GMC may be a truck brand, but its current luxury crossovers and the latest Sierra 1500 pickup push the boundaries of its utilitarian image. Fear not, because the 2015 Sierra HD proves that the brand’s toughest truck can retain its roughneck charm even while receiving a much-needed updating.
The Sierra HD’s industrial-chic styling works well with its blocky silhouette, with additional brightwork and details versus the Silverado, such as plastic trim guarding the wheel arches. GMC says one out of every four of its HD truck buyers opts for the chromed-out Denali trim, which has received additional touches inside and out to further assert its top-dog status. Not that you can miss its reflective, rearview-mirror-clogging grille.
The various four-door 4x4 trucks we drove in Arizona were immense machines, yet the new cab design makes getting in and out of the captain’s chairs relatively easy—and less of a hike than in comparable Ford and Ram pickups. Double Cab Sierras (and Silverados) now have proper front-hinged rear doors for simpler rear-seat access, while Crew Cab models gain larger rear openings and slightly more room to stretch out. And because the Double Cab now has a proper B-pillar, cab stiffness is improved, resulting in far fewer squeaks and shakes over rough terrain than with last year’s rear-hinged extended-cab models.
The view is commanding behind the wheel of the new truck despite an ever more enveloping cabin. While the Sierra HD retains its surprisingly sharp and accurate steering, extending the light-duty truck’s polish to the big rig also meant vastly improving its ride. Even though the new suspension tuning can still accommodate up to 7374 pounds of payload, it also eliminates the choppiness and related head toss common with unladen trucks. Along with significantly more sound insulation—including carpeted wheel wells—that makes the interior as hushed as a library, these monster trucks are more refined on the road than some luxury vehicles we can think of.
The HD’s interior is largely the same as the Sierra 1500’s, which is slightly better trimmed and more expressive than the Chevy’s. The supportive seats are comfy for long hauls, the controls have good adjustability, and the ergonomics are smartly arranged. The GMC’s dizzying array of options range from heated-and-cooled seats and forward-collision warning to an 8.0-inch touch-screen monitor with navigation. Denali models feature all of that and more, including a secondary 8.0-inch display in the cluster with customizable settings.
Of course, the Sierra’s most noteworthy extra is the 6.6-liter DuraMax V-8 turbo-diesel ($7195)—still rated at 397 horsepower and 765 lb-ft of torque—paired with the superb Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission ($1200). Although a 360-hp, 6.0-liter gas V-8 is still standard (and available with compressed-natural-gas capability for $11,000), our drive time was limited to the diesel engine, which felt as strong as ever. We’ll be testing the new trucks soon on familiar ground, but the most significant takeaways from our stint include the stunning power of the DuraMax, even uphill with a 16,000-plus-pound trailer in tow, and the improved integration of the exhaust and transmission brakes on descents.
Thanks to: Car and Driver