New Car/Review


GMC Sonoma Crew Cab 4X4 SLS (2002)

SEE ALSO: GMC Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 24,273
     Price As Tested                                    $ 27.767
     Engine Type               OHV 12 valve 4.3 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 262 cid/4293 cc
     Horsepower                                   190 @ 4400 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               250 @ 2800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  122.9"/67.8"/205.3"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4083 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  17.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                          P235/70R15 all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            16/22/19
     0-60 MPH                                       10.5 seconds
     Maximum payload capacity                        1111 pounds
     Maximum towing capacity                         5200 pounds
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

Four-door compact pickups have been common in developing countries for many years but only recently introduced in the U.S. General Motors jumped into the sales fray in 2001 with its Sonoma Crew Cab.

Sonoma is also available as a two-door or a three-door, in two or four-wheel drive, but the regular cab/long bed configuration has been discontinued. This week we test a four-door four-by-four.

OUTSIDE - The idea of adding extra doors to a small pickup has changed the way people buy these vehicles, as this is the hottest growth segment in the truck business. Practicality and the ever-increasing use of trucks as personal transportation seems to be the primary reason behind the popularity of four-door pickups. The last major redesign of the GMC S-Series pickup was in 1994, which brought a new look that is still fresh today. Wraparound headlights blend into a recessed grille trimmed in body color. Our test SLS wore beefy over-fenders, also painted body color, and a set of integrated tow hooks below the chrome front bumper. The extra doors are short, as is the cargo bed, so instead of the 72-inch-long bed of the extended cab model, the Crew Cab bed is a stubby 55 inches. An aftermarket roof rack system addresses the problem of not being able to transport long items. A handy new option for 2002 is a lockable hard cover for the cargo bed.

INSIDE - The interior was extensively redesigned for '98, and hasn't grown stale. Reclining high back bucket seats up front are standard and comfortable enough, yet built for a variety of differently sized people. Most drivers will find a good view to the outside, while the dashboard knobs and switches are simple to operate. There are many hard plastic surfaces on the dash and instrument panel, but they look OK and the fit of the seams is tight. There are plenty of storage places, including a beverage holder in each front door. The thin rear bench seat is wide enough for three across, but very tight for adults, and because the rear door openings are small, climbing into the rear seat takes practice. Standard SLS features include cruise control, air conditioning, tilt steering, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors (also heated), remote keyless entry, intermittent wipers and a sliding rear window.

ON THE ROAD - Our Sonoma is powered by a 4.3-liter V6 engine and is the only engine available with Crew Cab models. It's a venerable design that uses cast iron construction, overhead valves and two valves per cylinder. It produces 190 horsepower and a healthy 250 lb-ft of torque, which gives it a whopping 5200-pound towing capacity. It was mildly updated last year with more advanced electronics, more durable camshaft bearings and a lighter starter that draws less current from the battery. Our tester came with GM's four-speed automatic transmission and Insta-Trac four-wheel-drive, which can be activated on-the-fly using dashboard buttons.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Like most modern trucks, the Sonoma rides on a full-length, ladder-type frame that is stiff and stable. Our four-wheel drive tester had independent front suspension with torsion bars (two-wheel-drive models use softer coil springs), and a solid rear axle with variable-rate leaf springs, a setup GM calls its Firm Ride Z85 package. Payload is just over 1100 pounds, which isn't much, but with such a short bed, that figure is not unreasonable. It uses a recirculating ball steering system with a variable-assist feature that makes it easier to turn the wheel at slow speeds, but gives more road feel at highway speeds. Braking is handled by discs at all four corners, which we applaud because disc brakes allow shorter stopping distances than the usual rear drum brakes. An anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard.

SAFETY - Dual front airbags, side-impact door beams, daytime running headlamps and ABS are standard.

OPTIONS - Preferred Package (locking rear differential, special tires), $413; leather/power seating package, $1,495; locking tonneau cover, $479; trailer hitch, $249; bed extender, $183; cold weather package, $90.


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