Pickup trucks are “it” right now and the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4, powered by the Duramax diesel engine, must rank among the most attractive full-size pickup trucks available on the market today.
It comes with impressive design and more than enough technology to keep even the most discerning truck owner happy. Since it’s a truck, you want it to be ready to head off-road and the Sierra’s rugged frame has been adapted for travel out where the pavement ends.
Overview: The 2021 Sierra 1500 AT4 remains true to the reasons that so many people want a truck: they need a vehicle able to carry cargo and haul stuff without sacrificing a lot of maneuverability. It seems every facet of this vehicle is well planned and carefully constructed to offer the customer a pleasing experience under all sorts of conditions with a few exceptions, such as driving on crowed urban streets where it does not always fit.
(GMC Sierra will be first hands-free system to let motorists tow with updated Super Cruise.)
Exterior: The exterior design of full-size pickups basically comes down to the look of the front face, which is the signature piece of a vehicle in this segment. The Sierra’s grille and front fascia is most impressive incorporating what seem like an acre of chrome that gleams when it is not covered with winter road soot or mud. GMC.
But GMC’s designers have added impressive touches such as running board to help stepping up into the cab, 18-inch machined wheels, a dozen fixed cargo tie downs, General Motors’ multi-faceted tailgate, LED lighting for the cargo area and LED reflector head lamps and daytime running lamps. Standing at the curb, the Sierra looks, tall, wide and handsome.
Interior: The 2021 Sierra 1500 comes with an excellent interior. I was particularly impressed with the workmanship and detailing inside the cab, which also roomy and comfortable with a nice seat as well as a touch of luxury that helps ease the stress of a long drive. There also are heated seats and a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel.
The controls and screens in the vehicle are neatly integrated into the dashboard and offer the driver a clear view of the relevant information. The instrument cluster and navigation screen are also easy to read at dusk and in the dark and touches
like the head-up display in GMC Sierra also add to the enjoyment of climbing behind the wheel. Visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent and the roomy center stack easily doubles as a table if you stop for lunch.
The rear seats in the crew cab also are spacious and can easily accommodate three passengers, while the sliding sunroof brings some extra light into the cabin during the day and the grab handles on the driver’s and passenger side are most helpful.
(GMC debuts new rough-and-ready Canyon AT4.)
Powertrain: The 2021 Sierra that I drove was equipped with 3-liter Duramax turbodiesel and a 10-speed transmission and four-wheel-drive. There is also a two-speed automatic transfer case when the 4-wheel drive system is needed and an automatic locking rear differential when the going gets tough as well as skid plates.
The diesel powertrain on the Sierra delivers 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. That combination on a truck weighing 6,800 before it is loaded, delivers impressive range and fuel economy with a rating of 24 mpg from the Environmental Protection Agency in combined city and highway driving, including 22 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway. The Sierra’s range is estimated at more than 600 miles between fueling stops.
Technology and Safety: Trucks have come to serve as technology platforms and the Sierra is full of the latest technology safety features beyond airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes and backup cameras. It also comes with voice recognition, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, OnStar, 4G-wifi hot spot and head-up display.
It also is equipped with driver assistance features such as forward-collision alert, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot detection, pedestrian braking, and intelligent high-beams, which are useful on dark roads at night. The Sierra also is equipped with USB ports and a 120-volt outlet in the center stack. The model I drove also had cross-traffic alert, park assist and surround-view camera, which also is helpful when parking a big vehicle. An optional suite of technology to help with towing also is available on the Sierra.
Driving Impressions: I could not help but impressed by the Duramax. The diesel is not as quiet as the latest gas engines, but this application was soft spoken and barely noticeable on a long drive. It also responded quickly without any trace of lag and moved up to speed quickly.
The 10-speed transmission also shifted smoothly even when I took the Sierra on a long stretch of dirt road where the trucks ride, handling and braking as well as its 4-wheel-drive capability stood out on the slick surfaces. The overall ride quality of the 2021 Sierra 1500 AT4, which is built for all-terrain driving, also most impressive. The new frame under the truck is rigid and strong and working with the springs and shock helps level out the ride.
(GMC among brands offering “ideal” vehicles, says new study.)
Wrap Up: There is something of an arms race going on in the full-size pickup segment between GMC and Chevrolet, Ford and Ram and the beneficiaries are the customers who are getting better and better trucks.
The GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 is a product of the competition, and it is an exceptionally good truck. In fact, it is an exceptional truck, rugged, capable, and equipped to tow boats and trailers with relative ease. The ride quality also is particularly good, and the Duramax engines adds another dimension to the truck’s performance. But it is also expensive. The model I tested carried a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $64,400, including the $1,595 destination charge.