2016 GMC Sierra 1500 Review

2016 GMC Sierra 1500 - Refined Sierra balances work and play.


The GMC Sierra 1500 is a full-size pickup truck that's an under-the-skin twin to the Chevrolet Silverado. Competitors include the Ford F-150, Nissan Titan, Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra. All of these trucks, save the Tundra are also available in higher-payload heavy-duty trim. In the Sierra's case, that model is called the Sierra HD.

Sierra 1500's base engine is a 285-horsepower 4.3-liter V-6. Also available are 5.3- and 6.2-liter V8 engines with 355 and 420 horsepower, respectively. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with the V6, while an eight-speed automatic is optional with the V8 engines. Maximum payload is 2,260 pounds and maximum towing is 12,000 pounds.

Several cab styles and bed lengths are offered. Regular cabs come with either a 6.5- or 8-foot box. Double cabs are available only with a 6.5-foot box. Crew cab models get either a 5.5- or 6.5-foot box. Rear-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive being optional across the board. The all-wheel-drive system comes adds a low-range designed for off-road use.

Safety features include stability and traction control, tire-pressure monitoring system, electronic trailer sway control, rear-view monitor and dual-front, front-side and curtain-side airbags. The available Driver Alert package adds forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beam headlights and vibrating "safety alert" driver's seat.

Trim levels include base, SLE, SLT and Denali. Prices start at $29,010 and climb to more than $55,000. All models have a $1,195 destination charge and are assembled in both the United States and Mexico.

Sierra's base V6 is best left to light-duty work. It's smooth and mates well to the six-speed automatic, but isn't up to the task when the cargo bed is full or when lugging a heavy trailer. The best choice might be the 5.3-liter V8. It's significantly more powerful and comes with an active fuel management system that's designed to reduce fuel consumption with light loads. If you consistently tow or haul, you may want to consider the 6.2-liter V8. This monster of a motor has plenty of power for just about any need.

EPA ratings for the Sierra with the 5.3-liter V8 are 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. While not impressive overall, those numbers are above average for V8-powered pickups and will likely be easy to match in real-world driving. All Sierra engines run fine on regular-grade gasoline.

Though Sierra lacks the coil-spring setup found in the Ram, it offers a nicely balanced ride that's decidedly trucky without being bouncy. The suspension does an excellent job of limiting secondary motions and reducing head-toss. The ride actually improves a bit if you add a few hundred pounds to the bed - though that will certainly hurt fuel economy. Brakes have good stopping power and an easy-to-modulate pedal. Steering is numb but tracks straight and true on the highway. Turning radius, as you might imagine, is quite large, making Sierra a chore to park and maneuver in tight spaces.

One note, be sure to test drive the exact model you are considering. There's a good deal of difference in the ride quality between trims and tire/wheel/suspension packages.

Sierra is one of the quietest pickups around - especially in Denali trim. There's little road or engine noise and wind noise only grows bothersome at extra-legal speeds. If you spend a lot of time on the highway, paying a few dollars more for Denali's extra sound-deadening material is money well spent.

Sierra's offers a refined, workman-like interior. Controls are large and well-marked and gauges easy to read. Materials are sturdy but seem upscale compared to most competitors. Auxiliary power outlets abound and storage bins and cubbies are nicely sprinkled throughout.

Available touch-screen system is a gem - perhaps the best among pickups. It reacts quickly to input and can easily be programmed by voice control. In addition, it supports Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

Front seats are large and nicely supporting with a strong emphasis on comfort. Head and leg room are quite good and outward visibility is excellent, aided by extra-large outside mirrors and thin roof pillars. Crew cab offers genuine adult-size rear-seat comfort, while double cabs will accommodate adults in a pinch, the rear seats are better suited to children. Step-in height on all models is high.

Though some may overlook Sierra, it has a lot to offer. It's clearly a cut above the Chevrolet Silverado in terms of overall refinement and interior craftsmanship but only slightly more expensive. Positives include great V8 engine offerings, roomy crew cab model, user-friendly design and nice compliment of safety and convenience features. The pickup wars are quite intense between manufacturers, so be sure to shop around for the best price on your favorite.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.