Make no mistake about it. The introduction of an all-new full-size pickup truck is a very big deal. Pickup trucks are not only the sales leader for each domestic automaker, but are also responsible for significant profits for the Detroit Three: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.
General Motors offers two full-size pickups: the volume-leading Chevrolet Silverado and the nearly identical GMC Sierra. Both have been completely redesigned for 2014.
My wife Paula and I had a Sierra SLT 1500 for this review. The Silverado and Sierra share engines, transmissions, chassis components and most body panels. GMC, which markets its pickups as being “professional grade” has a unique front clip, which means the hood, grille and bumper are not shared with Chevrolet. The interior is much the same on both versions, but GMC upgraded the instrument panel and console area with metal trim and wood accent pieces on our highline SLT 1500 Z71 4x4 Crew Cab review vehicle.
For all that has changed with the redesign, most folks thought the 2014 Sierra looked a great deal like the 2013 model it replaced. However, it’s look is substantial and bold, as more than one driver of a previous generation GM pickup truck pulled alongside to get a better look. One even went so far as to have his female passenger snap pictures using her iPad.
GMC offers the Sierra in regular, extended and crew cabs, with the buyer’s choice of three engines, all now bearing the EcoTec3 label: an extensively redone 4.3-liter V-6, the 5.3-liter V-8 that powered our truck, or a 6.2-liter V-8. The 5.3-liter engine is offered initially, with the larger V-8 and smaller V-6 to follow. Extended cab versions now feature independently operated, front-hinged rear doors.
The 5.3-liter V-8 is plenty powerful and the six-speed automatic shifts smoothly. Our four-wheel drive model had one ergonomic idiosyncrasy, however. The control for the drive system was a round knob located just above a similar round knob for the headlights. It’s easy to imagine a driver seeking one function accidentally activating, or deactivating, the other. Fortunately, both can be placed in an automatic mode.
Sixty miles per hour arrives in 7.5 seconds, which also makes this massive 5,600-plus pound vehicle surprisingly quick. Plenty of horsepower combined with large quantities of torque will do that.
The Sierra’s engine can shut down four of its eight cylinders to aid fuel economy. An instrument panel display keeps the driver informed as to which mode the engine is using. The transitions are so smooth as to be imperceptible.
The ride in our off-road ready Z71 version was passenger-car smooth and stable most of the time with this two-and-a-half-plus-ton machine able to simply smother most bumps. It was quiet all the time. Larger bumps sent a very mild and slightly delayed shudder through the body structure, which felt amazingly solid, regardless of the surface. The ride was never harsh, even with an empty cargo box, which came with a bed liner coating, an “EZ Lift” locking tailgate and a chrome rear bumper with corner steps.
Steering is now electrically assisted. It provides ample boost at low speeds, cutting back on the assist as speeds rise for better road feel. Handling is predictable, but with the Sierra’s size and weight, it never feels nimble. The passenger cabin approaches luxury car standards for trim and comfort in the SLT version.
While the SLT is clearly able to work hard, it’s also amazingly comfortable and stylish. This redesign should keep GM’s pickup trucks highly competitive in what has turned out to be perhaps the most important market segment for the domestic automakers.
My first reaction to this 2014 GMC Sierra was to label it a “big bruiser.” Not that it bruised me, but getting in required this shorter adult to use the running board steps and grab onto the structure of the door frame.
I found everything a little oversized once I was in the driver’s seat. The center console was huge, the seats were wide and the front passenger, separated from the driver by that console, could well be located in a different zip code. My mother thought this truck was too large for me, a short person, to drive, but she was wrong.
Also large and distant were the windshield pillar and rearview mirrors. While the mirror gave a good view to what was beside and slightly behind the truck – it also included LED turn signal repeaters – it was large enough to create a significant blind spot for me at intersections.
That said, the seating position was very comfortable, with the combination of the power seat, power pedals and the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel making for an ideal driving position once everything was adjusted.
Keeping this big truck in its lane was made much easier with the lane departure warning system. I liked the warnings it occasionally gave me. Despite its size, this Sierra was surprisingly easy to drive.
The Sierra was also easy to maneuver, thanks to its light steering. And in tight quarters, it will take a lot of maneuvering. My husband Jim and I have a driveway with a turnaround so we can drive onto the street going forward, not backward. Most cars require a single pass to use this feature. The GMC Sierra took three back and forth passes before being able to head out onto the street going forward.
The rear seat proved to be exceptionally roomy. The ride and silence drew praise from our passengers who could not believe the level of comfort and luxury on a 50 mile trip.
Maneuvering in tight spaces and initial access for shorter folks aside, this truck imposes few penalties on either driver or passengers.
ENGINES: 4.3 V-6 5.3 V-8 6.2 V-8
HP: 285 355 TBA
Torque (lb/ft): 305 383 TBA
EPA: TBA 16/23 2wd TBA
TBA 16/22 4wd
Starts at: $24,090
Jim MacPherson is the host of "The Car Doctor" show airing Sundays at noon on WTIC-AM. Paula MacPherson is his wife and new-car review partner. Send comments, questions, suggestions in care of Special Publications, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115, or email email@example.com