On the Road Review: GMC visits New England

MIDDLEBORO, MASS. — After too long of an absence, GMC recently staged a visit with New England’s automotive press to debut its 2020 Sierra lineup. Front and center were three of the stars: a brand new Sierra 1500 AT4 crew-cab, plus AT4 and Denali versions of the all-new Sierra 2500 Heavy Duty crew cabs powered by the updated Duramax 6.6-liter turbo-diesel engine.

In 2019, GM’s Chevrolet truck brand suffered a sales decline, losing marketshare to FCA’s Ram, while the GMC lineup gained marketshare. Key to GMC’s success has been consumer demand for the premium, professional packages found on the more expensive trim levels. More than 1/3 of all new GMCs sold are top Denali-trimmed vehicles, enhancing the brand’s image as well as the bottom line. With sales evenly split 50-50 between pickups and SUVs, GMC is the most truck-dependent automaker in the market.

The new AT4 trim is a step below Denali and one step up from SLT and Elevation-trimmed trucks. In 1500 series trucks, the AT4 can be powered by the brand’s new 3.0-liter Duramax diesel (277 hp/460 pound/feet of peak torque and a 30-mpg EPA rating plus 9,100-pound tow rating) or a de-tuned version of the Corvette’s 6.2-liter V-8 engine, with 420 hp and 460 pound/feet of peak torque (12,500-pound tow rating). Both use the all-new 10-speed automatic transmission.

GMC is also using the AT4 to promote its technology advantages, with this Sierra featuring industry firsts such as the six-way MultiPro Tailgate, CarbonPro Composite pickup bed, rear camera mirror, full-color HID-windshield display, ProGrade Trailering with five cameras and the segment’s first transparent trailer view (you can see both inside and behind your trailer) plus Dynamic adaptive cruise control and Dynamic fuel management to deactivate cylinders.

The AT4 trucks also ride on a 2-inch taller chassis employing Rancho monotube shocks and either 18-inch or 20-inch Goodyear DuraTrac off-road tires. Skid plates, locking rear differential, Hill Descent Control, as well as specific trim accents and integrated dual exhaust pipes are also included.

Base Sierra pickups start at $29,600. The AT4 model begins at $51,000 in CrewCab. Denali trim starts at $54,700. GMC also features a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder for base trucks, as well as the venerable 4.3-liter V-6 and 5.3-liter V-8 engines using six-speed and eight-speed automatic transmissions. Pickup beds range from 8-foot for regular cab models to 5-foot-8 and 6-foot-6 on four-door cabs.

The latest Sierra 2500 sees a host of new changes besides the flowing sheet metal and distinctive front grille’s that help set this truck apart from its boxier-looking Chevrolet sibling. While the dash receives a host of new technology pieces, the touchscreen remains an 8-inch unit packed with programs and apps, while the new heads-up display screen that is programmable on your windshield is up to 15 inches wide.

Sierra 2500 and 3500 series trucks get a reworked 6.6-liter Duramax — now with 910 pound/feet of torque running through a new 10-speed Allison automatic that utilizes auto-mode 4WD for the first time. Max tow rating for this powertrain is 35,500.

The Sierra Heavy Duty line also replaces the old 6.0-liter V-8 with a larger 6.6-liter gas engine that bumps power to 410 hp and 464 pound/feet of torque using a six-speed automatic. Sierra 2500 pricing starts at $40,000, climbing to $57,700 for the AT4 edition or $63,700 for the Denali. GMC claims that 93 percent of Sierra HD buyers tow regularly with their trucks, so the same technologies — six-way tailgate, multi-view rear cameras, rear camera mirror, HID screen, cruise control, 10-speed automatic, etc. — make the leap to the HD series this year.

The ProGrade Trailering Camera debut is quite impressive, giving operators the option of 15 different exterior camera views to the front, rear, side and even behind the trailer. Our sample Denali was hooked to a boxed car carrier, which was ferrying a brand new 2020 Canyon pickup — which we could readily see but not sample.

Add task lamps on the side mirrors (like Ford’s Raptor), new fender marker lamps and subtleties like hidden storage compartments inside the rear seatbacks, plus Sirius XM streaming capabilities in the stereo and greater rear seat legroom, and it is clear that GMC is working hard to capture a larger percentage of the evidently strong premium pickup market. These handsome trucks are bigger, stronger and smarter pickups; four-door, 4WD luxury sedans that can pull a house.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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