2002 Sierra 3500 New Car Test Drive
GMC Sierra represents the best and most advanced in pickup engineering. It does everything pickups have always done, only better, with a first-class capacity for hauling and towing. It rides and handles more like a car than any pickup ever did before. Inside, the Sierra is one of the most luxurious pickups we've ever driven, setting new standards for quietness, plush appointments, and solid construction.
Of course, all of that is equally true of the Sierra's mechanical twin, the Chevrolet Silverado.
What sets the Sierra apart is image, the intangible value of GMC's 100-year heritage of building trucks and only trucks. And even if Sierra and Silverado are clones under the skin, the GMC pickup presents a bolder face to the world. Sierra boasts its own grille, hood, fenders, fascia, bumpers and headlamps. Like the best GMC designs of the past, it looks a little sharper-dressed than its Chevrolet cousin.
GMC also offers model and equipment variants that Chevrolet does not, including the 325-horsepower Sierra Denali with four-wheel steering; and the new business-oriented Professional, with unique interior equipment designed exclusively for the entrepreneur on the go. General Motors is the current leader in heavy-duty pickup trucks. GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado heavy-duty trucks are more powerful and more comfortable than any heavy-duty trucks in history. They ride more smoothly and feel more refined than the current heavy-duty trucks from Ford and Dodge.
Completely re-engineered and redesigned for 2001, the GMC Sierra line is mechanically nearly identical to the Chevy Silverado line. However, there are some key differences. The Sierras are more stylish. Positioned as 'professional grade' trucks, the GMCs offer more features, more technology, and more luxury then the Chevys.
These trucks can move mountains. GM says its 3500 series boasts the most power, the heftiest gross vehicle weight rating and the highest gross combined vehicle weight rating available.
Like all big American-made pickups, the Sierra comes in two and four-wheel-drive, in light-duty (1500) and medium-duty (2500) loading and towing capacities, with short-bed and long-bed bodies, and with fendered or full-width beds. There are standard-length two-door cabs and extended-length cabs with two more auxiliary doors in the rear. New for 2002 is a 1500 HD Crew Cab, with four full-size doors, just like the heavy-duty work-site models.
Engine choices for 1500 models range from a basic 4.3-liter V6, up through a 4.8-liter V8 (standard in extended cabs), and a 5.3-liter V8. Extended-cab, long box 1500s and all 2500s come with a 300-horsepower 6.0-liter V8. Five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions are offered.
Trim levels have been revised for 2002, and now begin with Standard, and advance through SL and SLE. SLT returns as a leather-and-luxury equipment package.
Also returning in revised form is last year's Sierra C3, now labeled Sierra Denali. Available only as an extended-cab, short-bed 4x4, Denali packs a 325-horsepower version of the 6.0-liter V8, along with automatic transmission and an exclusive, sophisticated full-time all-wheel-drive system. For 2002, it also comes with GM's electronically controlled four-wheel-steering system called Quadrasteer. Quadrasteer reduces Sierra's curb-to-curb turning diameter by 21 percent, to just 37.4 feet, which is within inches of a Saturn SC1. Quadrasteer also enhances high-speed stability.
Since Quadrasteer requires a five-inch increase in track, you can spot a Denali by its unique rear fender blisters. Denali also features a full pallet of luxury equipment and the ZX3 Ride Control suspension, with cockpit-adjustable shock absorbers.
Like the Denali, the new Professional is available only with a short box and extended cab, but unlike GMC's flagship pickup, the Professional is offered in two- or four-wheel drive, and it should be priced much lower. Starting with SLE-level equipment, the Professional adds a special full-length console with concealed storage for a personal digital assistant (PDA), cell phone, and other items; a seven-quart cooler; a cooled or heated cup holder, and a second Big Gulp-sized cup holder for those entrepreneurial doses of caffeine. The console can be converted to store hanging file folders. The Professional also features more lockable storage under the rear seat, a bold chrome grille, 16-inch alloy wheels and unique exterior identification. Standard power with two-wheel drive is the 4.8-liter V8 and automatic transmission, but 4x4 Professionals come standard with the 5.3. SLT trim with leather is an option.
Sierra prices cover a broad range, starting at $17,408 for a standard-trim, V6 1500 2WD, and more than doubling to $43,385 for the luxurious, high-tech Denali. A short-box, 4WD extended-cab SLE would include the 4.8-liter V8 for $29,266; and many popular 2WD models list in the $23,000-$27,000 range.
For even heavier-duty hauling, GMC builds the 3/4-ton Sierra 2500HD and 3500. (See review on the heavy duty Sierra models at NewCarTestDrive.com.). Heavy-duty Sierra pickups are broadly divided into the 2500 HD series and the 3500 series.
To understand the lineup, it helps to speak the language: 'Half-ton,' '3/4-ton' and 'one-ton' are outdated terms because modern trucks haul far more than 1,000-2,000 pounds. However, we still tend to use these terms. Sierra 1500 series are the so-called half-ton trucks. Just to make things as confusing as possible, GMC sells a light-duty 2500-series truck line, which we might refer to as a half-ton truck because it's based on the 1500 Series. (See separate newcartestdrive.com review of the Sierra 1500 and 2500 light-duty trucks.)
2500HD pickups are what we commonly call 3/4-ton trucks. All GMC 2500HD trucks come with single rear wheels. Their suspensions and chassis are a heavier duty design than the light-duty 2500 series models; the two can be distinguished by the 2500HD's raised hood.
3500-series trucks come with dual rear wheels; these so-called one-ton trucks are commonly referred to as 'duallies.'
Regular Cab, Extended Cab and Crew Cab bodies are available with 6.5-foot short beds or 8-foot long beds. Wheelbases run 133, 143.5, 153.0, 157.5, and 167 inches long on 2500 HD pickups; wheelbases are available in 133, 157.5, 161.5, and 167.5 inches on 3500 duallies.
Three trim levels are offered: SL, the well-equipped SLE, and the leather SLT.
Engine choices: 6.0-liter Vortec V8, 8.1-liter Vortec V8, and 6.6-liter Duramax Turbo Diesel.
Just as important are the transmission choices: five-speed manual or four-speed automatic for the Vortec 6.0-liter; six-speed manual or an exciting new Allison five-speed automatic for the Vortec 8100 or Duramax 6600. And, of course, two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available.
For 2002, GMC has added two new Sierra Professional models; they are designed as extended cab short box work trucks and are available in 2WD and 4WD.