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2006 GMC Sierra Crew Cab 1500 Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2006 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali(shown)


MODEL: GMC Sierra Crew Cab 1500 4WD SLE1
ENGINE: 6.0-liter V8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 345 hp @ 5200 rpm/380 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 143.5 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 227.5 x 78.5 x 72.6 in.
TIRES: P265/70R17
ECONOMY: 14 mpg city/17 mpg highway/14.8 mpg test
PRICE: $39,515 (includes $875 destination charge)

To say the GMC Sierra Crew Cab is large is somewhat of an understatement. Sure, the Sierra Extended Cab version (similar, but with an 8-foot bed instead of a 6-foot bed) is longer, but when you're nearly 20 feet in length, the difference is minimal.

To its credit, the Sierra drives like a shorter truck. It's only when you're parking, or trying to squeeze into a small space among a bunch of Christmas shoppers, that the length makes a real big difference.

It could have been worse. The original schedule called for me to drive the diesel-engine version of the Sierra. I had driven this truck in shorter runs at the GM introduction earlier this year, and, while it's interesting, it isn't the kind of vehicle I prefer. One feature the diesel had that the gasoline-engine version didn't was a manual shift mode to the automatic. Here, the "shifter" is a toggle switch near the end of the massive shift lever. You flip it one direction to upshift and the other to downshift. This is a definite asset for a diesel, where you often have to play with the rpm range to extract maximum performance. The problem is that the toggle is hidden by the steering wheel, so you have to learn where it is quickly.

Our tester was equipped with GM's new 6.0-literV8 that delivers 345 hp and 380 lb.-ft. of torque. This is a powerful engine that gives the Sierra a nearly one-ton payload capacity. If you opt for the regular cab with a regular bed, the payload increases to over a ton.

The engine was noisy, but much quieter than the diesel. At highway speeds it was civilized, and only really made noise when it was asked to accelerate. We used the Sierra for one long trip and a lot of local driving and still averaged 14.8-mpg. Granted, this isn't enormous, but to put it in context, we averaged only 12.7 mpg over 125,000 in our 1988 full-size van with a 5.7-liter V8. The two vehicles are similar in size, so two more miles per gallon is significant.

Our tester had a "ride control suspension" package that made the ride slightly more car-like, but there was no mistaking that we were in a pickup.

The Crew Cab version of the Sierra offers comfortable seating for six passengers. Up front there's a bench, with a fold-down armrest that can convert it into a two-passenger seat. There's a similar console in the rear that can be used as armrests and for storage if there are only two passengers back there. I liked the tray on top of the front console. It was a perfect width for my sunglass case, and still was deep enough to hold a cell phone without fear of its slipping off. Legroom is excellent front and rear, and the front seats, even though basically a bench, offered good side support.

Our one complaint was that my wife had trouble finding the passenger seat belt receiver. It was located next to the center passenger receiver and was confusing. Since she's relatively short, she also had trouble climbing into the tallish Sierra.

Interior and exterior styling is conventional, but I expect that the styling changes on the 2007 Chevy Tahoe will translate onto the pickup truck lines of both Chevy and GMC, so the Sierra will clean up nicely.

Interior storage included the center console, a nice cubby over the rear-view mirror, a cubby in the dash and cubbies in the door.

While the 6.6-foot cargo bed is shorter than the maximum 8-foot bed, it's still useful for most applications. It's longer than the cropped bed in the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, for example, and looks relatively "normal."

While I confess that I'm not the pickup type, I appreciate their versatility. The Crew Cab version of the Sierra adds to the versatility with the practicality of seating for six, and there aren't many sedans these days that offer comfortable seating for six.

2006 The Auto Page Syndicate