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New Car/Review


by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: GMC Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 16,176
Price As Tested                                    $ 19,716
Engine Type                 OHV 2-valve 4.3 Liter V6 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 262 cid/4293 cc
Horsepower                                   175 @ 4400 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               240 @ 2800 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  122.9"/67.9"/203.7"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     3264 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    19 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P235/55R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                      Five-passenger/three-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            17/23/19
0-60 MPH                                         10 seconds
Payload                                         1168 pounds
Towing capacity                                 3500 pounds
     * Sequential fuel injection

The GMC Sonoma is General Motors' compact pickup. It's available in five body styles and three trim levels, with three different engines and two different transmissions, in two-or-four-wheel-drive. And there are so many options available it's hard to decide which are the most useful.

Chances are, however, your local dealer has many on the lot; possibly one like the Sportside extended cab SLS we test this week.

OUTSIDE - Sonoma was totally redesigned in 1995. It still looks fresh today, and for 1998, it gets a few mild exterior upgrades. Up front is a new set of composite headlamps that integrates the headlights, parking lights and optional fog lights into one unit. The front bumper is new as well, and features body-color paint and a smoother, more harmonious shape. The grille was reshaped because of the headlamp change and now is less angular and more prominent. Sportside Sonomas all have short (six-foot) beds, and aren't as cargo-capable as the long bed versions, but they still hold a lot and do so with a flair. Our Sonoma was equipped with an optional driver's side third door which gives excellent access to the area behind the seats. Our truck was also fitted with an options package that included five-spoke aluminum wheels and fat P235/55R16 tires.

INSIDE - A new dashboard features Next Generation dual airbags that inflate with less force than before, and the passengers bag can be deactivated if necessary. Prior to 1998, Sonoma was offered only with a driver-side unit. The new dash is angled toward the driver and has restyled gauges, a passenger-side assist grip, sweeps into a new center console and, on uplevel models, a pair of 12-volt power sockets. The door panels are new, and have a cupholder built into the map pocket, along with integrated speaker covers. Having an extended cab means that two extra jump seats can accommodate a pair of extra passengers, unless the third door is added. In that model, one of those rear seats is deleted. Our Sonoma SLS came with such features as air conditioning, tilt steering, cruise control, and an AM/FM cassette stereo.

ON THE ROAD - The 2WD Sonoma standard engine is a 120 horsepower 2.2 liter four cylinder engine. Optional power is available from two different V6s. Both displace 4.3 liters, and both use sequential fuel injection. The difference is power. The LF6 V6 produces 175 horsepower when under the hood of a 2WD Sonoma; 180 horses as a 4WD and 240 lb-ft of torque either way. The L35 V6 develops 180 horsepower with two-wheel- drive and 190 horses as a 4X4. Torque figures are 245 and 250 pound- feet, respectively. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a four-speed automatic is optional. Our test truck had the mid-range LF6 engine with the standard five-speed transmission. This made for a sporty combination, and made the truck noticeably quicker, though we'd much rather use the automatic for everyday driving. Tow ratings are acceptable at a recommended 3,500 pounds with an aftermarket receiver- type hitch.

ON THE ROAD - All Sonomas ride on a rugged full-length frame. Two-wheel-drive Sonomas ride on independent front suspension with coil springs, while the rear suspension uses a solid axle with leaf springs. Sport models have special components to enhance handling. The body is lower, the frame rails, suspension bushings and shocks are stiffer, and the springs are softer. Though it's virtually impossible to turn a truck into a sports car, all this hardware transforms the usually-docile Sonoma pickup into a backroads stormer. Quick-ratio steering and a rear axle damper designed to limit wheel hop is also part of the Sport package, as are the 16-inch tires and wheels. The brakes are front disc and rear drums, with standard four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS).

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

OPTIONS - Package 1ST: (SLS Sport decor, air conditioning, tilt wheel, cruise control, sport suspension, aluminum wheels and 16-inch tires) $2,947; third door: $375; high back bucket seats: $241; California emissions: $170; destination charge: $510.