2014 GMC Sierra SLT Rocky Mountain Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 GMC Sierra SLT


By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel

The light-duty truck market is a continual game of one-upsmanship – each year, GM, Toyota, Ford, and Ram compete to redesign, add more features, and to generally steal the spotlight from their competition. For 2014, the year belongs to the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado. We recently spent a week with the all-new GMC Sierra, and we found it to be masterfully redesigned and at the top of the game.

Our Sierra came to us as a crew-cab, short-bed model, in top-level SLT trim – GMC’s trims are too challenging to completely detail, but we will mention that this trim includes such features as chrome trim, remote start capabilities, power folding mirrors, a rear window defroster, power-adjustable pedals, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 110-volt power outlet, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating surfaces, heated eight-way power driver and passenger front seats and driver-seat memory settings.

On the outside, there is little that serves to differentiate the all-new Sierra from its predecessor, and that’s a good thing – its boxy, no-nonsense shape is appealing, and doesn’t feel the slightest bit dated. Only small cues stand out as differentiators, such as the distinct shape of the projector beam headlights with LED daytime running lights and the updated style of the grille. We also took note of the quality and color of the paint – what GMC calls Stealth Gray Metallic is rich and carries quite a good deal of depth to it, looking alternately gray, green, or blue depending on the light. In the back, the height and width of the rear wheel wells do not greatly cut into the usable capacity of the bed, and the “EZ lift and lower tailgate” lives up to its name. Absent is a central locking capability for the tailgate, a feature we hope GM will consider down the road.

Inside the cabin, the first impression is one of quality – materials, fit, and finish are clearly an order of magnitude improved from the previous Sierra. Seats are nicely trimmed in a good-quality leather, and classy-looking contrast stitching is visible along the dash. Notably absent is the use of faux wood for trim.

GM clearly took their time to consider controls and instrumentation. In front of the driver, an easily-readable analog instrument cluster sits in the dashboard, with a 4.2-inch configurable color display positioned between the speedo and tach. That display is controlled by buttons on the steering wheel and at first seems a little confusing but a little practice enables the driver to quickly switch between a trip computer, radio information, navigation information, and so forth. Controls in the center stack for comfort and various switches are similarly well laid-out and thought-out. White LED’s are used extensively throughout the cabin, and at night an in-cabin ambient lighting system casts a ghostly white glow on everything – just bright enough to be able to find something in the center stack or cupholder.

The Sierra’s navigation and infotainment system is touchscreen and responsive to the driver’s input, and the lane-departure warning system uses vibration motors in the driver’s seat to alert. At this point something starts to feel very familiar. It took us a moment to realize that the controls – navigation and entertainment, the configurable display in the instrument cluster, the LDW setup – are based upon a slightly modified version of the excellent CUE system we first saw last year in the Cadillac ATS. This speaks volumes about GM’s design philosophy for the new Sierra – top-of-the-line controls and comfort without sacrifice of the truck’s do-anything, go-anywhere nature.

Despite the luxurious feel of the cabin, utility has not been sacrificed. The rear seats fold up, revealing a nearly flat load floor in place of the second row. The storage beneath center armrest can accommodate an amazing amount and variety of items needing out-of-sight storage. And there are little things that make it evident that GMC knows what truck users need: Outlets. There are many, and they are well-positioned. Sure, there’s a couple of old-fashioned 12-volt cigarette-lighter style outlets in the console between the driver and front passenger. And a 110-volt household-style outlet fed by an inverter. But most interestingly there are five (count ‘em, five) USB ports on the center console and beneath the armrest. While two both charge and feed the entertainment system, three are simply for charging electronics – making it beyond easy to keep the electronics we all depend upon in the field topped off and ready to go.

The most impressive quality of the Sierra becomes evident when you close the door and turn the key, bringing the 5.3-liter ECOTEC3 V8 to life. This truck is quiet. When we say quiet, we don’t just mean quiet by truck standards. This truck is among the quietest vehicles we’ve driven – sedans, coupes, SUV’s, trucks, everything. The noise reduction is impressive, and gives the cabin a serene, mellow feeling. When driving, the Sierra won’t let you forget that it’s a truck – pavement seams and bumps are transmitted through that solid live axle in the rear – but the bumps are nicely attenuated by the suspension, and the truck feels composed and capable at all times. The sound of the V8 engine is only slightly present, not overpowering the serenity and peacefulness of the cab, but not letting the driver forget that it’s there. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts effortlessly, and isn’t the least bit hesitant to downshift on the driver’s command – again, not just great by truck standards, but one of the better transmission setups we’ve worked with in recent memory. GM’s cylinder deactivation system works flawlessly, deactivating four of the engine’s eight cylinders when conditions warrant, and the only indication of such is on that color screen in the instrument cluster.

It’s worth noting as well that thanks to adjustable pedals and a wide range of seating height, drivers of smaller stature will feel comfortable and at home behind the wheel. It’s also worth mentioning that GMC has upped their safety game as well – the Sierra carries a five-star crash test rating.

Of course, the luxury features don’t sacrifice the raw capability of the truck. As tested, our truck was rated for 9,600 pounds of towing, and included an integrated trailer brake controller. Configure a Sierra with a 3.73 rear axle ratio, and that tow rating will increase to 11,200 pounds. All told, thanks to the cylinder-deactivation technology, we were able to average 18 miles per gallon of combined fuel economy, a decent return for such a large V8.

We really like what we see in the new GMC Sierra. We came away from our time with the truck deeply impressed – it has improved in every way possible and it puts GM back on top of the pickup market for now.

Specifications
2014 GMC Sierra SLT

Base Price: $26,075.00
Price as Tested: $49,045.00
Engine Type: ECOTEC3 V8
Engine Size: 5.3-Liter
Horsepower: 355 @ 5,600 RPM
Torque (ft-lbs): 383 @ 4,100 RPM
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Wheelbase / Length (in): 143.5 / 229.5
Curb Weight: 5,218
Pounds per HP: 14.7
Fuel Capacity (gal): 26
Fuel Requirement: Regular Unleaded or E85
Tires: Goodyear Eagle LS-2; P275/55R20
Brakes, front/rear: Ventilated disc / Solid disc
Suspension, front/rear: Short and Long Arm / Solid Live Axle
Ground clearance (in): 8.9
Drivetrain: 2-speed Autotrac Transfer Case w/ Auto-Locking Rear Differential
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG
city / highway / observed: 16 / 22 / 18
Towing capacity (lb): 9,600
Base Trim Price: $43,610.00

Options and Charges

SLT Preferred Package: $400.00 (Heated steering wheel,
power sliding rear window)

Driver Alert Package: $845.00 (Front and rear park assist,
lane departure warning, forward collision alert, safety alert seat)

SLT Crew Cab Value Package: $2,195.00 (6” chrome assist steps,
Bose audio system, 20” chrome aluminum wheels)

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