2004 Sierra 3500 New Car Test Drive
GMC Sierra offers first-class hauling and towing capabilities yet offers a smooth, comfortable ride among the full-size pickups. Even compared to more recently introduced or re-engineered models from Ford, Dodge, and Nissan, the Sierra rides and handles very well.
New for 2004 is a roomy and comfortable Sierra 1500 Crew Cab available with 2WD or 4WD, in SLE or SLT trim. Built with a new 5-foot, 8-inch cargo box the new 1500 Crew Cab is shorter than extended-cab trucks and is designed for easier parking and maneuverability. Crew Cab models offer a rear-seat DVD entertainment center as an option, making these pickups an attractive alternative to a full-size SUV.
GMC Sierra’s current design dates from 1999, but it was significantly refined and updated last year, with a bolder, more raked front end. Its interior was revised as well, for improved function and appearance. The brakes were upgraded, and the engines tuned to run cleaner.
These are great tow vehicles. The Sierra Denali, for example, is rated to tow trailers of up to 9,900 pounds. Combined with Quadrasteer, heavy-duty brakes and a relatively long wheelbase, the Sierra Denali makes for a supremely stable tow vehicle.
GMC Sierra comes in two- and four-wheel-drive models; in light-duty (1500) medium-duty (2500) and heavy-duty (3500) loading and towing capacities; with short-bed (6-foot-6-inch) and long-bed (8-foot) bodies, and with step-side or full-width beds. There are standard-length two-door cabs, extended-length cabs with two auxiliary doors in the rear, and Crew Cabs with four full-size doors. (This review focuses on the Sierra 1500 models.)
Engine choices include 4.3-liter V6, 4.8-liter V8, and 5.3-liter V8. The 2500/3500 HD models come with a 300-horsepower, 6.0-liter V8. Five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions are offered.
The new 1500 Crew Cab is powered by the 5.3-liter V8 and features a shorter wheelbase than last year's 1500 HD (143.5 inches, vs. 153.0), made possible by its extra-short 5-foot-8-inch box. (Last year’s 1500 HD model, with its monster 3094-pound payload, six-passenger Crew Cab, and 6.0-liter V8, has been re-designated a 2500 HD-series model for 2004.)
Base models have been upgraded for 2004 with an attractive chrome grille molding, chrome steel wheels, and a chrome rear bumper, plus cruise control as standard equipment. Carpeting and cloth seats are also standard. The W/T (Work Truck) package is now available on all Sierra models. The W/T deletes the front-end chrome and carpeting, and substitutes vinyl seats, for a credit of $200-$700, depending on cab style.
SLE trim adds a CD player, fog lamps, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Leather upholstery is optional. SLT trim, available on Extended Cabs and Crew Cabs, adds automatic air conditioning, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and OnStar telecommunications.
Sierra Denali, the flagship of the fleet, is 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. Denali comes with OnStar, tone-on-tone leather, dual-zone automatic climate control, extra sound deadening, a Bose audio system with separate controls for rear-seat passengers, a unique console and other exclusive amenities. It's equipped with steering wheel controls for the audio system, OnStar, trip computer, and other programmable functions. Denali also provides a lockable floor console large enough to hold a picnic lunch for a family of four; it comes with a reversible, removable cup holder tray and a storage nook in front of the lid.
Quadrasteer is available on Sierra 1500 short-bed Extended Cabs and 2500 HD Crew Cabs, and comes standard on the Denali. An electronically controlled four-wheel-steering system, Quadrasteer reduces Sierra’s curb-to-curb turning diameter by 21 percent and enhances high-speed stability. Quadrasteer comes packaged with a limited-slip differential and a trailer-tow package.