tire pressure monitoring system, Smooth Ride suspension, 17-inch wheels, and chrome bumpers. The 4.6-liter V6 engine is standard.
Sierra SL is available in Extended Cab and Crew Cab models, and adds a CD player with MP3 capability, XM Satellite Radio, deep tinted glass, OnStar, carpeting, chrome grille surround, body-side moldings, styled steel wheels, cruise control, remote keyless entry, cloth upholstery, and power mirrors, windows and door locks. The 4.8-liter V8 is standard. Extended Cabs get a handling/trailering suspension.
Sierra SLE adds premium cloth upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, handling/trailering suspension (for all cabs), and illuminated visor vanity mirrors. Crew Cab XFE (Extra Fuel Economy) models get alloy wheels. Options include dual-zone air conditioning, a floor console, power driver and front passenger seats, leather seat trim, audio controls on the steering wheel, and machined aluminum wheels.
Sierra SLT adds leather seat trim, a unique instrument panel, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and outside temperatures, upgraded audio system with Bose premium speakers, Bluetooth, front bucket seats with 10-way power adjustment and heat, fog lamps, dual-zone climate control, rear window defogger, remote start, 18-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels, and the 5.3-liter V8 engine. Crew Cab models also get a rear-seat audio system.
Sierra Denali includes a top-flight interior with leather, unique woodgrain console, park assist and the standard luxury and convenience features from the preceding trim levels. The options include a heated steering wheel, heated/cooled front seats, sunroof, and rear-seat entertainment. The Denali comes only as a Crew Cab with the 6.2-liter V8 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission and rear or all-wheel drive.
Sierra Hybrid, available as a Crew Cab only, uses a 332-horsepower 6.0-liter V8 in conjunction with a battery pack and four-speed automatic transmission that houses two electric motor units. With an EPA rating of 20 mpg, its urban economy is the best of the Sierras, the compromises being price, payload (maximum in the mid-1500-pound range) and maximum towing capacity around 6000 pounds. A towing package is standard, however. Options include a locking rear differential and a power sunroof.
Safety features include dual front airbags, head-curtain airbags that automatically inflate when sensors sense a severe impact to provide extra protection in the event of a rollover or secondary collision, driver and front-seat passenger side-impact air bags, anti-lock brakes, StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover mitigation technology, and tire-pressure monitoring. The optional Autotrac active transfer case, ultrasonic rear park assist, and OnStar emergency notification can further enhance safety, as can the all-wheel-drive system on the Denali.
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