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1997 GMC K1500 Sierra Extended Cab Review By Tom Hagin

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

SEE ALSO: GMC Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 20,896.05

Price As Tested $ 26,165.05

Engine Type 5.7 Liter V8 w/SFI*

Engine Size 350cid/5733 cc

Horsepower 255 @ 4600 RPM

Torque (lb-ft) 330 @ 2800 RPM

Wheelbase/Width/Length 141.5"/76.8"/218"

Transmission Four-speed automatic

Curb Weight 4575 Pounds

Fuel Capacity 25 gallons

Tires (F/R) P245/75R16

Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)

Drive Train Front-engine/four-wheel-drive

Vehicle Type Six-passenger/three-door

Domestic Content 92 percent

Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A


EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 13/17/15

Base payload 1375 pounds

Max-towing capacity 6500 pounds

* Sequential fuel injection

The Big Three all have different ideas of what a "personal" pickup should be. GMC's idea is its time-tested Sierra, a rugged, traditional pickup with a host of comfort and convenience items inside.

The Sierra comes as a two-wheel-drive, (C-series), or a 4X4 (K-series). It is available with a half-ton (1500), 3/4-ton (2500) or one- ton (3500) chassis. It also comes in three different trim levels (SL, SLE and SLT), with a regular cab, extended cab or four-door Crew Cab. This week we test a K1500 outfitted with the SL trim package.

OUTSIDE - Sierra was redesigned way back in 1988, so its shape has become a bit dated, and a new version isn't due until 1999. It's square, boxy and upright, as if it was designed with a T-square and a ruler rather than a computer. At that time, however, it proved radically different from the rest of the half-ton pack, but now the competition has passed it by in the styling department. But that hasn't stopped its buyers, who have purchased nearly 200,000 variants of the Sierra for several years. A handy feature on extended cab models is a third door, which opens to provide access to the rear seat. Our test model came with optional alloy wheels and larger-than-standard P265/75R16 tires.

INSIDE - GMC realized that many 1500-series models were being used as rolling offices, so the company equipped its trucks for convenience. An interior rework in 1995 resulted in large, easily readable instruments, along with ventilation and stereo controls that are simple to operate. Three-across benches front and rear are standard on SL models, and are covered in tough vinyl material, but we recommend one of the optional seating configurations. Our favorite were high-backed front buckets and a rear bench, all covered with very comfortable cloth upholstery. Standard equipment on all 1500 models includes an AM/FM stereo, intermittent windshield wipers, a tachometer, and side window defog ports. Our test model came outfitted with options including air conditioning, a tilt wheel, cruise control, and a cassette stereo.

ON THE ROAD - GMC's choices for Sierra power are impressive. The standard 1500-series powerplant is a 200 horsepower, 4.3 liter V6 engine. A 5.0 liter V8 is next in the lineup, and develops 235 healthy horses. Another optional engine, the Vortec 5.7 liter V8, is the most powerful of the trio, with a whopping 255 horsepower and a stump-pulling 330 lb-ft of torque. These engines may lack overhead camshafts or multiple valves, but GMC has applied sophisticated engine management technology to them which dramatically increases power, and makes them silent at idle and smooth throughout their operating ranges. On 1500 models with the V6 or 5.0 V8, a five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a four-speed automatic is optional on all models. Our tester was fitted to tow, and came with optional equipment such as a transmission oil cooler, special axle gearing and the 5.7 liter V8.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Sierra features rugged body-on-frame construction, with a separate cab and bed mounted on top. Its front suspension is independent, with short-and-long arm components, and torsion bars for support. The rear suspension is typical truck: a solid rear axle with leaf springs, the traditional setup for light or heavy hauling. New this year is a speed-sensitive steering system, which gives the driver a firmer feel at highway speeds, but makes it easier to turn the steering wheel at slow speeds, such as while parking. Also new are modifications to the front suspension and steering on K models, which provides a tighter turning circle than before. Four-wheel-drive engagement is available any speed, by pulling a floor-mounted lever, or by pushing a button on the dashboard with the optional electronic shift transfer case. Front disc and rear drum brakes handle stopping duties, while a four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard equipment.

SAFETY - New this year are dual airbags, with a switch to deactivate the passenger-side bag. ABS and side-impact protection are standard.

OPTIONS - The 5.7 liter V8 and four-speed automatic are $2,165. A marketing package that included air conditioning, cruise control and tilt steering, and a wideside body trim was $1,335 extra.