GMC Sierra 1500 long-term trial: Choose your pickup wisely!

There is a wide range of pickup trucks on the market, so it is important to determine your needs before plunging headlong into a purchase.  Depending on what the vehicle’s main use will be, some configurations are better than others.  With all of the choices out there, sometimes even from the same manufacturer, it’s not easy to figure out.  Single cab, long box, V8 engines, suspension and transmission types…there are several important questions to ask yourself.

Determining what the vehicle’s primary use is the first step.  If you often have to load and transport cargo in the box, such as building materials or an ATV, you’ll want to pay special attention to the box dimensions and the vehicle’s loading capacity, or payload.  The payload is the weight that the vehicle can transport in its box and this figure varies according to the vehicle’s box type, cab type, and engine type.

What about the box?

As for the box, regardless of vehicle make, the majority of manufacturers offer three relatively similar sizes – 5.5 feet, 6.5 feet, and 8 feet.  Next, you’ll have to decide on the cab size, which is normally available in regular, extended, and crew.  Of course, not all combinations are possible.  The crew cab for example, could not be combined with the longest box.  You’ll have to ask yourself whether you want more space in the cab or more space in the box, and this will determine your combination of cab and box styles.

If you need a pickup to tow heavier loads, the payload becomes less important.  Instead, the towing capacity – the maximum load that the vehicle can pull when equipped with a proper trailer hitch – should be your primary concern.  You should be careful here because this figure varies significantly according to the engine you select, as well as the cab and box sizes.

The GMC Sierra SLT 1500

For our road test, we decided to emphasize towing capacity since this was the easiest way for us to evaluate the vehicle’s performance.  With this in mind, we opted for the most capable of the GMC models, a Sierra 1500 SLT with extended cab and with the standard, 6.5-foot box.  With the most powerful engine under the hood, the 6.0-litre Vortec Max, this model can tow up to 10,700 pounds, a capacity greater than the majority of the competition.  In fact, it is surpassed only by the new Ford F-150 and its 11,300 pound capacity.  The Dodge Ram brings up the rear with a maximum capacity of 9,100 pounds, only slightly less than the Nissan Titan and its 9,700 pounds.

Very stylish

Pickups seldom turn heads because of their style, and even less frequently when equipped only with factory-standard features.  It was clear right away that this pickup was different.  In fact, time after time, the vehicle turned heads, especially those of a group of pickup owners at a recent meet and greet, but that is a topic for the next article!  The Sierra, just like its look-alike, the Chevrolet Silverado, underwent a major makeover two years ago, giving it that impressive, fluid style.  While Ford and Dodge seem to opt for more robust lines, GM sets itself apart with more classic, sophisticated lines.  This is just a matter of taste.  Two features stand out on our test model – the all-chrome front grille, and especially, the 22-inch rims.  No, that is not a misprint, 22 inches, and all of that comes factory-standard.  These very features that give the vehicle its style take away from its utility, but I’ll come back to that.

GM also took the liberty of adding a number of accessories, such as a chrome exhaust tip and the “Cargo Management System,” which includes rails in the pickup box to which anchoring hooks and various other features can be added.  For storing tools and other articles, there are also a series of very practical watertight containers that can be locked using the vehicle’s key for greater security.

The option package that outfitted the interior of our test model added all the features you’d find in great cars, including leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control air conditioning and a GPS navigation system.  Simply put, this pickup will not require you to sacrifice luxury or comfort.  For dirty work, you will definitely want to opt for a more regular cab, if only to feel a little less nauseous every time it gets dirty. 

There you have it for our test model.  Be sure not to miss our other trials in order to learn more about this model, including the comparison with its main competitors.  In the next article, the Sierra will be put to the test!

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