2006 Sierra 1500HD New Car Test Drive
The GMC Sierra is nearly identical to the Chevy Silverado but features more mature, restrained styling. It's a look that reflects GMC's history of building trucks, and only trucks, that dates back to 1902, nearly a decade before Louis Chevrolet produced his first car.
GMC also offers more options than Chevrolet, including the luxurious Sierra Denali, a suave, uniquely styled, ultra-luxury pickup whose exclusive features include a high-performance 6.0-liter V8 and full-time all-wheel drive. Denali appeared in 2002 as an Extended Cab pickup; for 2005, GMC has transformed Denali into a Crew Cab with four full-size doors.
GMC continues to offer light-duty 1500 Crew Cab models in SLE and SLT trim. With their 5-foot, 8-inch cargo box, Sierra Crew Cabs are no longer than standard-bed, extended-cab models 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.
At any trim level, and with any cab configuration, Sierra offers first-class hauling and towing capabilities. Extended Cabs, with their standard 143-inch wheelbase and optional Quadrasteer four-wheel steering and heavy-duty brakes, make supremely stable tow vehicles, with towing capacities up to 9,000 pounds. The 1500HD Crew Cab, which returns for 2005 after a one-year hiatus, can tow up to 10,200 pounds. Even the plush Denali tows 8,100 pounds.
Yet all Sierras deliver a smooth, comfortable ride among the full-size pickups. Even compared to more recently introduced or re-engineered pickups from Ford, Dodge, and Nissan, the Sierra rides and handles very well. Sierra's current design dates from 1999, but it was significantly refined and updated for 2003, with cleaner engines, a bolder exterior appearance and more comfortable interiors.
GMC Sierra comes in two- and four-wheel-drive models; in light-duty (1500) medium-duty (2500HD) 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. Although nominally classified as light duty or 'half-ton' trucks, the 1500s offer payloads ranging from 1,215 to 2,040 pounds, and tow ratings from 4,100 up to 9,000 pounds, depending on equipment. That's all the truck most consumers will ever need.
Engine choices include a 4.3-liter V6, 4.8-liter V8, and 5.3-liter V8. New for 2005 is an all-aluminum version of the 5.3-liter, used exclusively in four-wheel-drive Extended Cab Standard Box models. Five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions are offered.
Consumers with exceptional needs may find a reasonable compromise in the 1500HD, which returns for 2005. Available only as a Crew Cab with a 6-foot-6-inch bed (instead of the standard 1500 Crew Cab's 5-foot-8-inch bed), the 1500HD hauls 3,073 pounds with 2WD, 2,766 pounds with 4WD, and tows 10,200 pounds. Power is provided by the same 6.0-liter V8 that's used in the 2500HD/3500; but the 1500HD should ride more smoothly than the heavy-duty trucks.
Base models come with ABS, air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/CD audio, an attractive chrome grille molding, a chrome rear step bumper, and 17-inch chromed steel wheels. Carpeting and cloth seats are also standard. Regular and Extended Cabs are available, but not the Crew Cab, Base prices range from $21,045 to $31,270.
The W/T (Work Truck) model deletes the CD player, chrome, cruise control and carpeting. These plane-Jane trucks are aimed at commercial and municipal fleets, with prices ranging from $18,770 to $29,540.
SLE trim adds fog lamps; power windows, mirrors, and door locks; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; overhead console; and other amenities. Leather upholstery is optional. The 4.8-liter V8 and automatic transmission are standard on Regular and Extended Cabs; Crew Cabs come with the 5.3 and automatic. Prices range from $25,755 to $34,140.
SLT trim, available on Extended Cabs and Crew Cabs, adds automatic dual-zone air conditioning, leather upholstery, power-adjustable bucket seats with heat and memory, floor console, heated outside mirrors, new Gen6 OnStar telecommunications and 17-inch aluminum wheels. The 5.3-liter V8 is standard, with a higher-performing, all-aluminum 5.3 in 4WD Extended Cabs. Prices range from $33,270 to $38,205.
Sierra Denali ($41,735), the flagship of the fleet, packs a 345-horsepower version of the 6.0-liter V8, along with automatic transmission, vacuum-boosted four-wheel-disc brakes and an exclusive, sophisticated full-time all-wheel-drive system. Denali comes with tone-on-tone leather, extra sound deadening, a Bose audio system with separate controls for rear-seat passengers, and other exclusive amenities. It's equipped with steering wheel controls for the audio system, Gen6 OnStar, trip computer, and other programmable functions. A power sunroof is available.
A Sierra Hybrid is available in some states and, with its unique starter/generator combined with its Vortec 5300 5.3L V8, offers up to a 10 percent improvement in fuel economy while delivering the same 295 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque as any other Sierra with the 5300 engine.
Quadrasteer electronically controlled four-wheel steering is available on Sierra 1500 standard-bed Extended Cabs with 4WD, 1500HD Crew Cabs with 2WD or 4WD, and on 2500HD Crew Cabs. Quadrasteer reduces Sierra's curb-to-curb turning diameter by 26 percent and enhances high-speed stability. It comes packaged ($1,995) with a limited-slip differential, heavy-duty brakes and clearance lights.